Two-thirds failed new Danish citizenship test

Foreign nationals applying for citizenship faced questions such as which year a Danish movie premiered.

A test for citizenship is not a new measure in Denmark, but the type of questions have been criticised [Rainer Jensen/EPA]

Two-thirds of the first group of foreign nationals who took a new citizenship test in Denmark failed, the country’s integration minister has confirmed.

Only 31.2 percent of those who took the new test in June passed, while 68.8 percent failed, Inger Stojberg said in a meeting on Tuesday.

Replacing an earlier version of the test with a more difficult one was part of a package of measures passed by parliament in January to deter refugees from seeking asylum.

Another widely criticised measure is a law that allows the confiscation of refugees’ valuables and cash exceeding 10,000 kroner ($1,450).

To pass the citizenship test with multiple-choice answers, respondents are required to answer 32 of the 40 questions correctly.

Compared with the test in place under the previous government, the new exam focuses more on Danish history. The earlier test required 22 correct answers out of 30, and a much larger share of test takers passed that exam.

Five of the 40 questions are related to Danish current affairs. For the rest of the questions, some 200 pages of study materials in Danish language are provided free of charge – ranging from the history of the Vikings to Danish architecture and holidays.

Mattias Tesfaye, an MP of the opposition Social Democrats, attended a meeting about the test with the integration minister on Tuesday. In his opinion, the answer options provided are too similar.

For example, the alternatives to answer the question about the lifespan of Danish composer Carl Nielsen are 1865-1931, 1870-1940 and 1892-1965.

“This doesn’t test their ability to understand Danish culture, but only if they are able to remember precise years,” Tesfaye told Al Jazeera.

His party supports a test for citizenship, but is asking that the style of questions be reconsidered.

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Another question included in the June test asked which year the first movie about the Olsen Gang, a fictional criminal gang, premiered.

When Danish Radio put the question to one of the lead actors in the film, Morten Grunwald, he replied: “That I can’t even answer myself.”

However, when given the three alternatives – 1968, 1970 and 1971 – he did remember.

The test also asked which Danish restaurant has three Michelin stars.

Other questions test respondents’ knowledge of the Danish laws and political system; for example, the requirements to change the constitution and to participate in elections.  

Stojberg of the Liberal party defended the test on Tuesday.

“There are simply too many who haven’t studied enough or followed news in Denmark,” she told Danish Radio.

About 2,400 people took the new test in June. Those who failed will get a new chance to take a test with a new set of questions in December.  

Source: Al Jazeera