Here’s a question for you:
How many ski centres are there in Scotland? Not sure? Ok, let’s try another. How many Olympic gold medals has Chris Hoy won? Don’t know – well you could guess – but do you actually know? Do you even need to know? I have no interest whatever in cycling but even if I did, would I necessarily know the correct answer. I thoroughly enjoy watching Ronnie O’Sullivan playing snooker but ask me how many world championships he’s won and I couldn’t tell you other than to say ‘quite a few’.
Last question – How many local authorities doers the City of London have? You don’t know? I didn’t know either and can’t imagine a circumstance where I might need to. Neither do I know in what year motor car racing started in the UK!
Why I am asking all these mindless questions? Well, I’ve recently been asked to provide a reference for someone who, after working for many years in this country is applying for British citizenship. There are, rightly, a number of requirements and hoops to jump through, one of which is to pass the ‘Life in the UK’ test. I was interested to know what the questions might include and logged onto the site where some sample tests are available. With a pass rate of 75% there are 24 multiple choice questions each with 2-4 possible answers.
Not all questions are factual. Take this one: What should you do when you move into a new house or apartment?
- Introduce yourself to the people who love near you so they can help you
- Do nothing
- Tell the people who live near you not to make a noise
- Warn the people who live near you not to talk to you
There is a study handbook available so that an applicant can revise but really, I despair at the utter pointlessness of some of the subjects covered. Obviously they’re not all so banal and I think that we should all understand our history and political system better than many of us do, but do the people who set these questions have any understanding of the real lives of people outside their elitist circles? In case you’re interested – I did three tests and passed only one of them, and even then I guessed at some of the answers.
Unsurprisingly the test has been criticised because of its expectation that candidates should know information that wouldn’t be expected of UK born citizens, and described as unfit for purpose and even like a ‘bad pub quiz’.