Becoming a US Citizen
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Citizenship Test - how is it administered?
- Should I attend my husband's swearing-in ceremony?
- Must I include traffic citation in filing for citizenship?
- How to become a US citizen easily & painlessly
- Applying for citizenship - worried about speeding tickets
- What to expect & how to prepare for the citizen test
- What is the citizenship ceremony like? Should I bring the baby?
- When should I start studying for the citizenship test?
I'm helping a family member prepare for the U.S. citizenship test. We've downloaded all of the official materials and information, but I have questions about how the interview/test really goes. For example, are questions repeated at all? Are they spoken at a 'normal' speed or does the examiner enunciate clearly, especially w the key words? Is the dictation repeated? How clear does the examiinee's pronunciation have to be? How much time does the examinee have to answer? Or maybe it all depends on the particular examiner one gets/the luck of the draw. Perhaps these questions (and their answers) are contained in a book.
If anyone w experience is willing to share some info, we'd be most appreciative. Thank you! Z
It really depends on the person you get and whether he likes you and wants you to pass or does not care. I remember doing the citizenship test/interview while in college after attending high school in the USA. The agent and I had a nice chat about what I'm studying, what career I want to pursue, etc. and as an afterthought he said: oh, yeah, so about those questions I have to ask ... and asked me silly questions like the colors of US flag, the first US president, etc. It was obvious that in his mind I was going to pass and he did not bother with anything hard. My parents got the ''real'' interview, though they said the agent was nice and asked the questions clearly - he talked normally and did not try to confuse them. I heard personal accounts that made it seem that the worst your English is, the harder the questions you might get since the agent is going to really test you to make sure you studied and know the material since part of the test is the English language (at least it was when I was going through it). Good luck to your friend. anon
Hello, I just went through the naturalization interview last monday...
The interview goes as first the officer puts you under oath. Then the officer is reviewing your application and reading from it (verifies your name dob etc, and all other info you put in there) . They ask you again to answer many of the questions from the application and have you sign it.
Then they ask you 10 questions from the history/geo 100 questions. The questions as I understand have been picked randomly from a computer and are printed on a list that the officer reads to you.
They enunciate very clearly. You can take your time to answer, and I imagine they would repeat if asked them to. I had everything right so the officer only asked me 6 questions (as you have to answer 6 out of 10 right).
Then came my English test and the officer asked me to write ''Mexico is south of the United States'' (phrases will vary btw).
They didn't ask me for any of all the paperwork I had brought with me and the total time of the interview was a bit more than 10 minutes, believe it or not!!! Please get my email thru the moderator if you have more questions...
You can watch that video from the uscis about the interview : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDb9_CqPUTQ
I also found this test online by the Smithsonian pretty handy: http://americanhistory.si.edu/citizenship/ They also give you a study book with a cd when you go for fingerprinting for the procedure. Good luck! Marion
I don't remember if the questions were repeated, but they were surely read at a normal speed. My examiner wasn't a native English speaker, so he was very conscious and slow at times. The whole gig was actually pretty easy. I got so worked out and studied way too much. I don't think I spent there more than 15 minutes all together (going over your forms, asking questions, etc).
Good luck to your family member. AN
I have taken the citizenship test several years ago, more than 5. At least at that time, the text was written and multiple choice... Best of luck, Victoria
My husband just did his test today (and passed!)
I will start by saying he was surprised at how hard it was. They asked him some questions that were tough. For example, they asked him why did the colonists fight the British? Things like that.
The lady came and got him and took him to an office. She opened his immigration file and had him sign two photos (the ones he had mailed in). My husband perceived that some people may go in a different order. This woman did the test first. She pulled out a piece of paper with questions on it and asked him some questions. She asked the questions very fast. It went by fast. My husband speaks and understands English very well so he doesn't know if the USCIS person would slow down or repeat the questions, but my guess is that they would.
His questioner was also an immigrant, so she had an accent. Next he had to read a sentence - his was like ''What country is North of the US?'' Then he had to write the sentence ''Canada is north of the United States.''
Then he signed a paper verifying his address. She then asked him if either of us had been married before, how many kids we have, if either of us had kids before, etc.
That was it. He passed, and we are awaiting a swearing in date. Good luck! Stephanie
My husband, who has had a green card for many years, is finally becoming an American citizen. He has to attend a swearing-in ceremony at Paramount Theater in a few weeks. Should I go to it? I'm interested in feedback from people who have gone. Will it be memorable and moving, or just really long and boring? Apparently I won't even get to sit with him. (I'm not even considering bringing the kids!) All-American family in the making
I haven't been to one there but was sworn in in San Francisco. My family did come including my young one. It's an experience that won't be repeated! If they are of age (5/6/7) i most definitely would. You do not seat with him because of protocol. He will enter his area with others being sworn in as a resident and will relinquish his green card. He will come out a ctizen with a certificate to get his passeport.
I did it because my husband and son are americans and we live here. I was surprised at how emotional it was for everyone including me and what a special moment it was anon
I have participated in this ceremony, with my husband. And yes, I took both my kids out of school. My husband and I sat on the main floor and the kids sat in the balcony. I thought is was a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience. Everybody was to stand when their country was called. It was amazing to see the variation of people. Some were crying, some were in their own national garb. I imagine sitting in the balcony would not be quite as poignant, but I can't imagine missing the experience for a loved one. And the family went out for an early lunch in Berkeley, and we toasted one another with champagne. For me, life is too short to not take the opportunities to celebrate what you can. No matter what your husband says, I'm sure this is a proud moment for him. Go have fun, take the kids, wave a little flag, and get champagne. Celebrate!
Yes, you should go. Not only to support your husband, but to show support to all the other families. My husband citizenship was pretty darn easy and quick. I forgot that for most people it's long and arduous. All the others who have escaped, started from nothing, struggled. I was in tears by the end. Ellen
We attended the ceremony as a family. I found it quite moving. There were so many people from so many different native lands and cultures, it was moving to see them all becoming citizens, and realizing the sacrifices they had made to be here. The ceremony is about an hour all together, with the getting into the auditorium and everything. If you became a citizen because you believe in the precepts of our nation, then you will want to attend, along with the kids. It is not political, it is civic. Congratulations to your new citizen! Glad I Went
You should definitely go and take your kids with you! That's what we did, our kids were 4 and 6 at the time. No you won't be able to sit with him but the ceremony is not that long, maybe 40 minutes? We went out to lunch first so nobody was hungry. The kids still pull out the pictures from that day and talk about it 5+ years later. This is an opportunity for you and your kids to see what makes the U.S. great, up close and personal. I really cannot even put into words the pride and happiness I felt at witnessing that ceremony. proud citizen
Boring???!!! Are you kidding?
My husband's swearing-in ceremony was one of the most profound experiences of my life and I imagine his too. It was powerful & uplifting and it made me feel not just proud of him but proud and lucky to live in a country like the U.S. where we have so many rights (especially women's rights).
Go! You will never regret it. Lisa
We attended my husband's swearing-in ceremony (in the Midwest) and I have to say it was really moving. I was reluctant to attend- for us having him become an American citizen was just a ''business'' decision and we still are able to keep citizenship in his European country. However, we did go (with the kids and sat in the row behind him) and the ceremony was an intimate gathering (I'm sure the Paramount will be packed though). The judge at our ceremony read a beautiful passage from one of Willa Cather's books and then asked every person stand up when their name was called & state their country of origin. Most of the people came from war torn countries. The majority were political refugees and had escaped horrible situations and many of them will never be able to see visit their home countries or see beloved family members again. They were crying bittersweet tears while I had been selfishly thinking ''I hope I can still have my free healthcare in XX''. It was an eye opener and I was moved to tears by their courage and hardships. As much as I can complain about this country, there are many things to appreciate about it too & going to the ceremony was very meaningful to us. anon
I went to this ceremony and it was quite a unique experience. There was a huge number of people and they read off the different countries people were emigrating from (though they forgot my wife's country). Some patriotic video message from the president was included. I had to go in order to escort my wife, but I'm glad I did. Josh
Hello! You should absolutely attend. Many people will be there with their families and support.Also it can be long and boring or memorable, it depends on you. I live right bu there and when walking to bart I see all the families together it is just awesome!!
YOU'LL NEVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN!
Absolutely you should be attending and your children should as well. Not only is this an incredible civics lesson but as an American citizen you should be celebrating the commitment your spouse is making to this country and the significance for your family. Regardless of politics the ideals of this country are remarkable and we, as citizens, have an obligation to support those ideals. Celebrating with your spouse as he becomes a citizen is about your family, your relationship, and your pride as a citizen of the United States of America.
Think about the beginning of the Declaration of Independence - we have not always been able to live up to the ideal but if as a nation of engaged citizens we strove for this what a wonderful country it would be: we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not every country in the world promises this - maybe you need to not take it for granted. Proud to be an American
You should go. I went when my husband became a citizen and I took our daughter, who was really young at the time, maybe 3. Even though she doesn't remember it, there is a picture of that day of my daughter and her dad. She's now a teenager and coming to terms with her mixed and international identity and that citizenship event is part of the story. I am actually sorry that I didn't make more of a big deal about it at the time. The ceremony isn't long, and is at moments moving (my husband's was in the Masonic Center in San Francisco - a huge crowd of people being sworn in. We had to sit upstairs in the balcony.) It's one of those things that can take on more meaning if you invest some energy into it, and it's such an iconic event - becoming an American citizen -that I don't think you will regret going. (certainly not as much as you might regret NOT going.) anon
I would not miss your husband's swearing in ceremony for anything (though you may want to ask him what he would like). I have attended 3 such ceremonies for friends ( 1 at the beautiful Paramount theater in Oakland) and I have found these occasions very moving. I also think they are worthy of honoring as such an important milestone in someone's life. Partly I have found the ceremony to be moving, but more so it has been deeply meaningful to experience this with my friends, and also with the other hundreds of people who are going through the ceremony - from dozens of countries - from all over the world.
I would also note that there are many children from babies on up in age who attend the ceremonies as witnesses to these rites of passage for their family members and I am glad I took my children (then ages 8 and 10) to experience this. It is a wonderful opportunity to talk about why people want to become American citizens, what some of the benefits and drawbacks are to being ''Americans'', and to invite a sense of gratitude for the freedoms we have that people in many other countries do not have. For what it's worth, we also talked about some of the cultural negatives about the American culture - the hyper focus on buying stuff for example, and how this rarily provides the happiness which people in many countries find from simpler lives.]
We also discussed the politics of such things as identifying the Tibetan immigrants as ''from China'', and talked about the amazing murals and art work in the Paramount... but these might only be of interest to our family.
1) Leave PLENTY of time to park and find meters which work.
2) You might want to consider a celebration lunch or picnic out together afterwards before returning to everyday responsibilities that day
3) Vendors on the sidewalk sell ''display holders'' for the citizenship certificate which your husband will receive. I have bought these as a present for my friends and found them to be really appreciated (I see them displayed later at their homes).
Yours for honoring meaningful life passages
When I was pregnant with our first (8 years ago), my husband was sworn in. Like yours, he had a green card for many years. It was very moving, and I don't think just from the pregnancy hormones. I was surrounded by families from all over the world, all with different stories and needs. I'm not an uber-patriotic citizen, but it was a rite of passage to witness.
Go for it. It will only happen once. Kim C
I got my citizenship in 2008. My wife attended but could not sit with me. Although she was not by my side I did appreciate the support. The ceremony is long, boring in a lot of places but moving too. Although long and boring, it is a big deal and probably a good idea to treat it as such. Perhaps a meal downtown afterwards? That being said, kids will go insane!! Barry R.
If you are able, do consider going.
My husband became a citizen last year, also at the Paramount in Oakland. Visitors are seated upstairs; those becoming citizens are downstairs. There are LOTS of people, so a bit of zoo, but I found it (surprisingly) moving. And just very interesting as a sociological experience.
Why moving? Because so many immigrants were clearly thrilled about acquiring US citizenship. With the elections coming, the excitement might be even higher. It wasn't too boring, with a mix of speeches, some video, and then the oath. And the Paramount is beautiful. Some background: my husband and I migrated from highly developed, democratic countries, so becoming a citizen didn't hold the same emotional content for us as for others. My husband, who is usually quite cynical about these things, was nevertheless pretty moved by the whole event. He was thrilled that I was there to experience it with him. Many others also had family there.
I chose not to take out citizenship (even though I also became eligible) for a combination of pratical and ideological reasons. There was a part of me that reacted critically to some of the pomp and ritual (lots of glorification of the military, for example), but I also felt the positive of so many people who came from troubled countries finally feeling secure, and a bit more included, because of their choice to naturalize.
So either from a personal stand point of supporting your partner, or just as a glimpse into immigration and nationalism, an interesting experience!
My husband and I became citizens a few years ago and went to the ceremony in SF. I was expecting it to be boring and bureaucratic but in fact it was lively and fun. So, I think you should definitely go! Laura
Yes, you might consider going to the swearing in ceremony. I went with my husband many years ago and while the ceremony is long, it is so wonderful to be there at that moment with your spouse and so many others becoming citizens it renews your vows as an American citizen, and your witnessing others brings you a self reflection on what it means to be a citizen. This is part of your shared history. SW
Yes, definitely go to the ceremony! I went two years ago when my husband had his ceremony at the Paramount, and it was really beautiful and moving. I also brought our two year old son, and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. Anon
I became a citizen 18 months ago, after almost 20 years of living in this country. I thought it was just a transaction, and I was a little bit cynical about the whole thing, and a little bit surprised that my husband and my mother-in-law (both born American) made such a big deal about attending. So it took me by surprise how emotional I felt during and after the ceremony, and although they were not by my side when I was sworn in (but in a different part of the auditory), I was so very glad that they were there to give me a hug afterwards. It would have been lonely otherwise, with everybody there with their families. My friend took her two children out of school to attend, and I so much wish mine would have come too. It is impressive, so many people from so many different countries, and now I think that although they may have been bored some of the time, what a wonderful lesson it would have taught him about the importance of welcoming immigrants, and something that they would have remembered forever.
It was a joyous occasion and I am so happy I got to share it with my loved ones. A proud citizen
I went to a citizenship swearing in ceremony for a friend of mine who needed a ride. I thought it was great! Its kind of like going to a college graduation, people are happy, dressed up, all in all good energy. I even didn't mind all the red-white-and-blue. I enjoyed seeing so many different immigrants together in one place, all happy to be there. After seeing what a big deal it was to so many people, I thought it would have been nice to get a corsage for her. Something small to recognize this as a good moment in life. Sue
In my opinion you should celebrate everything you can celebrate. Becoming a citizen is a big deal and most people who go to support their loved ones feel this importance too. I went to a friend's swearing in; I was honored she asked me. I would never have wondered ''should I go - I might be bored.'' The ceremony was actually moving and interesting. You might actually learn something. Seeing people who do care, who dress up and cheer, and who wait all day to be able to be happy and supportive, might make you feel happy and grateful. Why would you NOT go if you can attend. Take another friend. Rituals and ceremonies make the world go round. Having friends who care and are present is just part of what makes life good. a friend
I've been there. There is no dress code you will see people in jeans and t-shirt and suits, so I think whatever you are comfortable with casual (no flip-flops and shorts though).
Not a place to take kids. The ceremony is not that long and is quite nice, they make you feel like is a very big deal, and I remember feeling that I would like my husband to be there although you will not be able to sit together.
It may be a nice morning together for you and him/her going out for lunch afterwards making a date out of it.
I got my citizenship 7 years or so ago, not sure if things changed since then.
This is a milestone of sorts, one that will never happen again and which essentially changes everything for him. Seems to me like the witness function is a pretty important one for partners. I'd say, go with him for support and to say you were there on the day, no matter how long it takes. It can be interesting if you maintain a curious attitude; whatever it's like, you may gain empathy or insight into what the process is like for so many different people. Enjoy. Learn something. Be with him. Or not.
Go. You will regret not going, and if I were your husband, I would be hurt for you not being there for him. I had my swearing in ceremony a few years back at the SF's Masonic Center and my husband, inlaws, friends and even work colleagues were there. And that meant a world to me! The ceremony wasn't long, maybe an hour, but it was done really nicely. You probably won't be sitting together - we weren't - but again, it meant a world to me knowing that my peeps are there with me.
PS make sure he registers to vote, November is close Anon
I teach Citizenship for ESL students to help them prepare for Naturalization. I went to the ceremony at the Paramount for the first time in June, accompanying a student. Visitors sit in the balcony and new citizens are in the orchestra. The ceremony is not very long, not too corny, and efficiently run. What was most moving to me was the air of excitement coming from new citizens and family and friends. The man sitting behind me had his 2 kids, ages 4 and 18 months. When the younger one started to cry, he took them to the side, but I don't think anyone would have minded if he had stayed. I think it's definitely worth going! If you do go, get there early for a seat. Congratulations to your husband! Glad I went!
I am applying for US citizenship but I am unsure if I need to include a traffic citation (failure to stop at a stop sign) in my filing. Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks Viv
NOTE FROM MODERATOR: The following two responses demonstrate why we don't want people to ask for legal advice from the BPN membership..........
yes you should. if it's not a felony it won't count against you but you should include it. And they will ask you at the interview. magaliusa
No. you don't need to file the traffic citation. Good luck! Kai
I answered last week and thought i should clarify. I became a citizen last year. When i saw this particular question on the application, I called the INS and was told to include traffic violations. When i went for my interview i was asked about these and i had to give some additional info. M.
After 30 years of resisting, I might have to become a US citizen. Well, at least I'll get to cast my vote - and I do get to keep my own EU-citizenship. Any tips of how to do this easily and painlessly? an unexcited future citizen
NOTE FROM MODERATOR: We received a number of responses commenting on the original poster's attitude towards his/her impending citizenship. Many of the comments were heartfelt and very thoughtful. But we can only print responses that attempt to answer the question per BPN policy. See https://www.berkeleyparentsnetwork.org/faq/adv_rec
I just did it and it's very easy. Go online to ins.gov and print the form.fill out and mail with a check. you will then receive an appointment for fingerprints and then for an interview, where they ask a series of civic questions (you can study online) and verify your info. Then you will go to a ceremony and that's it! anon
I became a US citizen in 1995 after ~10 years in the States and also kept my EU citizenship. The whole process was rather painless. Sent in my application and received a reply about 18 months later when I had almost forgot about it. At that time there was a list of 100 questions/answer to memorize, all of them rather common knowledge, from them a couple were chosen at my appointment at the INS. I was asked a few additional questions about my application and given a new appointment to swear in along with another 500 people at the Masonic in SF. That was about it. Giulia
There are inexpensive classes you can take at your local community college. jp
You can start with Ilona Bray's Nolo Press guide to becoming a U.S. Citizen. I'm working my way through it now and it's very helpful -- her Nolo Press book on greeting a green card was also my main source of info in that venture. Nolo Press is in west Berkeley and you can buy the books there but the books are also on Amazon, etc. Good luck! anon
Nolo Press has a book entitled ''Becoming a US Citizen''. I am the wife of an immigrant waiting on his citezenship application-it's not hard to do yourself if you are ''qualified''. It sounds like you must be used to dealing with the INS. I often find myself ashamed of things that the US government does in my name, but I still can't help feeling uncomfortable with the tone of your email. Perhaps if you attain citizenship and attend a swearing in ceremony you will feel some appreciation for what that means to many people from around the world. US Citizen
I'm applying for US citizenship after living here on a green card for 20 years. There's a question that asks ''have you EVER been arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement officer?''. Is a speeding ticket a citation? Do I have to recall details for every one back 20 years? anon
I suggest you run a background check on yourself through the California State Police and the FBI. Citizens can request this for themselves for a modest fee. You will need to get fingerprinted (available at many passport/photo types of places, there are several around Berkeley campus) on the forms these agencies will provide. The results will show any arrests or convictions. Am not sure about traffic violations -- I doubt speeding tickets will count, as long as you did not go through court and had your license suspended, DUI convictions, I suspect the gov't wants you to 'fess up to them anything that is on a permanent record. anonymous
Hello, I have my test and interview to become a US citizen next month. Has anyone gone through the process recently and can give me some advise about what to expect and also how and what to do to be prepare for the test? I only got a noticed from the INS regarding my interview without any information about what to study. I did look at the INS website and I have somewhat of idea what to expect but I would like to hear from people who gone through the process recently. Any information will be highly appreciated. Thanks. Liana
Hi there. I just took my test and did my interview about 2 weeks ago in Oakland. I also was very nervous and didn't really know what to expect. I looked all over the web and couldn't find anything either. So what I did was download the study material from the INS web site and make flash cards for every single question. Then I took the online test again and again. The actual interview/test was so easy. You have no reason to worry if you just read up on the study material. They go over your application with you and check the details again (i.e. your name, address, date of birth etc). Then they verbally ask you about 5 or 6 questions (they were VERY easy.). I got approved on the spot and my oath ceremony is this month (they send you a notification in the mail).
Don't worry about it too much. If you would like to drop me a line with more questions - feel free. Good Luck. Julie
My husband became a citizen last year. This is his advice. The best way to prepare is to download the 100 sample questions and answers from the INS web site, and learn them. Most are easy. In the test they will ask between 5 and 10 questions, depending upon the interviewer.
For a more thorough preparation, you can download the two documents on the history and constitution of the United States and read them. The questions are based upon the content of these documents.
They also give you an English test, which might be difficult for some non-English speakers. In my case, I think they asked me to write something like: ''I want to ride my bike.''
You will also need to produce your passport, and they seem particularly interested in checking how many times you were outside the US while applying for citizenship.
For the interview, it's probably not a bad idea to dress well. They seem to expect that.
Good luck. KB
Does anyone what the format for the citizenship ceremony held in the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco is like? The official document warns that it can take at least 4 hours - is this really the case? I'd like to accompany my husband to it, but don't know if our 10 month old would last for 4 hours or more. Anonymous
I brought my two very young kids to my husband's ceremony. It was a pretty big disappointment for such a momentous occasion. I was adamant that the whole family be together. However, you should know that all individuals receiving citizenship are separated from their families. They sit in the lower auditorium, and you and your child will have to sit in the upper levels. With my young children, I had to go in and out of our seating area, and both kids were totally bored. The ceremony is not 4 hours, however with the hassle of parking, picking up relevant paper work, finding your spouse again in a crowd of thousands, and getting back out of the parking garage, it could actually take four hours. Good luck and congratulations on this wonderful event. Daphne
To the person who was asking about the duration of the Citizenship ceremony. When I went to mine at the Masonic Auditorium it took a while to start and then they did all kinds of pomp and ceremony events, and kept telling us that we were not allowed out of the room until it was all over or else they would take away the citizenship documents that they gave us as we arrived. I don't remember how long the event took, at least 3 hours. Good luck Anonymous
Regarding attending your husband's citizenship ceremony with your 10-month old:
My husband became a citizen about three years ago when my daughter was about 6 months old. Perhaps the four hour period they are referring to is the entire process from start to finish, not the actual ceremony itself. I don't remember it taking that long. You have to be there by a certain time, then all citizens-to-be have to line up and have IDs checked (I don't recall exactly what was done, but people were divided into groups and I remember many long lines ''checking in''), then they all go into the auditorium by group and have assigned seats. There is some waiting involved, but I do not recall my daughter being a problem (we sat up in the balcony at Masonic Auditorium, which was less full than the main level and therefore it was easier to get up and move around with her, nurse her, etc.)
I would definitely suggest going to the ceremony. While there is some standard bureaucracy involved and with so many people it can be impersonal, this is a very important moment in your lives and I think it is important that the whole family is there to participate. I found myself unexpectedly emotional during the speeches and am very glad that I was there with my husband to recognize this event. We also videotaped it, and then had a big family celebratory lunch with my in-laws afterwards. I am sure that it will be fine with your baby, and I think you will all be happy that you shared the experience! -Erin B
I can apply for US citizenship next April. I'd appreciate it if anyone who has been through the process can tell me how long the wait is between processing the paperwork until you need to take the test? ie. when should I start studying? Also any experiences in regard to taking an Americanization course versus studying via an internet course. Any other useful tips would be appreciated. Thanks. David
My husband recently became a citizen and wrote the following: It took me 2 years, 7 months from application to naturalization. I gather that this is not typical. I made numerous phone calls, visits, faxes and wrote letters to (unsuccessfully) determine my status during this time. In fact, I had to renew my green card during the process (so I could travel if necessary). My naturalization certificate didn't show up at the oath ceremony which entailed more delay. I was fingerprinted 3 times.
Regarding the citizenship exam: There is a self test and a list of 100 questions (in PDF form) which you can find on the INS website: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/services/natz/require.htm All the (non personal) questions that I was asked came from this list. Most of my interview concentrated on my tax and travel history (both are a little complicated in my case), I was asked about 8 questions from the 100 question list.
There are booklets available from the INS on US history, naturalization info and government structure (M-288, M-287 and M-290 respectively) that provide adequate synopses. I used them as references for non local info. Local info (who is my representative, what district I am in, etc.) is easily found on the internet. Try http://www.ca.gov for a start.
I do not think that it is necessary to attend a naturalization course purely for the purposes of the exam. However, in the spirit of being a good citizen, I would recommend that you study more than the answers to the 100 questions. There is much in the US system of government that sets it apart from other countries.
Good luck, Claudia