About the Transport Security Administration (TSA)

The Transport Security Administration (TSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States, having been created as a response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Being primarily concerned with air travel, the TSA employs a variety employees:

  • Transportation Security Officers (TSOs)
  • Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs)
  • Transportation Security Specialists
  • Federal Air Marshals
  • Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs)
  • Transportation Security Inspectors (TSIs)
  • National Explosives Detection Canine Trainers
  • Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) Agents

Note: In some cases, these roles are not entirely separate. For instance, BDOs are also TSOs.


The Transportation Security Authority Computer Based Test (TSA CBT), or the Transportation Security Officer Computer Based Test (TSO CBT), is a psychometric instrument used early in the TSA hiring process. The test is used to filter out weaker candidates, meaning that a poor score on the TSA CBT will prevent a candidate from moving to the next stage of the application process.

Those applying for roles as TSA inspectors, managers or Transportation Security officers are required to take the TSA Exam as part of the application process. The TSA test assesses a candidate’s competency with object recognition, screener awareness, and English language.

Components of the TSA Test

When assessing a candidate’s capacity to successfully complete the tasks required of a TSA officer, the TSA test establishes the candidate’s competency in two key fields – image interpretation (the X-Ray Test) and english fluency (the Written Skills Assessment). While the X-Ray Test is considered to be considerably harder than the Written Skills Assessment, both will prove to be a challenge to a majority of candidates – after all, a test which is not a challenge would be useless for the purpose of filtering out candidates.

Prepterminal’s TSA Test preparation pack is an ideal resource for both components of the exam. By preparing effectively for both components using our structured study course featuring text/video-based modules and benchmarking your progress through the use of our TSA CBT Practice Tests, you can ensure your optimal performance and maximize your chance at success. Get started now, or read below for more information on what to expect in the test.

TSA X-Ray Test

The TSA X-Ray Test, also known as baggage scanner training or the object recognition test, is formulated to assess the candidate’s competence in identifying items as displayed in an x-ray screening image. As identifying items found in baggage through the use of an x-ray machine is an extremely niche process, being used in only a handful of security applications, this component of the TSA Test is considered to be quite a bit more difficult. With appropriate preparation and an understanding of the format, however, there is nothing to fear in this component. In fact, if one approaches the test with some familiarity with X-Ray imaging then they will have a considerable advantage. Prepterminal’s TSA Test preparation pack is specifically produced for such a purpose.

TSA X-Ray Test Questions

In the test, candidates will be shown x-ray images of baggage, and will be given only a few seconds to review items contained within the baggage in order to identify target items which are forbidden in air travel. Candidates will be required to ascertain whether there is a designated manner of item (e.g. tools, drugs etc.) contained within the baggage.

Without a pre-existing knowledge of how to read x-ray images, this process can be quite challenging. The first step in identifying objects in an x-ray scan would be to view the black & white image. This image is quite sharp, and so it is the first port of call when trying to identify images – the outline of a prohibited item may be seen here without the need for colour scans.

Given below is an example. Take a look at this black and white x-ray image and try to identify whether there is firearm inside:

Example: Does this image indicate the presence of a firearm?


In cases where a black & white image does not give a clear indication of the presence of a given item, one must make use of the color image. The key element to this is that different colors indicate different density of the matter contained within. Typically speaking, denser items are bluer while less dense items are more red.

The colors which are typically encountered are laid out below:


Blue/Black: This color usually indicates hard materials, including but not limited to: metals, hard plastics, alloys, ceramics etc. Guns, batteries, wires and other such objects will appear on this color scale.


Green: This color indicates less dense plastics and alloys. A combination of blue and green is likely to indicate some manner of electronic device which may be required to be re-screened outside of the bag as electronic devices are usually required to be removed from one’s bag before scanning.


Orange: This color indicates any biological material contained within the baggage, such as food, rubber, leather, non-plastic explosives, liquids, gels and organic powders. It is important to pay attention to these items as explosives are often composed of some amount of organic materials, and drugs are detected in this category. Additionally, there are restrictions on liquids in airport screening – each liquid must be stored in containers of no more than 100ml, and must be screened in a separate plastic bag alongside the normal baggage. If liquids are detected in baggage they should usually be re-screened as the liquids must be removed for separate screening. However, the candidate should check the status of this prohibition as the policy with permissible liquids may vary.


Red: This color indicates low-density items, where the machine has encountered little to no resistance when scanning the object. This could involve light materials such as fabric or paper.

Using this information, take a look at the image below and try to identify whether there is firearm inside:

Example: Does this image indicate the presence of a firearm?


For additional resources with comprehensive guidance on how to appropriately approach these questions, sign up for Prepterminal’s TSA CBT Test preparation pack. Featuring a structured study course along with TSA practice tests to build your knowledge from the ground up, this package provides all you need to develop your understanding of the TSA X-Ray Test.

TSA X-Ray Test Tips

TSA Writing Skills Assessment

The TSA Writing Skills Assessment Test is a multiple-choice test given with time restrictions. This section of the test is intended to assess a candidate’s understanding of English grammar, syntax, word usage, paragraph organization and sentence structure. Before taking the test, it is important to understand these content areas:

  • Adjectives/Adverbs
  • Article
  • Capitalization
  • Conjunction
  • Gerund
  • Infinitive
  • Nouns
  • Participles
  • Prepositions
  • Pronouns
  • Punctuation
  • Restrictive/nonrestrictive phrases and clauses
  • Sentence construction
  • Sentence organization with paragraphs
  • Tense shifts
  • Use of clauses in sentences
  • Use of phrases in sentences
  • Verb
  • Verb Mood
  • Verb Tense
  • Verb Voice

Questions are presented as sentences requiring correction, with three possible corrections and a fourth option where no correction is needed. For many applicants, it might be the case that these skills are somewhat rusty as they are not necessarily used so precisely in day-to-day use.


For further examples of questions, sign up for Prepterminal’s TSA CBT Test preparation pack. Featuring a structured study course along with TSA practice tests to build your knowledge from the ground up, this package provides all you need to develop your understanding of the TSA Writing Skills Assessment.