Communication professor undergoes US citizenship test

13 April 2017
Alex Garoffolo, Student Writer

Canadian communication professor Mark Brewin discusses the questions he was asked and the process he went through for the US citizenship test.

On April 5, Dr. Mark Brewin took the US citizenship test in Oklahoma City. Prior to the test, he had to fill out an 11-12 page application and pay a $600 fee. For the test itself, the government required him to pay another $100 for fingerprinting and other processing. The actual test took him “approximately five minutes. It was a surprisingly informal atmosphere,” according to Brewin. He said that he realized he felt more nervous than he originally thought he might leading up to the test, but that feeling soon abated as it got underway.

The test for citizenship is solely oral. The government has a test bank of 100 questions, “of which they only ask ten” he said. “The exam felt like an open-ended interview. The agent [for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services] asked me ten questions. Examples included: who wrote the constitution, name a state that borders Mexico, name the two major political parties and tell three of the original thirteen colonies.” This serves two purposes. It tests the applicant on his ability to use proper English and his knowledge of important facets of the nation and its history. A candidate must correctly answer six of the ten questions and demonstrate good English abilities to pass.

Brewin said “admittedly, my experience might have been more mundane than most. I have lived in America for quite some time, spoken English from an early age and attended college here.” He added, “due to my application being based on residency and not relationship status with an American, the examination process was not very dramatic.” Brewin came to the United States in college on an F-1 visa, and later received his green card when he married an American woman.

Dr. Brewin cited “the feeling of being outside the process that I teach about and research” for why he decided to sit for the exam. With graduate work examining political communication in the United States and research interests in “the role of the body as medium for political and public communication,” he saw a disconnect between what he taught and what he could not do because of his non-citizenship status. “It really hit home in 2008, when the nation had the chance to elect the first African-American president and I could not even participate,” he said. “Truly, the main reason I did it was to have the power to vote. Voting in America is the way we count who’s a citizen and who is not; I wanted my chance to go to the polls,” Brewin concluded.

Then, his mother called him one day and asked him if he’d taken the test yet. He replied no, and she told him “you really should get on that.” “I suppose that’s when I realized that laziness and inertia were no longer an excuse to not get this done,” Brewin attested, laughing.

The next step is to take the Oath of Citizenship in a few months. Then he will be an official citizen of the United States of America.