FROM the poetry of Scotland’s national bard and the surreal oeuvre of Monty Python to the athletic prowess of Jessica Ennis, they are questions which span centuries and subjects, designed to ask prospective residents of these shores just what it means to be British.
The UK government yesterday unveiled a series of changes to the test taken by foreign nationals who wish to become UK citizens, in the hope of placing greater focus on the “values and principles at the heart of being British”.
The revised Life in the UK test, to be introduced in March, has done away with contentious questions about credit cards, job interviews and public transport in favour of putting greater emphasis on cultural life, history and historical figures.
The Home Office said the test aimed to draw attention to events and people “who have contributed to making Britain great”. Immigrants will be quizzed on a range of topics, including politics, sport and music.
A new handbook goes on sale today and forms the basis of the 45-minute exam aspiring citizens must pass. It features “an exploration of Britons’ unique sense of humour and satire”, the Home Office said, and highlights the natural beauty of the national parks and countryside.
Knowledge of British cultural and artistic heritage will be tested, from the music of Benjamin Britten and Henry Purcell, to the worldwide influence of the Beatles and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The test will cover some of Britain’s most celebrated writers, scientists and politicians, from William Shakespeare and Robert Burns to Isaac Newton and Winston Churchill. Immigrants will be expected to know British history from the Stone Age, to the Romans, Norman Conquest and the Magna Carta.
Sporting knowledge, including questions on the London 2012 Olympics, will be included.
Foreign nationals will even be asked about the nation’s artistic achievements, love of gardening and garden design, and the work of influential architects, including Christopher Wren and Norman Foster. References to literary masterpieces by such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen and Wilfred Owen are also included.
The changes to the test have rewritten the legacy of controversial political figures. Margaret Thatcher was described as a “divisive” figure in the previous version, but is now hailed as an economic reformer.
The test does not dwell on Labour’s time in power during the 1990s and 2000s. Tony Blair is summed up in just one paragraph, while Gordon Brown’s premiership is covered in a mere nine words.
Immigration minister Mark Harper said the revised test focused on issues “at the heart” of being a British citizen.
He said: “This is just part of our work to help ensure migrants are ready and able to integrate into British society.”
But Don Flynn, director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, called the revisions a “big step backwards” and said the test now resembled an “entry examination for an elite public school”.
Applicants for British citizenship will be expected to answer 75 per cent of 24 questions in the 45-minute test correctly.
What 2007 test asked of applicants
The previous citizenship test, from 2007, contained the following questions:
Q What is the census and how is the data collected and used?
A A count of the population, which is delivered to every household and must be completed by law.
Q What languages other than English are spoken in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
A Ulster Scots, Gaelic, Welsh.
Q What are the largest religious groups?
A Christian (71 per cent), Muslim (2.7 per cent), Hindu (1 per cent).
Q What and when are the patron saints’ days of the four countries of the UK?
A St David’s Day, Wales, 10 March; St Patrick’s Day, Northern Ireland, 17 March; St George’s Day, England, 23 April; St Andrew’s Day, Scotland,
Q Which areas of policy remain under the control of the UK government?
A Defence, foreign affairs, taxation and social security.
Q What is the Commonwealth?
A Association of countries, most of which were part of the empire.
Q Do women have equal rights in voting, education and work, and has this always been the case?
A Yes. No.
Q How is the process of buying a house different in Scotland from the rest ?
A The seller sets a price and the buyers make offers over that amount.
Q What does the amount of council tax charged by local government depend on?
A The size and value of your home.
Q How long can overseas driving licences be used for in the UK?
A EU licences are valid indefinitely, others 12 months.