French citizenship For Members

Why doesn't France have a written citizenship exam?

The Local France
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Why doesn't France have a written citizenship exam?
Marianne, the symbol of the French republic. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

It's common for candidates for citizenship around the world to be required to take a test on the country's history, politics and values. However in France there is no written exam and instead all hangs on the much-feared in-person interview at your local préfecture.


France has one of the more generous citizenship regimes in Europe - allowing people to apply after five years of residency, in addition to routes through marriage and family ties.

But the process to become French is not an easy one - it's lengthy, requires a lot of paperwork and is frequently expensive.

READ ALSO The ultimate guide to getting French citizenship

One thing is notable by its absence though - any kind of written test on France, its history, politics and values.

Instead, candidates must take part in an in-person interview at their local préfecture where they can be asked anything from the names of obscure presidents of the fourth republic to who does the washing up at home (yes, really).


People who have been through this report wildly differing experiences from an hour-long grilling on all aspects of French geography, history, politics and values to a light-hearted chat and a couple of questions.

Philosophy to cheese: What you might be asked in the French citizenship interview

Readers of The Local have reported interviews that involved doing impressions of French presidents, listing favourite cheeses to discussing the cultural ramifications of barbecue food (although that last one turned out to be a translation error).

There is apparently no minimum score required on the test, it's up to the interviewer and whether they feel you are sufficiently integrated into France and French values.

The Direction générale des étrangers en France (DGEF), told French newspaper Le Parisien: "We must guard against this urban legend: there is no standard general knowledge questionnaire used during the préfecture interview."

The DGEF spokesman added that the statutory interview for naturalisation is designed to assess the person's knowledge, as well as their adherence to the principles and values of the French Republic. 

"We won't ask the same thing depending on whether or not the applicant has completed higher education, for example. This is not a general knowledge test in the strict sense of the term, in which the applicant is expected to achieve a minimum score."

So if it's all a bit random, what should you revise?

There is a booklet called the Livret Citoyen - which you can download for free here - which covers the basic information on French history, geography, politics and popular culture that you may be asked.

The 1993 decree on citizenship specifies four areas that candidates are expected to have some knowledge of: the major landmarks of French history, the principles, symbols and institutions of the Republic, the exercise of French citizenship, and France's place in Europe and the world.


As well as the history and geography, it's a good idea to swot up on a few French singers, actors and sports stars, to show that you're in touch with modern France.

You also need to demonstrate that you not only know a bit about France, but that you understand and support French values and that you truly want to become French (as opposed to just wanting a shorter passport queue at the airport).

If you feel that you're ready you can take out citizenship quiz - based on sample questions from the Livret Citoyen - here, or to practice your French take Le Parisien's quiz here.


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