The Citizenship Test

Meurrens LawCitizenship Applications and Revocations

All applicants for Canadian citizenship between 18 and 54 years of age are required to take the Citizenship Test.  (As previously noted on this blog, on February 6, 2014, the Government of Canada introduced the The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which will soon change the age requirement to all applicants aged 14-64.  As will be shown in the statistics below, this will likely result in a decrease in the Citizenship Test pass rate.)

The Citizenship Test is generally the final step before the citizenship ceremony.  Considering that the current processing time for citizenship currently exceeds 24 months, and is often much longer, most applicants greet CIC’s request of them to attend a citizenship exam with relief.  Applicants should remember to study though, as failing the Citizenship Test is the most common reason for citizenship application refusals. 

Discover Canada

The Citizenship Test assess an applicant’s knowledge of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship.   All questions are based on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (“CIC”) Discover Canada, which can be read on CIC’s website here. Discover Canada’s Table of Contents shows that it consists of the following chapters:

Retesting Applicants who Fail the Citizenship Test

Failing the Citizenship Test does not result in the automatic refusal of a citizenship application.  Rather, applicants who fail the Citizenship Test are referred to a hearing with a Citizenship Judge, a process which can take years.  Accordingly, from March 2010 to February 2011, CIC offered re-testing to citizenship applicants who failed the citizenship test.  Retesting was originally a temporary measure aimed at mitigating the impact of the new citizenship test introduced following the introduction of Discover Canada.  (As I previously wrote in this blog, the Conservative Party of Canada since taking office has introduced several changes making the Citizenship Test more difficult.)

In order to reduce increasing citizenship application processing times, CIC has re-introduced the ability for failed citizenship applicants to be retested.  For most cases, if an applicant fails the citizenship test, CIC will provide the applicant with a copy of their test score result, and information regarding re-testing.  In brief, an applicant will either have the option of retaking the test, or withdrawing their application.  The re-test will be scheduled approximately 4-8 weeks after the first test.

Applicants will only have one opportunity to rewrite the test. If they do not appear for that appointment, and CIC does not hear from them regarding the non-appearance, then the application will be deemed abandoned, and closed.

Applicants who fail the test the second time will be scheduled for an oral interview with a citizenship judge.  Again, wait times can take several years.

Citizenship Stats and Figures

I recently obtained a copy of the Citizenship Management Quarterly Report (Second Quarter of Fiscal Year 2012-2013).  Some of its summaries include that (paraphrased) (my comments are in red):

  • The average overall test pass rate in Quarter 1 (Fiscal Year 2012-13) and Quarter 2 (Fiscal Year 2012-13) was 72.6%, a decrease from the 83% average in Fiscal Year 2011-12.  The decrease in pass rate was considered attributable to the introduction of new questions on March 28, 2012, and on July 23, 2012.  The report makes it clear that the authors consider this pass rate to be unacceptably low, and it appears the test questions were re-written to promote a higher pass rate. 
  • Male pass rates are consistently higher than female pass rates, on average 4% higher.
  • The difference in pass rates between official languages is negligible.
  • The Province of Manitoba consistently has the lowest test pass rates of all Provinces and Territories, averaging at 77.2%.
  • The age group 35-44 consistently has the highest test pass rate, averaging 2% higher than the national average.  On average, the oldest age group, 45-54 consistently has the lowest pass rate, averaging 2% lower than the national average.  (Presumably, once applicants aged 55-64 are required to write the test their pass rate will be even lower.) 
  •  Sri Lanka and Vietnam are the source countries with the lowest test pass rates, respectively averaging 70% and 67%.  South Korea and China are the source countries with the highest test pass rates, respectively averaging 90% and 88%.
  • Applicants with the shorter length of permanent residency times have the highest test pass rates.  Applicants with 11 to 20 years of permanent residency consistently have lower test pass rates.  If there is an inverse relationship between Citizenship Test pass rates and establishment in Canada, then one has to at least wonder whether the Citizenship Test is achieving its purposes. 
  • There is a huge performance gap between immigration groups, with the economic class averaging the highest pass rate, and the protected persons class averaging the lowest.  Applicants with an educational level of secondary or less represent about 40% of citizenship applicants.

Please e-mail me if you would like a copy of the full Citizenship Management Quarterly Report.