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Expat guide to the Life in the UK test

Non-UK nationals who want to become British citizens or gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) need to pass the Life in the UK test. Also referred to as the British Citizenship test, it will grade your knowledge of UK life with a variety of questions about the country’s culture, food, history, geography and more. Read below when and how to take the test and what sort of questions to expect.

What is The Life in the UK test?

The UK government introduced the Life in the UK test in 2005 as a mandatory requirement for anyone applying to become a naturalised citizen or gain permanent residency in Britain and Northern Ireland. The government created the process to help foreign nationals living in the UK integrate into society and play a role in local communities by developing a greater understanding of British cultural norms and expectations.

Who needs to take the test?

Anyone between the ages of 18-64 who applies for British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) will need a Life in the UK pass certificate.

  • You don't need to take the test if:
  • You're under 18 or over 65
  • You're unable to complete a test due to long-term physical or mental conditions.

Do I need to retake the test?

No, you only need to complete and pass the exam once. Once you've completed the examination and received your Pass Notification certificate, it's valid for life, and you will not need to renew it regardless of your immigration status.

This includes passing the Life in the UK test as part of your settlement (ILR) application for British citizenship.

While the certificate does not expire, you may need to present it when updating your documentation (for example, to update your name or replace a lost identity card).

The only circumstance in which you would need to re-take the test is if you fail to pass. We cover this later in the article.

What does the Life in the UK test include?

The Life in the UK test consists of 24 multiple-choice questions covering topics relating to British culture. These questions will quiz your knowledge on a range of subjects, from the UK's political system, geography and history, as well as daily life.

In this computer-based test, you'll have 45 minutes to answer 24 questions and score a minimum of 75% to pass. This means you must answer at least 18 questions correctly and no more than six incorrect. The pass rate is around 75%, which means that three-quarters of tests taken result in a pass.

What questions should you expect?

There's a great deal to learn while preparing for the Life in the UK test. A vital part of this preparation process is to be aware of what questions you might face during your exam – some people fail due to a lack of knowledge in specific topics.

Here are some example questions:

The Life in the UK test will contain randomly selected questions from their database. While the questions we've provided will be similar to those above or on practice tests, there's no guarantee you'll see these exact ones.

How to study and where to find valuable guidebooks

Anyone can pass the British citizenship test with some dedication, practice and a little reading. You can find a wide variety of resources online, including the official Home Office guidebooks. Several third-party sites provide information and practice tests for people of all levels.

How to book your test

The booking process for the Life in the UK test is straightforward and can be completed online. You're required to book it at least three days in advance, and booking slots can disappear fast, so make sure to plan ahead if possible. There are over 30 test centres in the UK, and you can choose where to take your test when you book.

  • The process takes around 20 minutes to complete, and you'll need to have:
  • an email address
  • a debit or credit card (to pay the test fee)
  • an accepted form of ID – full list available on the government website.

The test fee is £50 (correct December 2021) and if you do not pass, you will need to pay the same each time you take the test.

On the day of the test

After you have booked a testing appointment online, you'll receive an email with your booking information. Details will include:

  • a reference number
  • the address of your test centre
  • an arrival time – usually around half an hour before your scheduled start time.

Make sure that you arrive early to take your test. If late, the centre may deny you entry, and they are unlikely to refund your testing fee.

When you arrive at the testing centre, you need to present a piece of acceptable identification. Ensure that the name and details on your ID correspond with those you provided during the online booking.

The centre attendant will then run through the process with you, and you'll be allowed to place any written materials and electronic devices into a locker or safebox.

You may be given some practice questions to help familiarise yourself with the process. Once complete, the attendant will instruct you how to access your test on the computer, and you'll begin.

Rules and cheating

The Home Office takes cheating seriously. According to UK Visas and Immigration, it's essential that you:

  • Only take the test for yourself
  • Don't bring research material to your testing centre
  • Communicate with others or copy answers during the test
  • Offer bribes in an attempt to influence your result
  • Use any electronic devices within the test centre

If caught cheating or attempting to cheat, the examiner may report you to the Home Office and the police, which will likely impact your immigration application and result in prosecution.

What happens if you fail?

If you fail, you'll need to wait seven days before you can retake your exam. You're allowed to take the test as many times as you'd like, but you will need to pay £50 for each booking. Failing does not change your immigration status – you can continue to live in the United Kingdom until your Leave to Remain or current visa expires.

Increasing your chances of passing

If you've failed the test, don't feel disheartened. Failing once does not mean you'll fail your second time. However, before you rebook your test, you should:

  • Review your test results. Your test results will be available online or as a printed report. You should always review your answers to identify which questions you got incorrect and why.
  • Take more practice tests. Try to push yourself to read more resources online, or seek the help of a British friend who can help test you. Creating test scenarios at home can help prepare your nerves.
  • Improve your English skills. If you found that your English skills were holding you back, attend ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes to help develop your knowledge.

Your pass notification

Once you've passed your Life in the UK test, the Home Office will provide proof of your results. Make sure you hold on to the original copy, as it is required to apply for ILR or British citizenship.

If you lose or damage the document, you'll need to replace it as soon as possible. Make a copy of your pass notification certificate and record your test ID numbers as soon as possible after you complete the test. Without them, the Home Office may request that you retake the exam. Call the Home Office at 03001 232 253 and they'll provide you with your replacement options.

Passing the Life in the UK test can be daunting for non-UK nationals unfamiliar with British culture. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help you study and with the help of practice questions, you can set yourself up for success and kickstart your journey to settle permanently in the UK.

Find out more about life in Britain with our comprehensive guide for expats in the UK.

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