Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On Failing The Citizenship Test

Dear Reader,

Yesterday I took - and failed - the British Citizenship Test.

My initial response was bemusement.

I have spent nearly 40 years in this country, and I would have thought I would have picked up enough to answer the various questions on politics, history, government, entitlements, and culture.

In particular, I would have hoped that having spent the first half of my life on council estates and in various unloved state schools, and the second half at a famous university and then qualifying and practising as a lawyer, would leave a certain awareness of the shape and nature of our society.

And, although I do not have an ounce of patriotism, I would have expected some things would have stuck, just through mere experience or familiarity.

But no; I failed.

I twittered about this, stating (somewhat pompously, I admit) that if an Oxford History Graduate who actually advises on the areas of law relevant to some of the questions cannot pass this wretched and pointless exam, who could?

And then to my astonishment, nobody at all was passing.

Amongst those who also failed were:

- one of UK's most eminent and sensible cultural critics;
- a talented and liberal prospective Tory MP;
- a distinguished professor of science at London University;

and so on.

Dozens and dozens of articulate and accomplished people were failing this barmy test, from all sorts of backgrounds.

One brilliant satirist even got less than 50% - so I suppose we know who the test is aimed at most excluding.

The only person who passed confessed to guessing half the answers. And he was a Twitter follower of a Twitter follower.

It turns out that this test is based on book learning: you buy and memorise the accompanying book, you then answer the questions by rote.

But in what useful way does that test anything relevant to a citizenship? Especially, when an entire range of British citizens do not themselves know the same things.

One may as well learn a telephone directory off by heart.

The test serves no actual purpose other than to sell the related book.

And so I am now just a citizen of the world.

I much prefer this, though I would have hoped it would have been achieved in a more elegant way.

Yours sincerely,

Jack of Kent


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Now any one will be able to choose between a Light, a Basic and a Complete training test to help you prepare for the Life in the UK Test.
    Life in the UK