Know what you are getting into …
Basically it’s an online multiple choice test. You have to get 18 out of 24 questions correct to pass (75%). You will have 45 minutes to complete the test – which is almost 2 minutes per question (1 minute and 52.5 seconds to be precise) – lots of time.
As with all tests some basic rules apply.
- If you haven’t done any study then you most likely will not pass.
- If you don’t bring the documents requested with you to the test then you won’t be allowed to take it (more on that later)
- If you don’t ask for headphones in order to be able to hear the questions then you may well not get them.
- If you don’t read the questions carefully then you are likely to make silly mistakes and lose points.
- If you talk to other candidates during the test or otherwise attempt to cheat in the test, and get caught, then you are in for a world of grief!
Although people don’t always pass the test first time most candidates do manage to go on and pass it. The average pass rate is around 65% currently. At £50 a shot it hurts your pocket if you fail but unless you are up against a visa expiry deadline it should not be the end of the world.
So how do you pass?
Well there is no substitute for having applied yourself and learnt the study material. The way to look at this is to think of the study material as a ‘set text’ that you will be tested on. In this case it is some material about the UK.
If you have a good basic knowledge of the UK then you will be well on the way to passing. However, because the study material focuses in on some specific events, people and ideas you might still struggle to pass. You really need to have put the time in to find out what has been included in the study material to be confident of success.
The test is whether you have been able to learn and understand what is in the ‘study material’ – nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t really matter whether the information in the study material is any good, or even whether it is helpful – you just need to be able to show that you are able to answer questions on it. Think of it as an online comprehension test.
So how should I study?
Fortunately, there are now many ways to access the study material. The principal ones are Study guides; Study guides with CDs; E-learning and Electronic books (such as Kindle). All of these study guides will include the official source material which is licensed to them by the UK government. If you have one study guide that includes the ‘official study material’ there is no advantage in buying another one – as the text will be the same.
Personally in this digital age we think that E-learning is the way to go. If reading books is not your thing or challenging with your current level of English then one way to study for the Life in the UK Test is to take one of the inexpensive interactive E-learning courses available.
The course provided by Garuda Publications works on PCs, Tablets and mobiles. It breaks down the official study material into manageable sections that are visually much more appealing than the study books, allows you to track your progress, incorporates exercises and tests and generally makes for a good learning experience. In the digital age it does seem that this kind of study is a good route to consider with access 24/7 to the learning materials online.
You have options when it comes to the study guides. You don’t have to buy the official government publication. There are lots of choices on ebay and elsewhere.
For example, many Thai speakers, who traditionally have struggled with the test, have benefited from the study guide published by Garuda Publications which provides a full Thai translation of the official study material as well as the English text.
The Life in the UK Test is hard because not only are you being asked to learn a lot of information but you are being asked to do it in a language that is not your first language. If you can read the study material in your own language then at least you will know what the study material is all about!
Garuda Publications also has a similar study guide in Vietnamese.
Study guides with CDs
There are still a few study guides coming with a CD packaged as ‘added value’. If you ask yourself how often you have actually put a CD that came with something else into your computer then we think you know the answer. In our view the CDs make you think you are getting something of value but generally they aren’t much help.
There are lots of Electronic books such as Kindle available. As long as the title includes the ‘official study material’ it will have the information you need. Each will have slightly different degrees of functionality but if you have an E-book reader device then they provide another way to access the study materials.
Garuda Publications is one of several providers with an up to date electronic book for The Life in the UK Test
As we said earlier we don’t see great value in buying study guides full of practice tests as we only think it is necessary to answer a few questions in the exam format to get an idea of what the test is all about.
We wouldn’t recommend doing practice tests as a way of studying for the test.
Given that the government keeps the official questions closely under wraps and that there are thousands of permutations of possible questions it’s not a good plan to spend too long on practice tests – better to learn the study material.
That being said if you do want to do practice tests you can find lots of free ones online. These tests vary a great deal in standard but they do give you a flavour of the format of the questions. There are also a number of apps that enable you to take free practice. Not to be outdone Garuda Publications does have a free practice test on its website.
Where practice questions do have value is in helping to see how well your study has been going. So in the E-learning provided by Garuda Publications once you have studied ‘A Long and Illustrious History’, for example, then questions in the same format as the exam on that section will help you see how you have got on.
How to book the Life in the UK Test
Once you are ready you can organise your test. You have to take it at an approved test centre and you have to make your booking online. An online search for ‘book your life in the UK test’ quickly pulls up the relevant page. You need various bits of paper when you book (which the page on the government website tells you). One thing you must also have is an email address.
Proving your identity and address at the test centre
Various forums have comments from people saying that they weren’t able to take the Life in the UK Test because they didn’t have the documents with them to prove their identity and address. These problems are usually avoidable.
This is what the government website says about proving your identity and address:
“You will need to bring the photo identification you used to book the test. If you do not bring it you will not be able to take the test and will not get a refund. You must bring evidence of your address. This must show your full name. It must include the postcode you used to book the test and must be less than three months old. It must be:
- A gas, electricity or water bill
- Council Tax bill
- A bank statement/credit card statement (this must be an original statement printed by your bank. If you do not normally receive paper statements, you can ask your bank to provide you with one however it MUST have been stamped by the issuing branch).
- Letter from the Home Office with your name and address on it
- Photocard driving licence
If you do not bring this evidence you will not be able to take the test and will not get a refund.
The person taking the test will have to answer questions about information on their identity documents, address, and reasons for taking the test, without referring to the documents. If you cannot do this correctly you will not be able to take the test and will not get a refund.”
So now you know ….
On being late for the test
Again, the government information is pretty clear:
“We will send you an email to tell you what time to arrive at the test centre. If you do not arrive at the correct time, we may cancel your test and you will not get a refund. You will be at the test centre for up to 2 hours in total.”
If you are concerned that your written English is not that strong you can request to listen to the questions using headphones. This should be a special request when you book the test but as long as you ask at the test centre (before the test starts!) you should be able to get the audio support you need.
After the test
Make sure that you wait to get your result at the test centre before leaving! If you pass take good care of your Pass Results Notification Letter as you will need it later. If you fail the Results Notification Letter will give you an idea of where you went wrong. Don’t give up. With a bit more study – and perhaps a bit of luck with the questions that come up – you will pass!.
The official practice questions
Although the actual questions are not published the government has released the official practice questions:
Types of questions
There are four different types of question. The ‘official’ example questions are reproduced below:
Question type 1
Select one correct answer from four options.
Who is the patron saint of Scotland?
(Answer = St Andrew)
Question type 2
Decide whether a statement is true or false.
Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE?
You have to be at least 21 years old before you can serve on a jury.
(Answer = False)
Question type 3
Select two correct answers from four options. [You have to pick two answers]
What is the name of the TWO houses that make up the UK Parliament?
House of the People
House of Commons
House of Lords
House of Government
(Answer = House of Commons; and House of Lords)
Question type 4
Select the correct statement from a choice of two statements.
Which of these statements is correct?
Nelson was a famous British military leader who died at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Nelson was a famous British military leader who died at the Battle of Waterloo.
(Answer = the first statement; Nelson died at Trafalgar)
What is the distribution of questions in the test?
Well this isn’t published but our own internet based research suggests that you can expect:
A total of 3 questions on the two chapters – ‘The values and principles of the UK’ and ‘What is the UK’
A total of 7 questions on the chapter – ‘A long and illustrious history’
A total of 7 questions on the chapter – ‘A modern thriving society’
A total of 7 questions on the chapter – ‘The UK government, the law and your role’
Total number of questions = 24
We hope that this short guide has been of help and wish all those taking The Life in the UK Test good luck with the test itself.