The Life in the UK test may look like your average pub quiz – but instead of a bottle of wine, you are awarded with a citizenship if you pass it.
‘Who built the Tower of London?’, or ‘What did the Chartists campaign for?’, these are just some of the example questions applicants will need to know the answers of, even though, according to Meghan Markle, even Prince Harry struggled with them.
Almost 200,000 immigrants took the test in 2022 as part of their applications for citizenship or settlement.
According to Home Office figures obtained by Metro.co.uk, more than a third of them failed to reach the minimum score of 75%.
The test is intended to prove applicants have ‘sufficient knowledge’ of British life, but those who have been through it described the questions asked as ‘irrelevant’ and ‘outdated’.
Hassan Akkad, a BAFTA and Emmy-winning director and producer behind Netflix’s film The Swimmers, arrived in the country as a refugee from Syria in 2015.
After completing the test a year ago, he told us that most of the questions do not prove the level of integration into everyday British life.
‘I am all for testing people who want to live in the UK,’ he stressed.
‘The language test is essential – everyone who wants a citizenship should be able to speak English. Otherwise, they will not have a voice in this society.
‘But the Life in the UK test should test things from everyday life, like for example, how to file taxes, or how to register to vote, or how to register your car.
‘I am not too keen on the historical questions, asking me how many wives Henry VIII had.
‘How is that going to prove the level of integration into everyday British life?’
The test itself costs £50, and cannot to be done in-person, forcing all applicants to also pay for transportation to one of the 30 centres in the country.
Like most people preparing for it, Hassan splashed out £7.99 for the government’s official book with example questions, and £10.99 for the app.
‘Did I learn anything useful? No. Literally nothing. Do I think that the government is making big money out of this? Yes,’ he said.
Frustrated with the citizenship process, Hassan asked 1,717 Brits to complete an example one, and he says only 15 actually passed it.
Given that he is a member of the Royal Family and studied at Eton College, it is hard to imagine he did not ace all the answers.
‘That citizenship exam is so hard. I was studying for it and I remember going: “Oh my goodness”,’ Meghan said on her podcast recently.
‘I would ask my husband: “Did you know this? Did you know this?” And he would say: “I had no idea”.’
Similarly to Hassan, we asked Metro.co.uk readers who are British and grew up in the country to answer questions from the website fifeintheuktests.co.uk.
Only a third managed to pass and all struggled with questions, like ‘Who appoints life peers?’, ‘When did the first Christian communities appear in Britain?’ and ‘Who created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland?’
Dr Andi Hoxhaj, a lecturer of law at University College London, received his British citizenship back in 2015.
As someone whose work focuses on the rule of law, governance, civil society, EU engagement and European integration, he still spent three weeks studying for the test.
He recalled some of the questions even ‘underlining the glorification of Britain’s colonial era’.
‘A lot of it was a little bit ancient and pointless in terms of some of the historical references,’ the 34-year-old said.
‘I recall one of them asked which King killed the most wives something. There were bizarre questions like that. Some which referred to government structures were useful.’
Andi said that the test would make better use of focusing on human rights and freedoms, which may be different in countries where immigrants come from.
He said: ‘I felt that the test should be more focused on the aspect of why the rule of law, fundamental values, and democratic principles are important and how are they upheld in the UK.
‘Some citizens come from countries where these values are severely undermined, and part of the reason for coming to the UK and then deciding to become UK citizens is to be able to live freely in an open and democratic society that respect and upholds those values.
‘Thus, the test should put people to the test on those to make them more aware of how far the UK has come and to raise awareness of some of the challenges that have contributed to the push for the adoption of these fundamental human rights values.’
With English not his native language like most people seeking a citizenship, he got a few questions wrong because of the language.
Andi recalled that some words had double meanings, sometimes ‘tricking’ him.
‘If you are not a native English speaker, it is possible to misinterpret them,’ he said.
The Home Office confirmed plans to set out the process for reviewing the Life in the UK handbook in the first half of 2023 after Metro.co.uk contacted them about the passability rate.
A spokesperson said: ‘The Life in the UK test is important for anyone applying to settle permanently in the UK to ensure they have an understanding of the democratic principles underlying British society and aspects of our culture and traditions.’
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