British citizenship reforms after the Home Secretary compared the "Life in the UK" test to a pub quiz

British citizenship reforms after the Home Secretary compared the "Life in the UK" test to a pub quiz

In his speech at the Conservative party conference in October 2018, Sajid Javid announced plans to reform the Life in the UK test. He stated:

“The existing “Life in the UK” test for new citizens is not enough. Maybe it is helpful for people to know the name of the sixth wife of Henry VIII. But far more important to me, is that they also understand the liberal, democratic values that bind our society together. Citizenship should mean more than being able to win a pub quiz, we need to make it a British values test – and that’s exactly what I will bring in”.

The Life in the UK test

The test was originally introduced in November 2005 and is one of the requirements which most applicants must meet when applying to naturalise as a British citizen. This requirement was extended to Indefinite Leave to Remain (settlement) applications in 2007. Passing the test is meant to show that an applicant has sufficient knowledge of life in the UK. In 45 minutes applicants must answer 24 multiple choice questions on a range of topics relating to life in Britain.

The content of the handbook and test have not been without controversy. Criticisms have ranged from mistakes in the sections on history to observations that few British citizens born and raised in the UK would know the answers to many of the questions to pass the test. The test requires knowledge of over 200 historical dates, including when the Roman emperor Claudius invaded Britain.

Introduction of a “British values” test and harder English language requirements

In his speech the Home Secretary proposed reforming the test to shift the emphasis to it being about “British values”. The aim is to make the test more applicable to daily life and culture in the UK.  Sajid Javid also spoke of “break[ing] down barriers to integration” and identified language as “the most basic barrier of all”. Tougher English language requirements for those applying for British citizenship are therefore also planned.


The Life in the UK test is a key aspect of British immigration policy. There have previously been some changes to its content and the official handbook is currently on its third edition. However, the prevailing view remains that the test does very little to help migrants integrate and understand British life, an aim stated by the Home Office in the past. The Home Office said a public consultation on the test would be undertaken before changes are introduced. It remains to be seen the extent to which the test will be revised.                                                                             

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