TSA Test: Guide, TSA Practice Test Questions with Explanations (2021)

Last updated 01/2021

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 will prevent a test taker from moving to the next stage of the application process.

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

*Note: TSA and other affiliated trademarks are the property of the DHS. Prepterminal is in no way affiliated with the DHS or the U.S. government. DHS neither endorses or promotes Prepterminal or any of Prepterminal’s services.

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

The TSA Recruitment Process

When you sign up to join Transportation Security Authority (TSA) you need to undergo several rounds of screening and testing.

TSA’s hiring process involves six steps:

  • Computer-based exam
  • TSA color vision exam
  • Interview
  • Drug screen
  • Medical evaluation
  • Extensive background investigation

The first selection round involves taking a Transportation Security Authority Computer-Based Test (TSA CBT) (also known as the Transportation Security Officer Computer Based Test (TSO CBT)). The TSA uses the results of the TSA CBT to phase out candidates from the hiring process. If you score poorly on the TSA CBT you will not be permitted to move on to the next stage of the hiring process.

Test takers applying for positions as a TSA inspector, manager, or Transportation Security Officer are required to take the TSA CBT test. The TSA test evaluates your proficiency with screener awareness, object recognition, and the English language. There are two parts of the TSA CBT test, namely the Written Skills Assessment and the Image Interpretation Test (also known as the Object Recognition Test (ORT) or the X-Ray Test).

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TSA X-Ray Test

The X-Ray test, also known as baggage scanner training, is formulated to assess the candidate’s competence in identifying items as displayed in an x-ray screening image. This portion of the test is regarded as the more difficult of the two components, as the process of screening baggage through the use of an x-ray machine is largely unique to the position – as such, prior experience of this is likely to be extremely limited.

In this portion of the test, the candidate will be shown images of baggage which have gone through an x-ray machine, and will be given only a few seconds to review the baggage and identify target items which are forbidden in air travel, such as weapons, liquids, and explosives. The candidate will be required to make a decision as to whether they should pass the baggage, hold the baggage for inspection by a TSO officer and further screening, or trigger an alarm which requires police intervention.

The process of reading an x-ray is quite challenging unless one has a pre-existing understanding of how to correctly do this. The first step in identifying items in baggage through x-ray would be to use a black and white image, which is quite sharp but does not identify the material contained within the baggage. In some cases, this manner of x-ray will be enough to identify harmful material, but failing this it is important to make use of color detection. The colors seen in an x-ray image indicate the density of materials contained within the baggage. Denser items take on more of a blue color while less dense items are more red. The colors to expect are as follows:

1. Blue/Black

2. Green

3. Orange

4. Red

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

Sample Question: Does this image indicate the presence of a firearm?

How many people successfully pass the object recognition test?

The object recognition test is the most complex part of the TSA test. In fact, only 30% of applicants manage to pass the test. In some cases, if you pass the test you may be required to take it again just to make sure that you did in fact pass because of your cognitive and visual skill set, and not just due to pure luck.

TSA Writing Skills Assessment Test

The 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.

How Does the TSA Test Work?

Only US citizens, eighteen years or older, holding a valid high school diploma or equivalent, are eligible to take the TSA CBT test.

TSA administers the test online, and you need to register on the portal and take the test in a TSA monitored facility. Once you register you will be redirected to the ‘Candidate Dashboard’. You can use the dashboard to keep track of the progress of your application and monitor the status of each stage in the hiring process.

The TSA CBT test comes with a time limit of 2.5 hours. All questions are multiple-choice and no marks are taken off for incorrect answers. Your exam results are available almost immediately after you complete the test.

What is the Testing Environment and Circumstances?

The TSA CBT test is presented at a certain testing center. Ensure that you get there 30-45 minutes before testing time to fill out any additional forms. The whole test takes 2.5 hours and every section is presented under specific time constraints. Each question in the Object Recognition Test is presented in time conditions. The English part of the TSA test is all multiple-choice questions.

TSA CBT Test Scoring

In the TSA Test, applicants are not penalized for incorrect answers – scoring is based solely on correct answers. If the candidate achieves a passing score, they are placed into one of three categories based on the level of success:

  • Best Qualified
  • Highly Qualified
  • Qualified

It is vital to score as highly as possible as the TSA employs from the top down, meaning that those who are classified as ‘Best Qualified’ will be considered first. If a candidate achieves a score which passes, it may still be the case that they are far from being the first to be considered for job positions based on the performance of their peers.

If a candidate fails the exam, they will be ineligible for reassessment for six months, meaning no job openings can be applied for. Two failures will render a candidate permanently ineligible for roles in the TSA. As such, it is absolutely critical that the candidate takes the time to ensure that they appropriately prepare for the test.

Is the TSA CBT Test Difficult?

The test itself is not overly complicated or difficult. However, for many people, completing the X-Ray section of the test is a new and often daunting task. It is critical that you put in some time and energy to ensure that you pass this test well.

What if you Fail the TSA Test?

If you fail or don’t show up to your scheduled TSA test you will be presented with an “X” on your application dashboards. This means you will not be allowed to apply for any TSO opening for a period of six months. If you fail the TSA-CBT test or don’t attend the scheduled appointment after two different CBT testing occasions, will not be able to take the TSA CBT test for the TSO position.

It is key that you try and pass the TSA test on your first attempt. Even, if you immediately pass the TSA CBT test the recruitment process can take some time. There are many applicants fighting for positions, so you need to make sure that if a job opportunity presents itself you are eligible. You can start by practicing with Prepterminal’s TSA CBT practice test.

TSA Test Tips

No matter which position you are after, you will need to put your best foot forward if you wish to get a great score on the TSA computer-based test. Here are some tips to help you prepare well for the TSA exam, and beat the competition:

  • Read and reread the instructions, so you know exactly what they mean before you answer.
  • Answer all questions, as marks won’t be deducted for wrong answers.
  • Scanning an X-Ray picture is a skill that may not be familiar to you. Hence, to successfully pass this test you will need to practice beforehand.
  • When you take this test you will be pressured for time. It is common to make silly mistakes when the clock is ticking. Therefore, you may mistake a prohibited item for a permitted item in an X-Ray test or vice versa. And this could lead to a wrong answer choice. Thus, you must prepare for this test in advance so you can identify items accurately and quickly.
  • Becoming familiar with items that may feature in the X-Ray exam before test day will give you a great advantage. Start studying today with Prepterminal’s TSA practice tests and TSA test prep.

Prepare for the TSA CBT Exam with Prepterminal

Preparing for the TSA CBT can be a difficult task and you may not be sure where to begin. Particularly, understanding an X-Ray can be very demanding. Interpreting the different color combinations and identifying harmful items can be harder than you may think.

PrepTerminal’s TSA Computer Based Test preparation pack has a structured study course along with TSA practice tests. No matter what your initial level of knowledge, PrepTerminal’s prep course will help you improve and refine your skills, so you can pass the TSA CBT and move on to the next stage of the recruitment process. Maximize your TSA test score, and take a positive step towards securing a career with TSA – enroll in Prepterminal’s TSA Prep Course today.

TSA Test: Guide, TSA Practice Test Questions with Explanations (2021)

Last updated 01/2021

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 will prevent a test taker from moving to the next stage of the application process.

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

*Note: TSA and other affiliated trademarks are the property of the DHS. Prepterminal is in no way affiliated with the DHS or the U.S. government. DHS neither endorses or promotes Prepterminal or any of Prepterminal’s services.

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