Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Does the U.S. Naturalization Exam Pick Winners at Random?

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"The fate of nearly half a million immigrants hoping for U.S. citizenship may have been determined randomly, at least in part, according to a new study by a Michigan State University researcher who found the high-stakes civics test isn't a reliable measure of civics knowledge.

To be awarded citizenship, immigrants must correctly answer six of 10 questions on the verbally administered civics portion of the U.S. Naturalization Test, said Paula Winke, assistant professor of second language studies.

Questions are randomly selected by an immigration officer from a pool of 100. But contrary to ethical high-stakes testing standards, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has never released data demonstrating the 100 questions are reliable or valid, she said. More problematic, according to Winke, is that some test forms may be more difficult than others.

"If your citizenship status hangs upon this one test as it does for many