Citizenship exams: spotlight western Europe

Article published on Sept. 13, 2010
Article published on Sept. 13, 2010
There's no European-wide citizenship test - it's obligatory by law in national governments only. The Brits and French started in 2005, followed by the Netherlands in 2006 and Germany in 2008, though Italy and Spain don't command it by law. Overview


In Spain alarm bells have been rung due to the questions asked by a registry official from the Madrid metropolitan area of Getafe; immigrant associations complained about him ‘exceeding’ his questioning duties. Official citizenship tests are not obligatory in Spain, so there are no question standards. However, the law allows judges to freely question applicants for an informal report in an obligatory interview regarding the level of the foreigner's integration. They are there to ‘check the degree of adaptation to Spanish culture and way of life’ in order to avoid fraud. Naturally.

Great Britain

This would not occur in France or Great Britain. Applicants who want to obtain French or British nationalities have been taking citizenship tests since 2005. To prepare for the British exam, applicants must read Life in the UK from the home office to complete a 45-minute multiple choice test on society, history and culture via 24 questions on a computer in 11 locations in the UK – the test is democratically available in Gaelic or Welsh too. Pass mark: 75%, though the Turks ring in lowest (in 2010 The Economist reported that only 46% pass). The pass rate was 70.9% in 2009.


In France, this is under the general ‘Sarkozy Law’ (since 26 November 2003, the president and then-interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy has been involved in implementing legal restrictions on immigration). The French citizens of the future must demonstrate that they know what gender equality is, that practising polygamy or female genital mutilation is prohibited and what the colours of the French flag are. The government published Guide des droits et des devoirs du citoyen, a citizen’s rights and duties manual in April 2005 as a study guide two months before the exams started taking place. failed our French exam – though not for want of trying. After going via the Paris prefecture, we are directed to the immigration ministry, who send us back to the prefecture of police ‘which is where citizenship exams and personalised interviews are formulated’, who don’t reply…well, that’s a lesson in itself about French bureaucracy.


Should Italy's far-right Lega Nord (‘Northern League’) party get its way, cittadinanza exams would be compulsory in perfect Italian and in the regional language. Lucky then that when the Italian citizenship law was revised in 1992, it officially cut out exams. However, police will oft ask applicants the odd question or two – such as who is the Italian prime minister? One Italian contributor tells us that when Romano Prodi was the centre-left leader (which was twice between 1996-1998 and a decade later between 2006-2008 - ed), nobody could answer this question of who the presidente del consiglio was correctly. In contrast, today you’d be hard pushed to find someone answering the question wrongly.


Germany is the latest European member state to have applied the multiple choice model, featuring 33 randomly automated questions out of a pool of 300 (the pass mark is 17/33), three years after its French and British neighbours (from 1 September 2008). Many have warned against muslim discrimination in the exam and have questioned whether it is compatible with the German constitution (the ‘Grundgesetz’). 98% of ‘students’ pass the first time, leading some to have wondered if the internet-published questions are too easy.

Citizenship test: examples...with answers at the bottom of the article

1. How many articles is the Italian constitution made up of?

2. Who wrote The Divine Comedy?

3. What is the longest river in Italy (only for applicants with a graduate education level)?

4. At present, the German federal republic is divided in:

a. 4 occupation zonesb. One eastern and one western statec. 16 statesd. Bund (federation), Länder (states) and municipalities

5. The term ‘iron curtain’ is used to refer to the frontier between…

a. The Warsaw Pact system and the westb. North and South Germanyc. Nazi Germany and the alliesd. Europe and the United States

6. A 22-year-old woman lives in Germany with her boyfriend, to her family´s discontent. What can the parents do in this case?

a. They should respect the decision of their daughter who is the oldest\b. They are allowed to force their daughter to come back to the family homec. They can report their daughter to the policed. They can find another boyfriend for their daughter

7. What happened in Spain in 1704?

8. Who is the president of the Spanish congress of deputies (the lower house of parliament)?

9. Name three Spanish post-war writers

10. What is a Spanish omelette made with?

11. In the UK, When can the census information be accessed by the general public?

a. After ten yearsb. After fifty yearsc. After seventy-five yearsd. After one hundred years

12. Which group of people form the largest ethnic minority group in the UK? 

a. Black Caribbeanb. Indianc. Pakistanid. Bangladeshi

13. What is NOT an example of sexual harrassment in the UK? 

a. Inappropriate touchingb. Wearing a short skirtc. Sexual demandsd. Comments or questions about your sex life

14. At what ages do children in England and Scotland take key stage tests? 

a. 4 years old, 8 years old and 10 years oldb. 6 years old, 9 years old and 13 years oldc. 7 years old, 11 years old and 14 years oldd. 8 years old, 12 years old and 16 years old

15. Why did the Huguenots come to the UK? 

a. To set up vineyardsb. To found a new churchc. To escape religious persecutiond. To farm the land

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