British history is now ‘at the heart of the citizenship test

1 July 2012
by Henry

Today saw the new version of the Life in the UK test launched by the government. The Life in the UK test has now been revised to include new testable materials covering British history.

With a complete new chapter added to the testable materials this means there are hundreds more facts to be tested. Whilst the government have announced the new testable chapter they have not provided any sample questions for students.

With the government committed to reducing net migration to under 100,000 by the end of Parliament it is unsurprising that they have made the test harder like this. However, the questions still remain – does the test teach the kinds of things that will help them become British, and how can a a test reflect the national identity?

Test yourself on the new British citizenship test material here with our sample questions. Do you know enough to be British?

Great Britain. Her natural and industrial resources

27 October 2010
by Henry

Great Britain. Her natural and industrial resources

I adore this map. It’s gorgeous, chic and proud. I’d love to have a full size copy for my office. You wouldn’t get any modern maps referring to Great Britain as ‘her’ – and I think they are less for it.

Via: Danielle who apparently lives in arable grain land.

When is St George’s Day and who really cares?

23 April 2010
by Henry

But according to a recent poll, only one in three English men and women knew the date when St George’s Day is celebrated and more than forty per cent were clueless as to why he is the patron saint.

The patron saints are one of the few cultural subjects covered in the British citizenship test, however this news highlights how irrelevant the test’s content is.

We’re working to create a new citizenship test that truly reflects real knowledge about life in the UK. Click here to contribute your own questions and vote for your favourites.

David Sedaris: Preparing for the British citizenship test

6 April 2010
by Henry

I was listening to a great programme called “Meet David Sedaris” on Radio 4 on Sunday. David reads from his extensive collection of comedy essays, giving his unique perspective on life in London.

In one of the journal segments, David talks about some of the bizarre questions he came across while preparing for the British citizenship test. All of these questions have come from our study guide publications. Listen to the clip below.

How to reproduce the British experience abroad

14 October 2009
by Henry

Lisa Coulson’s recent blog post on Anglotopia caught my eye.

With Britain tightening immigration regulations and the dreams of being an expat in Britain seeming to become far less of a reality for many, you are probably open to suggestions of how you can recreate the expat experience in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Recreating the British expat experience isn’t something I’d ever really thought about. But, if I ever did go back to my New Zealand birthplace then there would certainly be a few things I’d miss – and go to great lengths to recreate. Here’s my top four:

  • Newspapers – I’d really miss the all the great newspapers out here. So, I totally agree with Lisa on this one. It’s just not the same reading it online. Devouring the Sunday newspapers over breakfast is a ritual.
  • Beer – Nothing better than a pint of flat, room temperature bitter.
  • Cheese – In particular, Stilton, the king of cheeses. For me, Stilton just doesn’t taste right unless you’re eating it in Britain.
  • Humour – There’s something about the British sense of humour that runs through everything. Recreating that abroad (and getting your new your non-Brit comrades to get in on the jokes) might be the biggest challenge of them all.

What would you miss if you left Blighty? Have you ever felt the urge to recreate the British experience abroad?

Have your say: What should we require new citizens to do before they can become British?

24 September 2009
by Henry

My Aunty Jill becomes a British Citizen.

Here’s a multiple choice question for you to ponder.

What should prospective citizens to do in order for them to become British?

  • Sign up as a volunteer for local charity
  • Pass a British history test
  • Be able to read and speak English
  • Know the words to “God Save the Queen”
  • None of the above, just pay taxes and obey the law

I’ve made some of choices these up, but some of them are actual proposals by the Home Office in their new points based citizenship consultation. If you’ve strong feelings about this (and I would hope you do!) then you can submit your opinions to the Home Office online.

Here’s something else to think about. Should these requirements apply to British born citizens as well? Personally, I think they should. This simple but effective test for evaluating whether proposed changes to citizenship requirements are reasonable or just political nonsense.

Photo: flickr.com/pftqg/ / CC BY 2.0

How Australian are you?

23 September 2009
by Henry

Australia has finally unveiled a revised citizenship test. Would-be citizens taking the old test were expected to know facts and trivia. This was ridiculed by the media, especially cricket related questions about Sir Don Bradman. The focus of the new test is on understanding the rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with becoming an Australian citizen.

The handbook that must be studied before taking the test has also been completely revised. Anything relating to sport, culture or history has been removed from the test. As the tag cloud below shows, the main topics in the test relate to government, laws, civic values and constitutional rights.

New Australian Citizenship Test Tag Cloud

However the new test still includes some intimidating questions that I doubt most Australian born citizens would know.

  • Which official symbol of Australia identifies Commonwealth property?
  • Which arm of government has the power to interpret and apply laws?
  • What is the name of the legal document that sets out the rules for the government of Australia?

This raises the first thorny issue:

Should naturalised citizens be expected to pass a test if that test can not be passed by a native citizen?

read more…

Julia’s journey to citizenship, testing Brown’s Britain

10 September 2009
by Henry

There’s a great post over on the Labourhome blog by Julia Svetlichnaja about her observations having taken the British citizenship test.

There were no questions regarding history, current affairs, how the country is governed, culture or politics. All the questions were related to Government policies: such as the preconditions for taking paternity leave or who has a priority in free housing. There were also lots of questions about the subtleties of Council Tax. When are children allowed to work? What is their minimum wage? The majority of questions were very specific about such topics as solicitors, credit and debit cards and property leases. In short, all about how to navigate through endless policies and rules, clauses and exemptions, it was all very instrumental; questions did not seek any understanding of what society is about, only how to obey the rules. I was quickly aware that I was in the power of the people paid to create these rules and I would not escape easily.

The government is running a consultation to see if the test should “made more difficult” by adding history and government questions. I’m doubtful whether such additions will make the test more difficult – however it might make it more relevant to what Britain is about and what makes it one of the best countries and democracies in the world.

Celebrating British achievements and success

26 August 2009
by Henry

I gave a brief chat on BBC Oxford yesterday about my view of how the British celebrate their achievements. This was a few days after England beat Australia in the third test and won the Ashes. One of the points I wanted to make was how understated British achievements are in the citizenship test. There’s barely any mention of any what I think are remarkable achievements. Take for example Britain’s long history of inventors and scientists. From Netwon and his numerous theories to Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the World Wide Web. Culturally, Britain has made significant contributions to music, art, literature, fashion, film and theatre. There’s no mention of The Beatles, Elgar or Pink Flloyd in the test. One my personal favourite achievement is that British engineers (with the help of the French) built Concorde. An extraordinary achievement.

You can listen to my chat with Louisa below. If you’ve got a suggestion for a particular British achievement that we should be including in the citizenship test then please leave a comment.

Do you know the difference between England, Britain, Great Britain and the UK?

17 August 2009
by Henry

Something that everyone in the UK should should understand is the differences in the UK’s geography. There are some very important distinctions that many foreigners frequently mix up.

When we use the term UK, we’re actually using an abbreviation. UK is short for United Kingdom, which in itself is short for, the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

When we talk about Great Britain we’re actually just talking about a geographic feature – and not a political country. Great Britain is the large island made up of England, Scotland and Wales – this excludes all the islands like the Isle of Wight and many other islands around the coastline.

However, the ambiguity creeps in when you refer to just use the word Britain. This could be a political or geographic reference. Politically it refers to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Or geographically it could refer to the island of Great Britain.

Some people will refer to the UK as Great Britain, but really that’s a bit sloppy. It’s like referring to North America when you really mean the USA. Even worse still some people refer to the Scottish as English.

However it’s always straightforward either. For example, someone born in Northern Ireland has the right to identify themselves as either Irish, British or both. This is a provision that was made in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. But then Northern Ireland politics has always been complicated.

There’s a tiny mention about these different regions in the British citizenship test and is something that should probably be expanded upon.

Understanding the differences in the British Isles

Diagram Credit: Wikipedia