A pale yellow “Notice to Appear – To Write a Citizenship Test” arrived on Friday the 13th, five months after I mailed my application to the national processing centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It came without warning or ceremony, and much sooner than Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website suggested it would. I had twelve days to prepare for the exam, which an increasing number of would-be citizens have failed since it was redesigned in 2012.
On paper, I didn’t need to spend much time studying. Since moving to Canada a decade ago, I have visited every province and one of the three territories; I have travelled the country by road, by air, by rail, by sea. I work for a magazine about Canada and its place in the world. Besides, CIC assures applicants that a single document—the glossy sixty-four page “Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”—contains all of the information a newcomer needs to pass the twenty-question test.
As a native Nebraskan, and a product of the US education system, I know the ABCs of standardized testing: the ITBS, the ACT, the SAT, the GRE, the GRE II. I’ve always done well on bubble tests (the GRE II being the glaring exception), and I’ve never been nervous about taking one. Until yesterday.