Wondering about the UK Citizenship test? If you’re considering living in the UK, then this could possibly be one of your best decisions yet.
According to the Better Life Index, the UK is one of the very best places in the world to work and live.
British citizenship is life-altering. It’ll present you with vast opportunities that are bound to have a positive impact on your quality of living.
To access this way of life, you’ll need to pass the Life in the UK Citizenship test.
This article will present you with a detailed overview of everything you need to know as you take this critical next step.
What is Life in the UK Citizenship Test?
Life in the United Kingdom test is part of the Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK requirement, or in short – the KoLL requirement.
It’s compulsory for anyone applying for either, permanent residency (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain –I LR or Settlement) or British citizenship.
This requirement has two parts – the Life in the UK test and an English Language Requirement.
The Life in the UK test is a computer-based exam. Passing it means you understand the British way of life and have sufficient proficiency in the English language. Legally, proficiency in Welsh or Scottish Gaelic is also permitted.
The test costs £50 and is managed by Learndirect, a private company, on behalf of the UK Border Agency.
For the Knowledge of Language, you’ll need to Secure English Language Test (SELT) in at least CEFR level B1 in Speaking and Listening.
Your English language qualification must be an approved course from an approved test centre.
Why Was the Test Introduced?
Due to an unprecedented spike in immigration in 1998, there was a persistent call to institute legislative measures to contain it.
The proposed measures included the formulation of a mechanic to make applicants ‘earn’ their status. Including those already in the UK and were now seeking permanent residency or naturalization.
When Was the Test Introduced?
Plans for this test were first announced in September 2002 by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary.
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Test 2002 (the Act), a significant piece of legislation that received royal assent on November 7, 2002, provided for knowledge of British society to be tested by way of a Life in the UK Test for settlement and naturalisation applicants.
Blunkett further appointed the Life in the United Kingdom Advisory Group to formulate the test’s content.
The group submitted a report in 2003 with recommendations for the design and administration of the test.
Their recommendations for permanent residency applicants became effective November 1, 2005, and naturalisation applicants from April 2, 2007.
What Improvement Processes Has the Test Encountered?
Since its inception, there have been regrettable instances of fraud and cheating on the test.
Take note that the Home Office takes extreme exception to this issue. Anyone involved in an allegation of deception could be deprived of citizenship or have their permanent residency revoked.
Before its launch, the test produced considerable speculation in the British media about possible questions.
Upon its publication, the associated handbook was widely criticised. In many respects, the test seems to prioritise cultural integration – into a white Anglo nation – over social and political integration.
The UK Border Agency acknowledged that the first edition of the handbook didn’t fulfil [its] role particularly well.
In 2008, Lord Goldsmith, the longest-serving Labour attorney general, noted that the test isn’t viewed as a learning stimulus, despite this being its key mandate.
In 2011, the UK government announced its intention to include questions on the UK’s history and remove questions on the EU.
In 2012, the New Statesman, a British political and cultural magazine, described the test as mocking Britishness. Reason being that there was no general agreement amongst the population on what was or was not relevant to culture and history. As a matter of fact, every member of the New Statesman editorial team failed the test that was described as irrelevant in determining who will be a good citizen.
In 2013, Thom Brooks, an American-British political philosopher and legal scholar, launched The Life in the United Kingdom Citizenship Test: Is It Unfit for Purpose? This report revealed glaring problems with the current test concerning its being impractical, inconsistent, containing too much trivia and for its gender imbalance.
In 2018, another report, The Lords Report, informed that there were still questions around the purpose of the test. Despite being taken by more than 2m people since its introduction in 2005. And even though it has already been redesigned twice, in 2007 and again in 2013.
On his part, the Home Secretary proposed to reform the Life in the UK Citizenship test. He said this would give greater prominence to the British values and principles expected of those wishing to call the UK their permanent home.
The reforms were to include stringent English language requirements for people applying for British citizenship.
The Home Office said the proposals would ensure that the test is more relevant to daily life and culture in the UK. Notably, it was promised that a public consultation would be brought forward on the Life in the UK test.
Interestingly, according to the white British majority, passing a test and acquiring formal British citizenship has limited the potential to make someone British. For many, this is supported by the widely reported idea that most British-born citizens would fail the test.
Amid the current Brexit paralysis, the UK government still hasn’t disclosed its plans to reassess the Life in the UK test as promised in 2018.
There has also been a petition to support criticisms that call for the test to be changed. The requirement being, the test should be of a more contemporary nature capturing the reality of British life.
This petition was closed early, on November 6, 2019, due to the UK General Election. It’s most likely to be restored when the new petition committee is back in full working order.
While the jury is still out on this, arrangements for the Life in the UK Test remain unchanged.
Any changes to the test and study materials would only be made and implemented after the completion of a public consultation.
Who Is Eligible to Sit the UK Citizenship Test?
If you want to apply for permanent residency or naturalization as a British Citizenship, you must sit the Life in the UK test. You must also be above 18, below 65 years of age and without a criminal record.
You’re exempt from the test if you:
- Have passed it before. Many will have already completed the test when they applied to settle in the UK.
- Are suffering from a long-term illness or disability that severely restricts your mobility and ability to attend language classes; or
- Have a mental impairment that means that you are unable to learn another language.
Anyone with a health issue or disability is required to provide evidence from a medical practitioner.
The test centres are well equipped to handle visual and learning disabilities. If there are challenges with any situation, the Home Office always readily provides guidance.
How and When Should You Book the UK Citizenship Test?
You can book the test at any time. However, it’s advisable that you only do so when you’ve adequately prepared for it.
The test can be booked online here.
To book you’ll require; an email address, a debit/credit card number, and a form of valid ID.
The name given on the test booking must be the exact one in the ID used to book and must include middle names. If it doesn’t match, you won’t take the and there’ll be no refund.
Nonetheless, a refund can be given if you cancel a test 3 days or more before the date of the test.
At the test centre, your identity documents and address details will be cross-referenced with the information provided when booking the test.
If there is a mismatch between the documents used when booking the test and those presented on the date of the test, you won’t take the test and there’ll be no refund.
If you realize there’s a mistake when making the booking online, you can rectify it up to one day before the test date. The details will need to be edited and saved within your Life in the UK test account.
About the Test
The test has 24 questions from the Life in the UK handbook covering various topics such as:
- UK history
- The British government
- UK geography
- Local culture
It lasts for 45 minutes, during which time you’ll be required to answer 24 multiple-choice questions. To pass the test, you must receive a grade of 75% or higher. That is, at least 18 correct answers to the 24 questions.
From November 2005 to March 2007, the test questions were based on chapters 2 to 4 of the book Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship.
The handbook was revised in March 2007 and the test was changed to be based on chapters 2 to 6 of it. The additional chapters covered knowledge and understanding of employment matters and everyday needs such as housing, money, health, and education.
The third edition of the handbook, Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents, was released in 2013 and prompted another change in the test format. The test covered the following chapters:
- The Values and Principles of the UK
- What is the UK?
- A Long and Illustrious History
- A Modern, Thriving Society and
- The UK Government, The Law and Your Role.
At the time of the test’s introduction, the materials were primarily about England. The second edition of the handbook contained more detail about aspects of life in the United Kingdom that differ with Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
Once you apply for it, you’ll receive a version tailored to where you live; for example, candidates in Scotland will be asked about the Scottish Parliament, but not about the Senedd.
The Test Day
On the day itself, remember to take the same proof of identity and address that you used to book (dated within 3 months) with you to the test centre. There will also be the requirement to take your photo as part of the new ID verification process approved on December 17, 2019.
In total, you should allow 2 hours for the entire process, including identity checks on arrival and the 45 minutes for the test.
The test is taken at a Life in the UK test centre. There are around 60 test centres in the UK and you’re free to select one of the five closest to where you live. You should not take your test at any other establishment as the UK Border Agency will only accept certificates from registered test centres. If you live on the Isle of Man or in the Channel Islands, there are different arrangements for taking the Life in the UK test.
Children or family members aren’t allowed at the test centre. So make prior arrangements before the day. It would also be smart to visit the test centre before the day to know its exact location, how to get there, and how long it will possibly take you.
Upon completion of the test, you’ll not be informed of your exact mark. Instead, if you’re successful, you’ll be informed that you’ve passed and issued with a ‘Pass Notification Letter’. You’ll then sign it and get a certificate that you’ll use to apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Ensure that you keep the certificate safe because the home office doesn’t issue duplicates. If misplaced or lost, contact the home office for guidance.
You’ll also get a unique reference number. You’ll need this number to complete your citizenship or settlement application. The Home Office will use it to check that you’ve passed.
If you took your test before December 17, 2019, you’ll have a letter with a test reference ID instead of a unique reference number.
If unsuccessful, you’ll be informed of the topics that you need to revise and retake the test.
What Happens If You Fail the UK Citizenship Test?
There are no restrictions on the number of times you can take the test.
But failure is costly. You’ll not get a refund of your fees. Which means you’ll need to book and pay each time you retake the test.
You can retake the test 7 days after the last one you took. The application process is the same.
What Happens If You Miss the Test?
You must immediately cancel your test if you can’t make it. Go to your account and cancel the confirmed tests.
To get a refund, try and do it at least 3 days (72 hours) before you’re due to take the test. You won’t get a refund if you cancel or rearrange within 3 days of your test.
You can ask for a refund if the test centre cancels the test.
You can’t ask for a refund for any other reason. For example, if you brought the wrong ID, you were ill, you were late, you didn’t bring the right documents or you refused to have your photo taken.
You must apply for a refund within 3 months of the test date. All refunds are made to the card you used to book the test.
How to Prepare for the Test
The Home Office recommends that applicants prepare for the test by studying the ‘Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents’ handbook.
To pass this test, you only need to study the handbook thoroughly and practice all the tests as presented here.
The handbook covers topics on:
- The process of becoming a citizen or permanent resident
- The values and principles of the UK
- Traditions and culture from around the UK
- The events and people that have shaped the UK’s history
- The government and the law
- Getting involved in your community
Check that you understand:
- The origin of the values underlying British society
- The fundamental principles of British life
- The responsibilities and freedoms which come with permanent residence
- The process of becoming a permanent resident or citizen.
All questions in the test are taken at random from the handbook. It also contains sample questions and answers, as well as study guides that can help you pass the test.
As you take the test, use your 45 minutes effectively by reading the questions carefully and answering as precisely as possible.
To avoid fraud, the system will automatically generate the questions. So in effect, the person sitting next to you will have different questions from what you get.
Sample Test Questions
Below are just some of the typical multi-choice questions you can expect;
1.Who made the first coins to be minted in Britain?
- The people of the stone age
- The Anglo-Saxons
- The people of the Iron-Age
- The Romans
- Who built the Tower of London?
- William the Conqueror
- Queen Victoria
- Queen Elizabeth I
- Oliver Cromwell
- Northern Ireland has its own established church.
- Where is Swansea located?
- Northern Ireland
Who Is a Famous Person That Has Taken the Test?
Kamila Shamsie is a British-Pakistani writer and novelist who is known for her award-winning novel, Home Fire.
She moved to London in 2007 and is now a dual national of the UK and Pakistan. Her journey to British citizenship is captured here.