Reading Study Guide for the U.S. Citizenship Test

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General Information

During the Reading portion of the Citizenship Test, the officer who is testing you will give you a printed sentence to read out loud. You will have three chances to do this correctly. The sentences are about U.S. history and civics.

What the Officer Is Listening for

When you read, the officer will be listening to see if you:

  • Pronounce the words in a way that he or she can understand. You don’t have to have perfect English, and the examiner is not allowed to fail you because of any accent you may have. Your words must just sound like the ones that are printed.

  • Appear to understand what you are reading. If you read it the first time and it doesn’t seem to make sense to you, back up and read it again, making sure you are saying the words that are printed.

How You Should Prepare

If you are fluent in English, it would still be a good idea to practice reading out loud to someone else. If you can find a teacher or someone else who is a good oral reader, that would be ideal. That person can help you to read more fluently and with more expression.

If reading English is new to you, definitely find someone who is fluent in English and practice reading simple sentences out loud to them. Here are some sources of easy reading material with which to practice:

  • Children’s books from the easy section of the library: Don’t be embarrassed to borrow these books. If it bothers you, pretend you are getting them for a child, or really do this and share your reading with your children after you have practiced with an adult reader.

  • Newspaper articles: These are typically written at an 8th-grade reading level or lower, so they should have language at a good practice level for you.

  • Headlines and introductory sentences in magazine articles, pamphlets, and any other reading material you find around your home or in the mail.

  • There is a list of words that can be used in the sentence you are asked to read for the Citizenship Test. This list is provided for your study by the U.S. Government. Practice reading these words clearly and correctly.

Reading Word List for the U.S. Citizenship Test

Most people do not read out loud very much and it is a skill most of us need to practice before we have to do it for an important reason, like obtaining citizenship. Just read aloud as much as possible before you take the test and you will improve your skills.

What You Should Do During the Test

Even if reading English is a challenge for you, there are things you can do in the testing situation that will increase your chances of passing.

  • Take your time. This is not a race! Before you read, take a minute to quickly look over the sentence silently, so you will have a preview of the entire sentence. This will help you to get meaning when you read and pronounce the words correctly.

  • Read slowly, but with as much expression as you can. This will show the officer that you understand what you are reading.

  • If you stumble over a word, back up and try the whole sentence again, more smoothly.

  • If you finish reading the sentence and it doesn’t seem to make sense, you probably said the wrong word at some point. Go back and try it again, looking carefully at every word.

  • If you know you have mispronounced a word, say it again, correctly this time.

  • If you finish the entire sentence and know you made a mistake somewhere, go back and read it again, correctly this time.

  • If you finish reading the sentence the first or second time and believe you can read it with more expression, ask if you can try it again and do so, inserting the correct expression to show your understanding.

Tips and Tricks

Lots of practice reading English out loud to an English-speaking person will help you to prepare for this section of the test. Also, be sure that you can correctly pronounce the words on the list linked above. They are commonly used in the sentences you will be asked to read.

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