By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor
A third of immigrants are failing the Government's new citizenship test (external - login to view) amid complaints that some of the questions are too obscure.
New entrants must get 75 per cent of the 24 multiple-choice questions correct within 45 minutes to qualify for British citizenship.
The test, which was introduced last November and is one of the last hurdles in gaining citizenship, has already created a new industry for consultants promising to coach immigrants through the process. There have also been claims of corruption, with one official allegedly sitting the test on an immigrant's behalf.
Of the 82,375 hopefuls who took the exam in the first nine months, 56,615 walked out with a pass while 25,760 failed, giving an overall pass rate of 68.7 per cent, the Home Office has confirmed.
The test (which includes questions similar to those in panel) was introduced as part of the Government's efforts to ensure that new citizens show a commitment to the nation and its traditions, rather than just a desire for a British passport.
A sample test on a Government website offers an insight into why so many immigrants might be failing. One question asks: "What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?" Another demands: "What is proportional representation and where is it used?" Other questions include: "How are judges appointed?" and "How many young people are there in the UK?"
Others could best be described as trick questions. One states: "In Britain, there is a well-established link between abuse of what substance and crime?" and then asks applicants to choose between drugs and alcohol.
Before migrants take the test they must study Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship. The book was subject to ridicule, earlier this year, when historians complained that it was riddled with errors – and even misquoted one of Sir Winston Churchill's most famous speeches.
A Home office spokesman said: "There is nothing to stop you taking the test as many times as you want, although we encourage people to go away and read up on the sections they failed, or improve their English, before re-sitting."
Earlier this year, a college employee responsible for British citizenship tests was suspended after allegations that she helped applicants complete their papers as part of a test-fixing racket.