U.S students fail citizenship test

“The House of Representatives has how many voting members?”

“How many justices are on the Supreme Court?”

“Who is in charge of the executive branch?”

Are you beginning to wish you had paid closer attention in your required history classes?

My junior year of high school I took a sample of the U.S. Citizenship Test. The origin of those questions were in my American and Arizona government history class. Before delving into the course, my teacher wanted to assess a basic understanding of where our knowledge stood with our history.

I hoped this test was not for a grade.

I could just be “historically” inept, but the test was, ironically, completely foreign to me.

However, the results of a survey that tested the historical intelligence of 1,350 Arizona high school students conducted by the Goldwater Institute reported in the Scottsdale Independent made me feel more at ease.

The 10-question quiz was a mini replication of the U.S. Citizenship Test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The results yielded an unfortunate response. Out of the 1,134 Arizona public school students who completed the survey, “not a single one correctly answered more than seven [questions] correctly,” according to the Goldwater Institute. Arizona high school students were recorded at a failure rate far exceeding 96 percent.

Lindsay Wing, an Americana and Arizona government teacher at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, said although public schools place some priority on social studies it might be less than other core classes, which require four years to graduate.

“I don’t fault students for not knowing the answers to the U.S. Citizenship Test. Where would students get the knowledge? It either needs to come from schools at an earlier age or expect parents to teach their children the information,” Wing said.

“The AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) test puts a lot of emphasis on reading, writing and the sciences at a younger age. The history and civics are losing out because there is not proper preparation,” Wing added.

There are only two routes to becoming a United States citizen: by naturalization or birth.

If you are a citizen by birth, being knowledgeable about the history and civics of this country is not required beyond high school. However, if gaining citizenship through naturalization, you are forced to have a strong comprehension of America’s history.


To many, becoming an American holds significant value. Freedom, opportunity and a new beginning are many of the reasons why immigrants strive to become U.S. citizens.

However, the average American is incapable of answering numerous questions posed on the U.S. Citizenship Test.

Why are we holding people responsible for knowing more U.S. history than the average American?

“I definitely think that anybody who is a citizen or living in this country should be knowledgeable of the background of our history and our foundation. Just because you are a citizen because you are born here shouldn’t be enough. We should educate ourselves. Everyone who comes here has to study our history and go through a process. Why do they have to be more knowledgeable than people who are born here?” Wing said.

Among the youth of today, our ignorance as a country is overly transparent. Our responsibility as United States citizens is to be dedicated members of society but also know the history of our country.

Reach Morgan at mptanabe@asu.edu

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