It’s official, yesterday I was sworn in as a British citizen.
A couple of months ago, coincidentally on what was my 5 year anniversary of moving to England, I wrote the Life in the UK test. A requirement for my citizenship application which after 5 years residency in the UK I am now eligible to apply for.
What’s the test like? Most Brits have said to me when given example questions, they couldn’t pass the test. It’s not that the questions are hard and they are multiple choice or true or false, it’s the breadth of information that the test covers. There are questions about the government, religion, immigration history, TV licenses, the social system, the NHS etc. There were a few things on the test I learned while living in the UK but about 80% of the information I had to study the guide to learn and memorize.
The passing grade is 75%, the test 24 questions so that means a maximum of 6 questions could be answered wrong. It can be rewritten if failed, but at £50 a go I preferred to pass the first time around.
I can’t think of the last time I have actually written a test that really matters. So I gave myself lots of time and eased into the whole studying thing starting with an app doing practice test on my phone like it was a game. Some of the questions and answers even stuck in my memory. Time well spent in line at Tesco’s or on the tube.
There are books to help you prepare for the test, as well as on-line practice tests and the official study guide. I had the app on my iPhone for about a year, and about 4 months before I intended to take the test I bought one of the study guides (I used 2012 – Life in the UK Test Study Guide). This book is based on the official guide and was quite thorough, so I felt it was enough.
I read the Life in the UK Test Study Guide all the way through after this I went back studied it and did the practice tests at the end of each chapter. Then I reviewed areas I felt I was weak on and followed up with the practice tests at the end of the book every couple of nights. For the last stage of study I went back to areas I felt I was still weak on and made written notes and studied those over the last couple of days.
This part is easy head to the UK Boarder Agency website, register for a Life In the UK account, then book your test picking a date, time and location, and paying your £50. The test can be booked with 7 days notice if there are slots available. You can change your appointment up to 7 days prior, after that you will forfeit the £50 and have to pay again.
The location you can take your test is determined by your postal code, you can choose from the 5 closest test centres locations from your postal code.
Make sure to give yourself lots of time to find where you are going if you haven’t been to the location your test takes place so you can arrive calm and collected and possibly fit in a last few minutes of reviewing in. As well make sure to have the required documents and ID as outlined here on the test website.
The tests are taken in learning centres, there are 60 around the UK. I arrived at the learning centre, waited to be let in and then waited to be called into the office. My ID was checked and personal information was confirmed as correct, my ears were checked for cheating devises (I am not kidding) I signed the form verifying my information, was taken to the testing room and sat in front of a computer. As I was 2nd to be checked in I had to wait for the other 15 people to be checked in which gave me time to get comfortable.
On the table next to the computer there is a card to explain the test and what to expect so I read this to fill the time while the others were registered. The test monitor also goes over this information once everyone is registered. It is quite the build up for a test that takes 15 minutes!
You are given 45 minutes to complete the test which is plenty of time. The format of the test means you can go back over your answers and change them before you submit them. My plan of attack was to answer all the questions then go back and count how many I knew I had right double checking the others. When I finished there were 6 questions I did not feel 100% sure about but even if they were all wrong I would have a passing mark. I hit submit and then the waiting began.
Being the first one to finish the test meant after everyone finished I was the first to get called into the office for my result – a PASS! I was given the certificate to prove this for my citizenship application. I was told to keep it safe, make a copy and would be best off not losing it.
And that was that, out the door I went. I don’t know what my score was other than a pass, and I was happy not to have to watch anyone come out of the office who had failed.
If your fist language is English, you are familiar with computers and you have read the study guide and have done a couple of practice tests you won’t have a problem passing this test. If you come from another Commonwealth country even better as some things like the Queen being the head of state and the vocabulary used for the government will already be familiar to you.
Then all the other normal rules and tips of passing any test apply, get a good nights sleep, read the questions carefully, and keeping calm (you have plenty of time).
Remember to check the Life in the UK Test website for the most current information as this can change at any time.
There is usually a moment when living in a new country you stop feeling like a visitor and realize I LIVE HERE! This moment was more of a lighting strike moment for me. It could be because I live somewhere as well-known as London, and after years of seeing flashes the city on TV, in the news, and in movies, it can seem a bit familiar. While on the other hand I still had to learn how the pieces of familiar bits fit in the layout of the whole and amongst the unfamiliar bits.
For me the I LIVE HERE moment happened after 8 months of being in London, during the Christmas party season. I’d been out on the town for a Christmas party of one of the shows I work on. This party was at a bar in the Farringdon area of London, an area I knew well by day because I temped in the area my first 3 months in London, but I had never been out after dark in that part of town. When the bar shut plans were made as to where to go next, cabs were hailed, and off we went.
The route from east to west lead us along the Thames, past the London Eye. Then, there in the distance lit up brightly as ever, Big Ben. Such a familiar site and here I was part of a Christmas party, whizzing past it at 1:30am. As you do! It was in that moment seeing one of the most iconic images of London from the back of a cab late at night I thought, I LIVE HERE! Those in the cab not really noticing where we were, being all part of the norm for them, now it was for me too. There was a thrill in the realisation and shivers ran up my arms.
There are then more everyday reminders that you are a resident of this new place now called home. Like when being asked for directions (and being able to give them confidently) or when you’re on the tube on the way to/from work and you see tourists eagerly checking the tube map above the door at each stop (the one you don’t even glance at anymore). There even less obvious things that put together give the I LIVE HERE feeling. Having a ‘local’ to all your own, a favourite spot in your nearest park, knowing where to go to get a great curry and just feeling like you are in rhythm with life in your new home country.
Sounds like a pretty straight forward question, and in Canada it’s usually asked when someone thinks you AREN’T OK. After months of living in England and wondering what vibe I was giving off that made people ask if I was OK, as well as the surprised reactions when I answered the question positively and asked why (thinking they thought something was wrong), I soon realized that it is the equivalent of ‘Hey how are ya?’ that we use in Canada.
What finally gave it away was the perplexing situation when people would ask ‘You OK?’ while walking towards me in a corridor at work, and not even slow down. Not only do they not think anything is wrong, they actually don’t care. It’s just a ‘Hey how are ya?’ type acknowledgement.
There are other things that are ingrained in my Canadian mind, and so I am still not used to hearing certain things here in England. One is being asked for a rubber at work, (they mean an eraser). I now managed to hide the little jolt of surprise and giggle at the question that I feel every time I’m asked. As I’m sure my English friends feel doing when I slip up and say pants (underwear to them) when I mean trousers and politely hide their surprise at the mention of unmentionables.
I have an English friend who tries to help me assimilate into English culture doing her best to get me into good habits when speaking “her” English. Some things you learn fast, like asking for crisps when you want chips in order to avoid getting fries. She was great at correcting me on the more subtle points and getting me to use the correct phrases, such as garden (yard), shop (store), and for telling time quarter past (not quarter after).
Those are the more subtle changes in speech needed to fit in. I like to think that I retain all my Canadian accent though. But on my last trip to Canada I became a little concerned something has changed, 3 people in BC asked where I was from. I have to rule out my having an East Coast accent because I was never asked that when I lived in Vancouver. Next trip to Canada is to my hometown (on the east coast) in October, it’ll be interesting to see what my oldest friends hear when I speak. My concern is that that one day I have bits of both the Canadian accent and English accent (and being from London with friends from all over the world who knows what that will sound like) that I have no identifying accent.