As of the 1st January this year, an amendment to the Citizenship Law of the Czech Republic requires foreigners wishing to obtain Czech citizenship to demonstrate, on top of their knowledge of the Czech language at a B1 level, knowledge of the basic facts about the Czech Republic via a Czech Life and Institutions Exam.
What does the test look like?
Before we even get into the debate as to whether the amendment is another hurdle in an already complex process or the Czech State’s right to see that applicants are genuine (and if such a test is the best means of doing so), let’s look at the test.
Given that the language test requires B1 level, this level is a good estimate of the skill required. If you can follow short texts in Czech and have the background knowledge, you would have a fair chance of understanding the questions. Whether you answer correctly is another thing.
The sample test available online (in Czech) is a good place to check. It has 30 questions covering traditions, famous people, and landmarks, functions of government bodies, and more general questions concerning the Czech Republic.
The actual test also contains 30 questions. You need 60% or 18 correct answers to pass. According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, 99% of candidates who sat the actual test have been successful. Those who do not pass have unlimited opportunities to try again.
How well will the sample test prepare you?
Quite well it would seem. The same spokesperson said the actual test is drawn from the same database of questions, which the sample test comes from.
The database has 300 questions hundred in all, broadly divided into Basic Civics, Geography, and History and Culture. Some sample questions, translated from the databank, include:
1. Mr Novotný is an entrepreneur and he has a legal obligation to pay tax. Which government office checks what tax he pays?
A. The municipal office
B. The financial office
C. The land registry
D.The trade license office
2. Lipno is the largest reservoir dam in the Czech Republic. In which part of the Czech Republic does it lie?
A. In South Moravia
B. In South Bohemia
C.In North Moravia
D. In North Bohemia
3. Into which institution can’t citizens of the Czech Republic vote for their representatives?
A. Into the Government
B. Into the Senate
C. Into the Chamber of Deputies
D. Into a municipal council
4.When is the Day of Fight for Freedom and Democracy celebrated in the Czech Republic?
A. 28th October
B. 8th May
C. 6th July
D. 17th November
5. According to tradition who brings the Christmas presents in the Czech Republic?
A. Grandfather Frost
B. Baby Jesus
C. St. Nicholas
Yes, Christmas traditions get an especially strong representation.
(Answers: 1. financial office, 2. in South Bohemia, 3. into the Government 4. 17th November 5. Baby Jesus)
Is it possible to study in advance?
The Integration Center Prague or IC Praha has been running a series of seminars every Thurday evening during the month of June and is considering doing so again this autumn. There is no need to register. Participants could attend which ever of the Thursday seminars interested them. The seminars take place in the House of National Minorities (Dům národnostních menšin). IC Praha is considering plans to offer a second round of seminars in the autumn.
Jana Šafrová, who organizes the seminars for IC Praha, offered the following tips to improve an applicants chances of success:
– Carefully familiarize yourself with the parameters of the test, i.e. know only one answer from four possibilities is correct, that the time limit is 45 minutes, etc.
– Go through all of the 300 questions from the database of test exercises on the internet, where the correct answers are as well
– Realize that a Czech language competence at B1 level is assumed for the test i.e. if competence in Czech is insufficient, it is recommended to focus on improving it
Why is the test so controversial?
Of course these questions beg the bigger question is this new requirement fair? Do applicants need to know all this information? A spokesperson from the Ministry of the Interior provided a direct answer via email.
“A person who applies for Czech citizenship should according to our opinion know the basic facts about our state, its history and cultural roots.”
The spokesperson continued.
“For successful integration of the applicant into society it is necessary that he/she show besides linguistic competence at least the basic knowledge of the constitutional system and facts about the given country.”
The spokesperson pointed out that a number of states make the same demand. These include Great Britain, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Romania, Estonia, and Latvia.
Pavel Sitek, writing (in Czech) for the Prague Multicultural Centre offers a different take. In an article heavily laden with irony, he questions how important some of this knowledge is. Do foreigners really need to know who brings Christmas gifts according to Czech tradition or which bins are for which recyclables? He suggests that the questions represent a view of what is a ‘proper Czech’ and wonders how many actual Czechs could answer the questions correctly.
Find out how, when, and where you can take the test here.
If you’re considering a course to learn the Czech Language, you can find a great selection right here.
Have you taken the test? Do you think that the requirement fair?