About the 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.

TSA X-Ray Test

The TSA X-Ray Test is administered as one of two components of the TSA CBT Test. Also known as baggage scanner training or the object recognition test, this component is formulated to assess the candidate’s competence in identifying items as displayed in an x-ray screening image. As the process of screening baggage through the use of an x-ray machine is used in very few professions, this portion of the test is considered to be the harder of the two by quite a margin. Prior experience is likely to be highly limited, and those who have some familiarity with the concept will be at a considerable advantage.

Prepterminal’s TSA CBT Test preparation pack includes study modules and practice questions specifically for the X-Ray Test component of the examination. Get the upper hand on the competition and start studying today.

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, such as weapons, liquids, and explosives. The candidate will be required to make a decisions 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.

Without a pre-existing understanding of how to correctly read an x-ray, the 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. Such an example is seen below:


If the black & white image does not give a clear idea of whether there is a prohibited item in the baggage, one must then 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.

Once the candidate understands how to interpret the materials indicated by the color images, it is vital to identify the form of that material in order to make effective judgements as to what the item in question actually is. As items may be presented at peculiar angles, some spatial reasoning skills are required to identify the object at abnormal orientations. For instance, a handgun may be put into the baggage vertically and subsequently only appear on the scan as a single horizontal bar, as the handle and barrel have the same horizontal orientation and are being scanned vertically. In this manner of circumstances, the correct judgements must be made quickly and accurately.

Prepterminal’s TSA CBT Test preparation pack provides the resources required to overcome these challenging obstacles and better prepare you for the job role along the way. Featuring a structured course composed of text/video-based modules and TSA X-Ray practice tests, this learning resource has been constructed by our expert psychometricians and is an invaluable resource in ensuring success in this test. Sign up today to get started along the path to test success.

TSA X-Ray Test Scoring

The results of the TSA X-Ray Test are delivered in tandem with the results from the TSA Writing Skills Assessment in the form of four possible outcomes:

  • Best Qualified
  • Highly Qualified
  • Qualified
  • Fail

Those who have failed will be unable to take the test for another 6 months, meaning they cannot apply for roles in the TSA. 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.

For those that succeed, the three categories serve to inform the TSA as to which eligible candidates are most capable, with the most favorable roles going to those who are best qualified.

How to Prepare for the TSA X-Ray Test

In order to maximize your chances of success in the TSA X-Ray Test, we recommend the following:

  1. Take a full TSA CBT Practice Test
  2. Find points of weakness identified in your results
  3. Study the appropriate elements of weakness in order to fill gaps in knowledge
  4. Take another practice test to identify improvements and remaining points for development
  5. Study the points for development until you are confident with them
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have reached your desired results

For every step of this process, Prepterminal offers all the required resources. By using our TSA CBT Test preparation pack, you can ensure optimal performance. Featuring a structured study course with both text/video-based modules and TSA Written Assessment & X-Ray practice tests, this package is designed to build your capability to such a point that you can confidently approach the test and perform at your best possible capacity.

Sign up today for this preparation pack and get started on the road to test success. Take one step closer towards your dream job with Prepterminal, your partner in test success.