If you’re planning on becoming a U.S. citizen, you’ll need time to sufficiently prepare for the U.S. citizenship exam, aside from your N-400 application and supporting materials. The citizenship takes places in front of a USCIS officer, and the test is comprised of two main parts:

  1. The English test, during which an applicant must demonstrate an understanding of the English language including the ability to read, write, and speak basic English.
  2. The civics test, during which an applicant must answer important questions about American government and history. 

A naturalization applicant might look at these two materials and decide that the best way to study for the test is simply to download a study guide and try to memorize key terms. However, this approach to test taking might not work, as the applicant might not get a real understanding of key questions that the test will be asking. In this blog, we recommend some other ways and resources that will be helpful for N-400 applicants who are wondering what the best way to study for the naturalization exam is.

Finding a Tutor

First off, if you don’t have a command of the English language and are worried about the English portion of the test, our first recommendation is to hire an English tutor way in advance. Learning any language takes time, especially as an adult when it is the most difficult. Children who learn a second a language are more likely to become fluent in that language by the time they are an adolescent or young adult. This is because learning a language while you are young is a time when your brain is in a phase of rapid neural growth, and the new language becomes easier to adopt.

Finding a tutor and meeting with someone even once a week to sit and practice your English with will help open up your neural pathways, and also allow you to make mistakes in a judgment free zone where you can ask as many questions as you want.

As an alternative, some might choose an online program or a podcast to listen to where they can exercise or do other activities while listening to the instructor repeat phrases and sentences. Some individuals will find this method of learning English productive, although it is more of a passive process versus the active process of being engaged with someone in person and practicing your English skills.

Online Learning

Likewise, some naturalization applicants might turn to other online resources to practice their English. Again, this could be very helpful for becoming a better English reader or writer, but having face-to-face conversations in English with someone else, or a group of people, is the preferred way to becoming an adept English speaker.

Whatever the case, naturalization applicants should make sure they are having in depth conversations with English speaking counterparts months in advance to the test. The more practice the better.

Civic Engagement

In addition to the English portion of the test, applicants will need to come up with a strong method for studying and understanding how the U.S. government works, and moreover how U.S. history has shaped the way our country operates. Taking time everyday to read the news, or sign up for a magazine that deals with American politics might be good exposure leading up the naturalization exam. Alternatively, it might be advantageous to sign for a class on American civics at a local college or university (if financially feasible). Sitting in a lecture can help some applicants understand narratives of American history better than simply trying to research different parts of the United States complicated government and feeling disconnected or lost within a few hours.

If signing up for a class at a local college costs too much, another way to become engaged with how the U.S. government works is to take a field trip to Washington D.C. While some applicants might think this would be a waste of time, you can learn a great deal about the history of America in one day by touring the capital and visiting some of the most iconic sites such as the Lincoln memorial or the Martin Luther King memorial. In turn, each site will usually have historical significance that has help shaped the way the U.S. is today.