Passing this test about British life is a crucial step on the way to becoming a British citizen, but it is fiendishly difficult and requires proper preparation
Since November 2005, anyone wanting to become a British citizen or to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (settlement) has had to pass the Life in the UK Test. This computer-based test quizzes would-be citizens on aspects of British politics and history, as well as covering more practical subjects, like buying a house and finding work.
Prepare for the Test
Passing the Life in the UK Test is not easy. If you attempt it without studying, you will almost certainly fail. In fact, even people who have been born and bred in Britain usually fail the official practice test.
The test asks very specific questions about British history; such as women’s rights and 20th Century patterns of immigration, and UK politics; like the number of constituencies and MPs, as well as legal questions about, for example, children’s permitted working hours. These are not things the average person would know, even if they had spent years or decades in Britain. There are also questions about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but only for people who live in those places.
You can sit the test as many times as you like, but it costs £50 per attempt. In order to pass you must study the official handbook; Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship. You must use the second edition of this book, which was published in 2007. The most important information can be found in the purple boxes at the end of the various sections. This is what you should concentrate on, but make sure you read the whole book.
You can also use the official book of test questions; Passing the Life in the UK Test. These books are available from the Home Office-approved online shop priced £9.99 (handbook) and £5.99 (test questions), but you may be able to find them cheaper second-hand. Beware of other books claiming to help you pass the test; you may find them helpful, but only the official handbook contains the information you must know.
What is it like to Sit the Test
The Life in the UK Test is taken on a computer in an approved test centre. You will have to register online to apply for the test, and then you will be told where your nearest test centres are. If you are not confident with computers, practise before you sit the test. Your local library probably has free computer facilities, or you can ask the test centre if they offer this service.
When you arrive at the venue you will probably have to wait outside the test room. Then you and the other candidates will be taken into the room and have your registration ID and identity documents checked. You will get full details of what documents to bring when you book the test online.
Each candidate will be seated at a computer and given 45 minutes to answer 24 questions. The pass mark is around 75%. The format is multiple-choice, and you simply click on the answers. It is possible to go back and change your answers before you finally submit them, so don’t spend too much time on tricky questions, just come back to them at the end.
Pay close attention to the wording of the questions: Sometimes one choice is required as the answer, sometimes two or three. The questions are not always easy to understand, so make sure you know what is being asked before you answer.
After you finish the test you will be told if you have passed or failed. If you have failed you will be able to book another test after a minimum of seven days. If you have passed you will be given a Pass Notification Letter, and asked to sign it. Take great care of this document; this is what you will have to send to the Home Office when you apply for settlement or citizenship.
Is it Possible to Avoid the Life in the UK Test
Certain groups of people are exempt from the test when they apply for Indefinite Leave (settlement), usually because they have experienced danger or distress. The full list is available on the Home Office website. However, almost everyone has to pass the test, in order to apply for British citizenship. If you pass the test to get settlement, you don’t have to pass it again when you apply for citizenship, but keep the pass certificate safe as you may need to submit it again.
There are two main groups of people who don’t have to pass the Life in the UK Test to apply for citizenship. The first is people who are exempt because of age or physical / mental disability. If you are over 65 or have a permanent disability that prevents you from learning English or sitting the test, you don’t have to demonstrate your knowledge of British life and language.
The other category is people whose English is not good enough to sit the test. If your English falls below a certain level you can take an English course instead, provided that it covers aspects of citizenship. To have your level of English assessed you can contact your local further education college, or call the Life in the UK helpline for advice; 0800 0154245 You can also sit the test in Welsh or Scots Gaelic, if you prefer, but you don’t have to.
If your English is below ESOL Entry 3 / Intermediate 1, then passing an appropriate English course is accepted by the Home Office instead of passing the Life in the UK Test, and you will probably find this much easier. However, make absolutely sure that the course incorporates elements of citizenship, or it won’t count. If you take this route, then when you apply for citizenship or settlement you will have to submit your qualification certificate and a letter from the college to say that the course covered citizenship. Any college running an approved ESOL course will be happy to give you this letter on request, once you have passed the English course.
All information is correct at time of writing (August 2012), but check the official Life in the UK Test website for any changes.