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Learning English - Words in the News
31 October, 2005 - Published 14:16 GMT
A test to be British
On Westminster Bridge, London

About ninety thousand adults apply to become British citizens every year. Now each and every one of them will have to take a written test before they can qualify as citizens. This report from Paul Keller

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For years those becoming British citizens simply had to swear an oath of allegiance in front of a lawyer and then receive a certificate in the post. But in 2004 Britain introduced a compulsory citizenship ceremony which required new citizens to take a broader oath promising to respect Britain's rights, freedoms and laws and all of this in front of civic dignitaries dressed in full regalia. Now the government is going even further: it's launching a test designed to establish knowledge of the country and its language.

The test contains twenty-four questions on life in the United Kingdom and will last for 45 minutes. If applicants don't pass the first time they can try again and again. The questions range from simple tests of knowledge such as - what's the minimum age for buying alcohol? To exploring more complex cultural issues - How interested are young people in politics? The government believes the test is part of a process that will help new citizens to feel they belong and ease racial tension by removing suspicion of immigrants.

Supporters point to other countries which have similar schemes - particularly the United States where citizenship classes and ceremonies have long been common practice. Opponents however say it's all too nationalistic and puts undue pressure on newcomers to conform, working against the efforts to build a multi-cultural society in Britain.

Paul Keller, BBC

Listen to the words

to swear an oath of allegiance
to promise officially that you will follow the laws of a country

something which must be done

civic dignitaries
government officials

traditional and official ceremonial costumes

people who have applied to become British citizens

ease racial tension
make conflict between races less

have long been common practice
have been done regularly for a long time

People who are against something

undue pressure
unnecessary influence

to conform
to change the way you act so that you fit in

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