Life in the UK: a history


At some point, anyone wishing to settle permanently in the UK will need to take the Life in the UK test. Mostly, it’s a test designed to make immigrants learn more about the history and functionality of the nation than the natives. In fairness, the US does the same, though I can’t speak to their actual test centres. Frankly, I find it both hypocritical/xenophobic. Classic drawbridge pulling, if you ask me, but who am I and what do I know? Anyway, to help prepare (feel that unrestrained annoyance, feel it), I’m taking everyone on a walk through UK history. Go to the bathroom, make yourself a drink and a sandwich while you’re at it. Apologies in advance: with over 22k words, it’s going to be a long one. I’ve added breaks for you throughout to keep the eye-spinning to a minimum.

There are 24 questions to the test and you will need to get at least 18 of them right to pass. As though knowing UK history isn’t enough to show assimilation into a culture, you will be expected to know about history, sports, day-to-day life, law, elections, entertainment and literature.

While there doesn’t seem to be a lack of locations to sit the test, they do require some key things when you turn up for the test day you’ve booked:

  1. whatever ID you noted on your booking details – they need to see it.
  2. proof of your current address as the test sites work in catchment/service areas and they’ll need proof that you’re living in theirs. It can be a utility bill, council tax bill, bank or credit card statement. It can’t be over 3 months old (from the date you’re taking the test) and it needs to have your name on it.
  3. Show up 15 minutes early. Seriously. This is to allow plenty of time for you to check in and they can refuse you if you aren’t. Don’t mess around.

Notes and sources: the aim of this exercise is to provide information obtained through research (links hidden throughout the text for added fun) and to present it in a way that is entertaining enough to stick. For the record: I have read the 2017 Life in the UK books (the 3rd addition, specifically). I have not been paid anything to promote these, or any other source of information relating to the tests, nor give any sort of review. All opinions expressed are mine alone. In short, this is my attempt to provide additional information, flagging when sources conflict. I encourage people to go the extra mile and find more information (and share with the rest of us) to fill in any gaps.

Speaking of other sources: there is a fellow by the name of Tom Bradford on YouTube who has study guides for the test in both an audio and visual format (see below).

Warnings of whitewash: I personally found that much of UK history as it was laid out in the Life in the UK books to be very… well, whitewashed and generously benevolent to Christianity. This could be a reflection on the tests and how they are worded, or how history is commonly written by the victor (the ugly bits are glossed over), or both. I’m not that nice, nor am I so forgiving – I will call out the dirty parts of the past, but be aware the importance of these things stand the risk of being not valuable for the test outright. It just makes the reading process slightly less gag-inducing.

Study time/commitment: Everything gathered and written was done slowly over the course of two months. The average amount of time spent was between 10-20 hours a week, including time to practice as many sample tests as possible (and sample tests on youtube). Don’t count on me alone, I can’t promise success to anyone following the reading and resources I’ve provided.

Settlement/Indefinite Leave to Remain: For this visa type, the Life in the UK test certificate is required to show you have what the UK government deems as “adequate” knowledge of living in the UK. We can quibble about their definition of that on a later date, however. What happens once you have your visa? Well, that becomes another matter. You can apply for citizenship, if that’s what you’d like to do; assuming so, once that has been completed, you’ll be invited to attend a ceremony. At the ceremony, you’ll either make an oath/affirmation (one is religious, the other is not) as well as pledge of allegiance to the UK. If you’re in Wales, that may be done in Welsh.

The versions of all of those are:

  • Oath – “I, [name], swear by Almighty God that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law.”
  • Affirmation – “I, [name], do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors, according to law.”
  • Pledge – “I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

Got that? They may appear on the test.

Regarding images used: I did not make any of the images provided; they were all found by means of google. As such, if any of the original creators do not wish to have their work as part of this article or want to be credited, they need only to submit a comment to that effect and I’ll see that it is removed and/or attributed accordingly.

Want to know more about the UK than any of the locals do? No? Too bad, you’ll just have to suck it up, ’cause here we go!

Continue reading “Life in the UK: a history”

Paper (and Rats part 2)

Paper plus rats. No, not paper rats, rats and paper. It’s summer holidays for those attending school in the UK, which means my husband has two weeks of… ahem “free time.” Aside from being that person who will be voted most likely to finish his summer homework the night before classes start again, he’s weekend […]

Sending Gifts Home – a basic how-to guide

Shipping anything from the UK to the States is expensive anywhere outside of the UK (Oh, who am I fooling, it’s costly even if it is internal). This can and will make sending gifts home a challenge. In the past, I’d try to save/find money to cover the shipping for items to family that was […]

Renting – What to Expect in the UK (Part 6)

written 20/2/14 From how random strangers react to any potential sign of someone or something possibly causing an inconvenience (see: inevitably step in and advise against the actions), the impression I get is that patience is not something that is dispensed without a certain amount of cat-herding in the UK. This may also go a […]

Renting Apartments – What to Expect in the UK (part 3)

We completed and sent in the forms to the agency on the same night and in morning I received a very reassuring phone call from one of their reps, letting me know that the ones I had been e-mailing back and forth with the other day were a little confused and that my immigration status absolutely […]