Alicia Bowers, a Panamanian immigrant living in Texas, knows George Washington was the first U.S. president. And that the three branches of government are legislative, executive and judicial.
But Bowers, who took a course to study for the citizenship test she plans to take, was stumped when asked why there are three branches of government.
She also couldn't answer two other draft questions the government wants to try out on 5,000 immigrants who volunteer in 10 cities in an attempt to revise the citizenship test.
The government unveiled to mixed reaction 144 draft test questions Thursday. Officials plan to begin using a redesigned citizenship test in 2008.
"The people, they have to go to school to study that and take some courses in order to answer and have the right answers," Bowers said after she couldn't answer "What does the Constitution do?" and "Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence."
But she said understanding the concepts will help people understand what's happening in the country.
Federal officials said that is what they hope to achieve.
Emilio Gonzalez, director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said immigrants should know what they are swearing allegiance to when they take the oath of citizenship.
"You ought to internalize the very values that make this country what it is. Citizenship is not test taking."
Applicants must answer six of 10 questions correctly to pass the civics portion of the test. Some questions will have more than one answer. The questions are not multiple choice.
Here is a sample of questions from the current citizenship test and the proposed new questions:
- How many stripes are there on our flag?
- What is the Constitution?
- What are the three branches of our government?
- Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
- What does the Constitution do?
- Why do we have three branches of government?
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service