Can You Pass This U.S. Citizenship Test?

By: Torrance Grey

Can You Pass This U.S. Citizenship Test?
Image: Hill Street Studios/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Every few years, it comes around again: The embarrassing news that some academics administered a citizenship test to a group of native-born Americans and the majority failed. To underscore the problem, whoever is reporting this news usually points out that these are people who've been voting since they were 18, thanks to no special knowledge, but just a birthright. Shouldn't all Americans know the things that immigrants have to know in order to become citizens?

Well, we can't disagree. That's why we've created this mock U.S. citizenship test. It's longer than the one given to aspiring Americans by the government. Actual applicants are asked 10 questions and must answer six correctly to pass. We should note here that the civics test isn't the entire process; there's also an interview, a conversational-speech test and a reading test. But when most people refer to the U.S. citizenship test, they mean the civics test. So that's what we're going to quiz you on -- the branches of government, the Constitution, the founding fathers and important aspects of American history. 

Ready? Hopefully, you'll come away from this quiz satisfied that you know a lot about our young, great nation. And if not, maybe you'll be inspired to go back to the books and learn some more!

What does each star on the U.S. flag represent?
A U.S. president
A U.S. state
There are 50 stars on the flag, on for each state. If the stars represented each of the Armed Forces, there'd only be five; if it represented fallen soldiers in the Revolution ... well, that'd be far too many! Interestingly, U.S. presidents would be about a match; we're on our 45th at present.
A fallen Revolutionary soldier
A branch of the Armed Forces

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For how long a term is a president elected?
Two years
Four years
An American president serves a minimum of four years. Almost all political offices in the United States have terms of even years: two, four or six. However, a rare few offices are held until the official decides to retire, like Supreme Court justices.
Five years
Six years

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The highest court in the land is known as what?
The First Circuit Court
The Star Chamber
The Supreme Court
The answer, of course, is the Supreme Court. Fun fact: Newspaper editors, when pressed for headline space, sometimes refer to the justices as "the Supremes," calling up unfortunate comparisons to the girl group of the 1960s.
The Vatican

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The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up what?
The Bill of Rights
It might be hard to explain to an outsider, but as important as the Constitution is to the government, the first 10 "exceptions" or changes to the Constitution are equally important to the American way of life. They preserve essential things like free speech and freedom of religion.
The Federalist Papers
The Magna Carta
The Miranda warning

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What are the two houses of Congress called?
The East Wing and the West Wing
The House of Representatives and the House of Commons
The House of Representatives and the Senate
The East Wing and the West Wing are divisions of the White House, the presidential residence. "Parliament," meanwhile, is a common name for a legislative body in other countries, like England. It's England's Parliament which has a House of Commons.
The Senate and the Parliament

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What are the first three words of the Constitution?
Be it known
Four score and
On this day
We the people
This might be the most famous phrase in all of American politics. With its first three words, the Constitution makes clear that the United States was going to be a democracy (notwithstanding that women and slaves were denied the vote. Democracy in America was a slow process).

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In what part of the Constitution would you find the phrase: "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union ..."
The preamble
It's worth repeating in full here: "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States."
Article I
Article II
This is actually from the Gettysburg Address

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Who has the power to veto bills?
The chief justice of the Supreme Court
The president
The president can veto Congressional bills that are not to his (or, someday, her) liking, but that's not the end of the story. The bill goes back to the House or Senate, where it must get 66 percent support from members. If it does, the president's veto is overridden. So a veto doesn't give the president ultimate power; it's just a way of saying, "Show me you're serious about this one."
The speaker of the house
The minority whip

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How many branches does the federal government have?
Two
Three
The federal government is divided into an executive, legislative and judicial branch. The plan is laid out in the Constitution and provides for a balance of powers, which is a very important concept in American politics.
Four
Nine

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What is the official title for a judge on the Supreme Court?
Bailiff
Justice
"Justice" is the poetic name for a judge on the Supreme Court. The head of the court is called the Chief Justice. The first one was John Jay, also considered one of the Founding Fathers.
Magistrate
They're just called "Judge"

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What does the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantee Americans?
Freedom of speech
The right to bear arms
The Second Amendment is a hotly-contested issue in America right now. Gun-control advocates point out that it was written in an age of single-action muskets whereby the shooter had to add powder, tamp it down, drop in a musket ball, cock the weapon and fire. What would the Founding Fathers have thought of gun rights in the age of semi-automatic weapons? We really don't know.
The right to buy and drink alcohol
The right to vote at age 18

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Which of these Founding Fathers did NOT become president?
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin never held the highest office, but let's give him some credit. He was a Renaissance man whose diplomacy got France into the Revolutionary War on America's side, who thought deeply about politics, philosophy and science, and whose daily schedule is still inspiring productivity gurus to this day.
Thomas Jefferson
John Adams
George Washington

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How many amendments to the Constitution are there?
Nine
11
18
27
To date, the Constitution has been amended 27 times. It might again be amended in the future. The amendments are what makes the Constitution a "living document," and not one frozen in time.

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Who is the current vice president of the United States?
Joe Biden
Mike Pence
We're sympathetic if you chose the fourth option (though not sympathetic enough to give it to you). The vice presidency has long been considered a largely ceremonial role. In fact, person-on-the-street interviews have revealed that many Americans don't know the name of the person filling the office.
Jared Kushner
What do I look like, a political-science grad student?

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True or false? Only one president has ever been impeached.
True
False
Most people think this is true because of Richard Nixon, who resigned during impeachment hearings. He wasn't even impeached, to be literal. The two presidents who actually were, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were both acquitted in Senate trials and their political careers survived.

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Who delivered the Gettysburg Address?
George Washington
Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln made his famous speech at the dedication of a military cemetery in Gettysburg. It also commemorated the hard-fought victory of Union forces over the Confederacy at Gettysburg. The address remains one of the best-known speeches in American history.
Benjamin Franklin
Betsy Ross

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The "Founding Fathers" were a vital group of men who charted the new nation's course. Which of these was NOT one of them?
John Adams
John Jay
Thomas Jefferson
Nelson D. Rockefeller
Other founding fathers include Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Nelson Rockefeller was a captain of American industry. He came later in the nation's history books.

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Before the Constitution, what document governed the new nation?
The Articles of Confederation
Though "Confederation" would take on a different meaning during the Civil War, from 1777 to 1787 it just meant a joining together of states. The Articles of Confederation proved to be too weak a document to govern the young nation of America — a key weakness was that it didn't allow the federal government to collect taxes. Oops.
The Bible
The Federalist Papers
Common Law

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Who nominates justices of the Supreme Court?
The president
This is the duty (or privilege) of the president. For this reason, nominations always favor the party to which the sitting president belongs. Because justices can serve for decades, a single nomination can influence the workings of the court for a long time.
The speaker of the house
The other justices
Any American over 18

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Who is third in the presidential line of succession?
The head of the CIA
The first lady
The secretary of state
The speaker of the house
The speaker of the house is the highest-ranking member of the House of Representatives. If you're wondering why the president of the Senate doesn't fill this role, it's because the Senate president is also the vice president, who is second in line.

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Other than John Adams and John Q. Adams, which of these families has put a father and a son in the White House?
The Bush family
The Bushes are a Texan, conservative political family. George H.W. Bush was a WWII hero, head of the CIA, senator and then president. George W. Bush was a businessman turned governor, then president. They were the 41st and 43rd presidents, respectively.
The Clinton family
The Kennedy family
The Grant family

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What is the overarching blueprint for government in the U.S.?
The Bill of Rights
The Constitution
The Constitution lays out how the American government is organized and which branches have which powers. That is why, in the courts, debate often arises about whether laws are, or are not, "Constitutional."
The Declaration of Independence
The Magna Carta

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Who was president during World War I?
Abraham Lincoln
Ulysses S. Grant
Martin Van Buren
Woodrow Wilson
Wilson kept the United States out of the war for some time but when the British intercepted a telegram outlining a German plan to urge Mexico to attack the United States, that was the last straw. The late entry into the war inspired a Marine's famous line at the Battle of Belleau Wood: "Retreat? (Expletive), we just got here!"

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Which state is the most recently admitted into the Union?
Alaska
Hawaii
Beautiful Hawaii has been a state since August 1959, following on the heels of Alaska, which was admitted in January of the same year. Guam is a U.S. territory, not a state. New Mexico, however, is a state (which, sadly, many people are confused about!).
Guam
New Mexico

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What is significant about the year 1776?
It was the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The year 1776 was only the beginning of America's struggle to become a new nation. It was essentially the shot fired over the bow of the British monarchy, a declaration that America now considered herself an independent country.
It was the year the 13th colony joined the Union.
It was the year the Constitution was ratified.
It was the year the British surrendered the U.S. to the Americans.

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Which of these was NOT one of the original 13 colonies?
Georgia
New York
West Virginia
West Virginia did not exist at the time that the Declaration of Independence was signed because it was part of the state of Virginia. West Virginia seceded during the Civil War. It was an impoverished, mountain region with very few slaveholders and its residents saw little reason to fight for the South.
Virginia

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Who was the second president of the United States?
George Washington (he was elected to a second term)
John Adams
John Adams was the second president. John Quincy Adams was the sixth. Bear in mind, being elected to a second term does not change one's numerical order in the presidency — Barack Obama, who served two terms was the 44th president, not the 44th and 45th.
John Quincy Adams
Thomas Jefferson

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Who is the current chief justice of the Supreme Court?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
John Roberts
Roberts has held this role since 2005. The most recent addition to the Supreme Court, in general, is Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A President Donald Trump nominee, he underwent a contentious confirmation hearing that few of us are likely to forget anytime soon.
Clarence Thomas
Earl Warren

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In what year was the Constitution written?
In 1776, like the Declaration of Independence
In 1775, a year before the Declaration of Independence
In 1780
In 1787
The Constitution was written well after the Declaration of Independence. America celebrated the bicentennial of the Constitution in 1987 (presumably New Coke and Zima were involved).

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How many senators are in the U.S. Congress?
40
50
100
Americans elect two senators from each state. This creates a total of 100. Because this is an even number, the vice president is called upon to cast a tie-breaking vote when there is a 50-50 split.
435

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What are the two main political parties in the United States?
Democrats and Republicans
OK, this one was a bit of a softball. Though we use "the Left" to refer to the Democrats and "the Right" to refer to the Republicans, these are not, of course, official names. Other parties, like "Peace & Freedom," are even farther to the political left than the Democrats.
Left and Right
Law and Order
Kennedy and Bush

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How many electoral votes are needed to win a presidential election?
100
240
270
This is why, on election night, states are "called" rather than overall numbers of votes being counted. There are 538 electors. Their role is to balance out the power between populous states, like Ohio, and sparsely populated ones, like Wyoming, where the people would have little incentive to vote if not for the Electoral College.
538

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How many members of the House of Representatives are there?
75
110
270
435
House members represent congressional districts, not states overall. The Congress is a complicated legislative body -- in the House, representation is based on raw population numbers, but in the Senate, each state has equal importance (because each state gets 2 senators). This is one of the ways that power is kept in balance.

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Which branch of the federal government has the power to declare war?
Executive
Legislative
Only Congress has the power to declare war. This question might be confusing to immigrants preparing to take their citizenship test, as the president is called the "Commander in Chief" of the armed forces, a role that sounds like it should confer the power to declare war.
Judicial
None of these

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America has a "bicameral" Congress. What does this mean?
It holds two sessions a year
It allows both genders to serve
It has two houses
This word is taken from the Latin word, "camera," which means "room or chamber." (The Kodak kind of "camera" gets its name from the small, light-proof chamber in which film is exposed).
Representatives are elected for two years

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