30 questions from the US citizenship test that even Americans might get wrong

John Moore/Getty ImagesNewly naturalized citizens celebrating during a naturalization ceremony in 2013.

In the past decade, more than 7.4 million individuals have become naturalized American citizens. To do so, each one of them had to take a civics test, which covers various topics in US history and government.

To pass the test, applicants must correctly answer six out of 10 questions, chosen at random from a pool of 100. The full list of questions and answers is available to the public, although hopeful citizens are reminded to learn the most current responses to queries, given that some responses may change over time.

Many of the questions are relatively easy – “In what month do we vote for the President?” – or straightforward: “What is the name of the President of the United States now?” But some are arguably tricky or surprising, especially if you didn’t pay attention in your history classes growing up.

Not to mention, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages applicants to memorise the answers listed on its website, even if there may be additional correct responses to certain questions.

Test your knowledge below, but make sure you scroll down slowly since we’ve included USCIS’ recommended answers below each question.

What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesA portrait of Benjamin Franklin, circa 1750.

Possible answers: US diplomat; oldest member of the Constitutional Convention; first Postmaster General of the United States; writer of “Poor Richard’s Almanac”; started the first free libraries.

What is the “rule of law”?

Answer: Everyone must follow the law; leaders must obey the law; the government must obey the law; no one is above the law.

The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the US Constitution. Name one of the writers.

Mario Tama/Getty ImagesHint: One of the writers famously died in a duel, as seen in this reenactment.

Possible answers: James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Publius.

Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.

Possible answers: The Missouri River and the Mississippi River (the first and second longest rivers in the US, respectively).

Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesHint: A department of motor vehicles is a state-level government agency.

Possible answers: Provide schooling and education; provide protection (police); provide safety (fire departments); give a driver’s licence; approve zoning and land use.

Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?

Orhan Cam/ShutterstockMany federal government organisations are based in Washington DC.

Possible answers: to print money, to declare war, to create an army, to make treaties

The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesA woman holding the Constitution.

Answer: “We the People.”

Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?

Fox Photos/Getty ImagesMajor General Dwight D. Eisenhower before he became President.

Answer: World War II.

Who was President during World War I?

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesThe Every Man Remembered statue, designed to honour the servicemen and women who died in WWI.

Answer: Woodrow Wilson.

Who did the United States fight in World War II?

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of CongressA colorized photo from World War II.

Answer: Japan, Germany, and Italy.

When was the Constitution written?

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesA copy of the Constitution once owned by former President George Washington.

Answer: 1787.

What does the Constitution do?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesThis one might be tricky because the USCIS lists three specific responses.

Answer: Sets up the government; defines the government; and protects basic rights of Americans.

How many amendments does the Constitution have?

National Archives/Newsmakers/Getty ImagesFormer President James Madison is known as the ‘Father of the Bill of Rights,’ the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Answer: 27.

What are two Cabinet-level positions?

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesThe President’s Cabinet advises the President.

Possible answers: Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Commerce; Secretary of Defence; Secretary of Education; Secretary of Energy; Secretary of Health and Human Services; Secretary of Homeland Security; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Secretary of the Interior; Secretary of Labour; Secretary of State; Secretary of Transportation; Secretary of the Treasury; Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Attorney General; Vice President.

How many justices are on the Supreme Court?

Answer: nine.

Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesHere’s a challenge: Can you name all nine current Supreme Court Justices?

Answer: John Roberts or John G. Roberts, Jr.

What does the judicial branch do?

Possible answers: reviews laws, explains laws, resolves disputes (disagreements), decides if a law goes against the Constitution.

How many US Senators are there?

Win McNamee/GettySenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Answer: 100.

We elect a US Senator for how many years?

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesSenator Elizabeth Warren.

Answer: six.

The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesSpeaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Answer: 435.

We elect a US Representative for how many years?

Answer: two.

Who does a US Senator represent?

Answer: all people of the state.

Name one right only for United States citizens.

Possible answers: vote in a federal election, run for federal office

What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?

Bonnie Taylor Barry/ShutterstockHint: Lake Martin is in it.

Possible answers: the Louisiana Territory, Louisiana

During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?

Public DomainA nuclear missile parades before John F. Kennedy at his inauguration in 1961.

Answer: communism.

Name one state that borders Canada.

Vaughn Ridley / StringerThe Canadian flag.

Possible answers: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Alaska

What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?

WikipediaThe first authenticated image of Abraham Lincoln was this daguerreotype of him as U.S. Congressman-elect in 1846, attributed to Nicholas H. Shepard of Springfield, Ill.

Possible answers: freed the slaves (Emancipation Proclamation), saved (or preserved) the Union, led the United States during the Civil War.

Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.

Wikimedia CommonsWhich war is pictured here?

Possible answers: War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War.

What is the supreme law of the land?

Wikimedia CommonsHint: it’s a document.

Answer: the Constitution.

Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?

Google Maps/Strava labsA map of the United States.

Possible answers: (because of) the state’s population, (because) they have more people, (because) some states have more people.


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