Posted on November 1, 2005

‘Britishness’ Test Questions Revealed

Telegraph (London), Oct. 31

If you are a foreigner with a yearning to become British, you had better swot up on regional accents, law, and the Church of England first.

These are all topics included in the new ‘Britishness’ test, launched by the Home Office today.

The ‘Life in the UK’ examination, which from tomorrow becomes compulsory for people applying for naturalisation, aims to give newcomers a taste of what it means to be British.

Tony McNulty, the immigration minister, said that becoming a British citizen was a milestone in many people’s lives.

“The measures we are introducing today will help new citizens to gain a greater appreciation of the civic and political dimension of British citizenship and, in particular to understanding the rights and responsibilities that come with the acquisition of British citizenship,” he said.

To become British, applicants will have to pay £34 to sit the 45-minute exam, which includes 24 multiple choice questions.

The prospective Brits will be questioned on topics such as where the Geordie, Cockney, and Scouse dialects are spoken, and what the role of the Queen is.

The exam-takers need to answer 75 per cent of the questions correctly to pass, but those not up to scratch on their Scouse accents and union rights can take the test as many times as they like until they pass.

Questions on the test include:

Where are the Geordie, Cockney, and Scouse dialects spoken?

What are MPs?

What is the Church of England and who is its head?

What is the Queen’s official role and what ceremonial duties does she have?

Do many children live in single parent families or step-families?

More Britishness Questions

The Home Office has revealed some of the questions that will be given to foreigner applying for citizenship.

But how many can you get right? Here is a selection of the questions:

1: Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE?

Employers and workers both have a legal duty to obey health and safety regulations.

2: Which of these courts uses a jury system?

Magistrates’ court Crown court Youth court County court

3: Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE?

Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union.

4: Which TWO telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services?

112 123 555 999

5: Which of these statements is correct?

A: A television licence is required for each television in a home.

B: A single television licence covers all televisions in a home.

6: What voltage is the UK electricity supply?

750 volts 60 volts 110 volts 240 volts

7: How old must someone be to buy a lottery scratch card?

12 16 18 21


1: True, 2: Crown court, 3: False, 4: 112 and 999, 5: B, 6: 240 volts, 7: 16 years old

A test of “Britishness” which must in future be sat by all new applicants for British citizenship has already run into criticism for ignoring the nation’s history.

Sample questions were issued by the Home Office this morning, as the Government prepares to launch the scheme tomorrow. But critics have balked at an exam which portrays a picture of life in Britain far removed from the weather-fixated, queue-loving ale drinkers of the national stereotype, focusing instead on a knowledge of criminal courts, union rights and benefits.

The questions include: “Do many children live in single parent families?”, “Which of these courts uses a jury system?” and “Can your employer dismiss you for joining a trade union?”

From tomorrow, every foreign national applying for British citizenship must pass the 24-question, multiple choice “Life in the UK” exam. To pass the test, which costs £34 to enter, the candidate must score around 75 per cent to be eligible for naturalisation. Anyone who fails can resit the exam.

The aim is to engender the notion of Britishness among new citizens, who must already prove that they are able to speak basic English.

The Home Office today denied that there had been a surge in the number of applications in the run-up to the introduction of the test.

Tony McNulty, the Immigration Minister, defended the decision not to include British history among the list of subjects.

“This is not a test of someone’s ability to be British or a test of their Britishness,” he said. “It is a test of their preparedness to become citizens, in keeping with the language requirement as well.

“It is about looking forward, rather than an assessment of their ability to understand history.”

According to the sample questions released today, willingness to become a citizen is evidenced by a knowledge of the whereabouts of the Geordie, Scouse and Cockney accents. Constitutional questions are also touched upon, with future Britons required to understand the role of the Queen and describe the function of an MP.

Mr McNulty, a Londoner, said: “I looked at random through 20 questions and managed to get 19. I’m not telling you which one I didn’t get.”

The Government plans to extend the test to refugees who have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Successful applicants for asylum will also be required to sit the exam when they are awarded indefinite leave to remain.

Those whose English abilities fall below the basic level official English for Speakers of Other Languages entry three standard will take a less rigorous test.

The question of what it means to be British has puzzled politicians for decades. For Norman Tebbit there was the ‘cricket test’: immigrant communities, the Conservative grandee suggested, should always support England. John Major, the former Prime Minister, clung on to “long shadows on county grounds, warm beer and invincible green suburbs”.

Before details of the test were announced, Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said that he would be opposed to any test which candidates could fail.

“I don’t think we have to make this punitive or a kind of hurdle to becoming British,” he said.

“Why would there be two classes of citizens — one who don’t have to know anything about our history because they happen to be born here, and the other who do have to know because they happen to have been born somewhere else?”

The Immigration Advisory Service, a charity that advises immigrants and asylum seekers, gave the tests a cautious welcome but said the questions needed “a light touch”.

“The danger is that this will be seen as a way of excluding people from British citizenship,” said chief executive Keith Best.

“The perversity of our education system is such that new immigrants who seek naturalisation may end up having more knowledge about life in the UK through these tests and their associated teaching than many who are born British citizens.”

Last year more than 110,000 people were awarded British citizenship.

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