Special Report

The Hardest Questions on the US Citizenship Test

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Name three of the 13 original colonies

About two-thirds of Americans either incorrectly identified or were unsure of which states were among the original 13, according to a 2018 national survey conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies, an analytic research firm. There are several tips to memorize at least three. Perhaps the easiest one is to remember the three states whose names start with “New.” These are New York, New Jersey, and New Hampshire.

Here are all 13: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.


What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

Perhaps an easier question would be “What wasn’t he known for?” You might answer “a scientist and an inventor.” While technically this is not wrong, the answer is not acceptable. Your options are: U.S. diplomat, oldest member of the Constitutional Convention, first Postmaster General of the United States, writer of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” and started the first free libraries.

A quarter of Americans answered with one of these four options. About 37% said he invented the lightbulb, according to the 2018 survey.

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Why did the colonists fight the British?

Some may consider this a tricky question. Maybe most people will go for an answer that focuses on independence, and this is not wrong. It’s just not a direct cause for the war. About 24% of Americans knew the correct answer, according to the 2018 poll.

The three possible correct answers are: because of high taxes (taxation without representation); because the British army stayed in their houses (boarding, quartering); and because the colonists didn’t have self-government.

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Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?

The correct answer is World War II — and you’ll just have to memorize it if history is not your strong suit. What may help is if you remember he was a general. He led the western Allies’ invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe that began on D-Day.

In the 2018 national survey, 12% of Americans incorrectly thought Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War, and 6% said he was a Vietnam War general.

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What does the judicial branch do?

Do the terms separation of powers and the three branches of the government ring a bell? The judicial branch consists of courts — the Supreme Court, federal, state and local. The four possible answers are: reviews laws; explains laws; resolves disputes (disagreements); and decides if a law goes against the Constitution.

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