Since the federal government increased the passing grade on the Canadian citizenship exam from 12/20 to 15/20 in 2010 and increased the number of topics that the test covers, failure rates have nearly quadrupled, from approximately 4 percent in 2009, to 15 percent in 2011, according to a report by Cary Mills of the Globe and Mail.
Mills notes that the increase in exam difficulty is affecting certain communities more than others, for example pushing failure rates for Afghan-born immigrants from 21 percent in the year before the exam changes, to nearly 50 percent in the year after, and pushing those for Vietnamese-born immigrants from 14.8 percent before the exam, to 41.2 percent after.
Immigrants from Australia, England and the United States meanwhile have continued to fare very well on the exam, with only 2 percent failing every year. This indicates that higher language proficiency requirements are the most important result of the increase in the difficulty of the exam.
The Harper government has made proficiency in an official Canadian language a more important part of getting both permanent residency status and citizenship in recent years, including changing the eligibility requirements for the important Federal Skilled Worker Program in 2010 to require a passing grade on an English or French language test to qualify for permanent residence.