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Customer Review

175 of 195 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Only buy if you need a UK passport or Indefinite Leave to Remain, 7 Oct. 2007
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This review is from: Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship - 2nd Edition (Paperback)
The 'Life in the UK test' itself has audio. However, the Government has elected not to make available any official audio materials with this publication. That is is a real pity.

This book is the only offical study material for the 'Life in the UK test' and it is only sensible to review it in that context.

From April 2007 most categories of migrants to the UK will have to pass the 'Life in the UK' test if they want Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or a UK Passport. For those seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain the requirement has, unusually for UK law, been applied retrospectively so that, for example, a spouse entering the UK as far back as November 2005 and applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain in October 2007 is still required to have passed the test even though that was not a part of the process on initial entry to the UK. In all other areas this would be called 'changing the goal-posts'.

Questions for the 'Life in the UK test' are taken from Chapters 2 through to 6. If English is your first language you are likely to be able to read this title and go on to pass the test. If English is your second language then it is probably worth getting someone whose first language is English to study with and signing up for one of the online question services.

Written by the Home Office Life in the UK Advisory Group, the people who set the citizenship test, the book is, sadly, exactly what you might expect from this sort of committee. While it might be argued that the book contains lots of useful material about accessing help, unemployment and employment rights if you find yourself in those kinds of positions there are a great many better more user-friendly sources of advice and real help.

I firmly believe that many UK citizens would not be able to answer questions taken from this title. For example, I doubt if that many UK pasport holders know what year women first gained the right to vote or own property. The choice of language, while typical of government material, is very dry and not accessible even to those with very good English. I am afraid to say this book is very dull.

In research conducted on Facebook, press released 13 Jan 08, of 11,118 British people who sat a sample test based on the home office citizenship test only 1,585, or 14 per cent, achieved a pass score. Albeit that these people didn't study for the test but this reinforces the disconnection between the content of the title and the knowledge of Britizh citizens.

The Gunning Fog Index is a recognised measure of readability. The randomly chosen left hand column of Page 39 of the Life in UK publication comes out at a Gunning Fog Index of 11.33 using the free Wikipedia calculator, excluding the tables. Typical Fog Index Scores for other publications are: TV guides (6), The Bible (6), Mark Twain (6), Reader's Digest (8), Most popular novels (8-10), Time (10), Newsweek (10), Wall Street Journal (11), The Times (14), The Guardian (14), Academic Papers (15-20). Draw your own conclusions about how accessible the offical guidance has been made to those whose first language isn't English. Why is that?

If the government was serious about encouraging immigrants to learn about the UK they would have employed journalists from the Sun or the Mirror to write interesting useful relevant material. It is not an accident that these newspapers are written expertly to a reading age of about 8 years. According to the Audit Commission 75 per cent of UK residents have a reading age of between eight and eleven years and will be able to understand text containing short sentences with few words of three or more syllables.

Parts of the material are now out of date. For example the age at which you can buy cigarettes has now been raised from 16 to 18. Furthermore, the Northern Ireland Assembly is no longer suspended.

Finally, the title makes no mention of the other way that those seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain can meet the English Language Requirement. That is by reaching a minimum of ESOL Entry Level 1 in 'Speaking and Listening' (certificate required) and producing a letter from their place of study reporting 'progress' and stating that the course includes 'citizenship materials'.

Regrettably the ill conceived 'Life in the UK test' looks here to stay for the moment. Therefore, do buy this title because otherwise you won't have a clue what you are likely to be tested on. Good luck with the test (currently £50) - you can take it as many times as you have to.

There are many study guides on the market but personally I like this new one The Life in the UK Test Handbook: for tests from July 2011

And for a Kindle edition: The Life in the UK Test Handbook: for tests from July 2011
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Dec 2007 14:23:19 GMT
Natasha says:
Brilliant review!!!!!!!! it might just be a review on ebay but someone has perfectly demonstrated the double standards of and incredible mess that is the UK immigration system.

Posted on 28 Jan 2008 22:47:38 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 1 Feb 2008 23:23:42 GMT]

Posted on 5 Feb 2008 22:49:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Feb 2008 22:56:29 GMT
John says:
The government has surrounded the actual questions in the Life in the UK Test derived from the official guidance in a layer of secrecy. Before they can take the Life in the UK Test candidates are required to sign a disclaimer that essentially says that they won't discuss the questions in the official test. I'm sure that quite a few candidates wouldn't understand the disclaimer. A legal opinion on whether the disclaimer constitutes an 'unfair contractual term' would be interesting - for it certainly isn't fair or reasonable. The result is the proliferation of 'unofficial' test guidance and online services of widely varying standard and quality. In addition, The Home Office automatically receives full results but candidates aren't given a pass mark just an indication of areas to revise. This denies candidates the chance to know how close, or not, they really were to passing. For such a critical test for those taking it this is a woeful state of affairs and quite unjustifiable - there is a 'feeble' effort to justify this policy on the official website. None of this is helping the reputation of the official guidance material or the test itself.

Posted on 8 Feb 2008 12:03:15 GMT
A great review. I've just purchased this for my wife, who is an australian citizen, and applying for permanent leave to remain. We both find it ridiculous that somene who is not only a native english speaker, but has been living and working for the last four years in this country has to take a test t prove they can speak english and function well enough to work in this country. We have both taken and looked at online sample tests, and both failed. The majority of the information they are looking for people to know just seems totally irrelevant to every day life.

Posted on 20 Feb 2008 15:03:59 GMT
Mrs OI says:
I think the poster is missing the point of this book. He give it a very low rating, then says (paraphrased) "only buy this if you're taking the test". Well, of course, that's the whole point of the book! There is no reason whatsoever to buy (or read) the book if you're not going to be taking the test.

The comments regarding the language difficulty and outdated information were helpful, though, and could certainly justify giving the book a low rating.

Posted on 24 Mar 2008 10:15:15 GMT
J. Knight says:
Nice review of the UK immigration system, but a lot of it isn't relevant to this book. As you say, if you are taking the test you need the book, and in that respect the book does it's job, however dry and poorly-written it may be. The ideal review would indicate if the reader passed the test as a result of studying this book.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Mar 2008 12:02:09 GMT
John says:
That's a strange postition. The book clearly forms an important strand of the immigration system. According to the government a third of people fail the test first time and yet you have to pass the test to qualify for citizenship. The test and this publication are clearly both a filter and a money making venture. If you study for anything you are more likely to pass the associated test and that is as true here as anywhere. We have, however, all seen poor course materials! The book is a terrible peice of work by virtually any publishing standards. If it wasn't for the Life in the UK test this book would be being pulped in great quantities since it's not up to scratch in terms of relevance, usefulness or readability. For something that has become so fundamental to many peoples lives and a source of real stress to migrants about their visa status [and which also makes them feel unwelcome] we could and should have expected something much, much better.

Posted on 15 Jan 2009 12:51:10 GMT
Dasha says:
This review seemed to be helpful before I've got the actual book and had a chance to make my own assessment. In perspective the negativity is blown out of proportion. From the migrant's point of view this book gives a minimum of what anyone who was born in the UK or intending to live in the UK should know. Most of the information there is a simple common sense, history, politics, etc. It is indeed very sad that majority of the UK citizens are not able to pass this test, may be worth including this basic knowledge into the curriculum?
With regards of the language and sources of information... Language is a good, normal & formal English, when you read Terms and Conditions they are not usually presented in a children's book format and require some sort of knowledge, especially when matter is as important as making a decision about who you should or should not let into your country. Sources are great as well, Sun or Mirror could give some sort of interesting facts but would not be able to cover all topics without been opinionated, and in general would probably seem less interesting without 3 page images.
The book publishes all questions in a format and exact wording of the answers offered in the test (unlike the Highway Code v theory test)! For those who had been living in the UK for some time it should not be a problem to refresh their knowledge with help of this book and pass the test.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2009 19:40:35 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2009 19:42:14 GMT
Yipee! says:
I disagree with Dasha. I am a British Citizen and studies in UK and went to University. And I can tell you I struggled the first few times (I took the free online tests!). Some questions have very little value. I mean how relevant is it to know how many Single mothers are there in the UK? And is this a statistics that this country should be proud of? And how relevant to life in the UK?.

There are some useful facts and essential, but if anyone needs usuful information about living and working in the UK, I suggest some good travel guides or specialist working in UK guide books....

The test is simply hurdle for people to jump through to get British Citizen ship. For instance, I know someone who has 7 O'Levels (but educated overseas) and has been working the UK for 7 years and currently works in a bank. Yet still has to take the test to get UK citizenship (and it costs £700!).

Posted on 5 Mar 2009 12:55:32 GMT
I find this review and the whole discussion tremendously interesting. I have been living in the UK the past 10 years. I gained here a first class BSc (Hons) in Psychology with Sociology, an MA in Gender Studies and currently doing a PhD in Psychology. My husband is a Neurobiologist. We have 3 children, two of whom were born here. I thought of looking at this issues for several reasons, but one of them is curiosity of the social scientist. It is instructive of how this government conceives of citizenship, immigration and Britain in general. For instance we, as having lived here for the past 10 years and myself having gained all my qualifications here, our children having born here, we are not exempt from this test. (In many other countries if you abode for 3 years or longer and/or have had your children there you automatically gain citizenship status.)

One thing is sure, it costs a hell of a lot of money to become a British Citizen, new charges from 6th of April 2009 apply, so you better hurry up. Over £1000 in our case with dependent children!!! I would love to vote after 10 years and have a say in who will determine the bankers final settlements, but I need almost as much money as they earn to be able to do so! Why not have a green card system for people like us, I would love to vote because I live here, we work here, our children culturally belong here, and we like it here, but we will never become Brits in the true sense of the word. Whether I know if the Scottish currency is accepted here in England or not will make no difference to me, to us on the long run, although interesting fact to know, but I feel this whole thing is an insult to my intelligence, patronising, revoltingly expensive and demeaning to my attempts to integrate here and be a good citizen! This marks us, immigrants out as only worthy of equality of we jump the hoops, and we only have to ask how high! I have to show up in a test centre, pay exorbitant amount of money or be content with a second class citizen status, not being able to have a political say although we pay taxes and contribute to the economy like everybody else!!! Is it worth the price for me to pay? Political equality or a dent on my pride? Forces me to see myself different, as someone who no matter how much BBC Radio 4 I have listened to, no matter how many Social Science degrees I have done, I am not worthy of being considered equal on my own merits?
I really would like to see some figures how much actually this earns the Government. Might be a better idea to tax the non-doms to begin with!
But of course this stems from a very post-colonialist ideal, that having the citizenship you are annexed to the Motherland, your body and your soul, and you have to show your eagerness twice as hard as for example someone who lives and keeps his money abroad to avoid taxation, and bow to the Queen and to the Government. I don't mind the Queen BTW, I just do not think this will bring anything to Britain and certainly will leave a very sour taste with me, instead of a feeling of pride!
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