TSA CBT Test: A Complete Guide to Passing the Exam

As you get ready to take the TSA CBT Test, I am sure you have questions.

Want to get a real taster of the test? Try out this free TSA CBT practice test >>

To help you, we have put together a short and exclusive guide that will provide you with all the necessary information to get started.

In addition, we will walk you through every segment of the exam, scoring, and the steps you need to take after you pass.

So, let’s jump in!

💡 Scoring high almost guarantees you enter the “Best Qualified” category, which ensures you’ll be one of the first to get a job offer

Table of Contents

What is the TSA CBT Test?

The TSA Computer-Based Test (CBT) is an exam that assesses candidates on two primary subjects: Their ability to clearly interpret X-Ray images and their fluency in the English language.

Name of Test: TSA Computer Based Test.

Question Types: 60 English skills and 100 X-Ray image questions.

Located at: Transportation Security Administration Testing Center.

Test Duration: 2.5 hours.

TSA CBT X-Ray Sample Questions

Question: Can you identify a kitchen tool in the X-ray image?

Answer: Yes, there’s a ladle in the X-ray scan.

The handle appears orange as it is made of wood. Its bowl appears blue as it is made of metal.

Question: Can you identify a water bottle in the X-ray image?

Answer: There’s no water bottle in this X-ray scan.

TSA CBT English Skills Sample Questions

Vocabulary Question

Pecuniary most nearly means:

  1. Affection.
  2. Scant.
  3. Unique.
  4. Pecuniary.

The correct answer is (4).

Pecuniary is related to money or banking, and means financial or monetary, as suggested by option 4.

Do you need help practicing for the TSA’s CBT test? Practice the TSA CBT Test with full-length practice tests. Get practice in vocabulary, reading comprehension, grammar, and punctuation.

Written Communication

Please identify which type of error appears in the sentence below:

Mrs. qualitrix’s meeting, has been postponed, due to a doctor’s appointment.

  1. Grammar.
  2. Spelling.
  3. Punctuation and capitalization.
  4. None of the above.

The correct answer is (3) – punctuation and capitalization.

According to the English language’s punctuation and capitalization rules, a comma should never separate the subject and the verb.

The correct way to write the sentence – “Mrs. Qualitrix’s meeting has been postponed due to a doctor’s appointment” without any commas.

What Topics Are on the TSA Computer Based Test (CBT)?

So now that you know the length of the test and its general subjects, it’s time to get a bit more specific.

Here is a breakdown of the various topics you must prepare for:

TSA X-Ray Test

This object recognition test will include 100 multiple-choice questions and is undoubtedly the more important segment of the exam.

These questions will come in the form of images that include:

  • Hidden knives.
  • Guns.
  • Working tools.
  • Electronics.
  • Explosives like grenades.

it will be your responsibility to use the various X-ray color patterns to ensure that you can discern dangerous from non-dangerous items.

X-ray colors include:

  • Blue.
  • Black.
  • Green.
  • Orange.

It would be best to practice with simulations patterned as close to the real test as possible to advance in the hiring process.

That’s why we teamed up with JobTestPrep to provide you with the best study guide and practice tests to help you ace the X-Ray exam with flying colors.

TSA English Test

 This part of the TSA Test, also known as the Writing Skills Assessment, includes 60 questions on:

  • Reading comprehension.
  • Vocabulary.
  • Written communication.

The goal is to ensure that you have full command of the English language to succeed on the job.

We will cover each segment independently below.

💡 The X-ray is the most challenging section of the exam. With accurate prep, you’ll learn to identify any object quickly and accurately

How to Correctly Answer X-ray Image Questions

When answering an X-ray image question, it is crucial to estimate the following:

  1. The type of scanned image.
  2. Its complexity.
  3. The range of colors that can appear on the screen.

This can often be confusing, and with only 15 seconds per question, the pressure is undoubtedly on.

Practice with this TSA CBT practice Prep to get an edge over your peers.

What Type of Images Should You Expect to See?

The TSA CBT Test will challenge you with a wide range of object recognition imaging ranging from items that are outright dangerous to those that may be able to be converted into dangerous objects like electronics, kitchen utensils, or work equipment.

Here is a partial list of the items that will be embedded in suitcase images in various ways on the object recognition test.

  • Weapons, knives, and explosives.
  • Children’s toys, shoes, keys, writing utensils.
  • Kitchen appliances, water bottles, and work gear.
  • Watches, cell phones, electronics, and flashlights.

This image interpretation test can be difficult.

The test simulates real work conditions because the enemy, whether domestic or foreign, will use every trick in the book to fool you into missing the weapon.

Let’s take a look at some of these complexities so you can get to the correct answer every time.

💡Ensure you pass the TSA Test with a high score and avoid waiting for 6 months to retake the test.

How Complex Will the TSA Test Images Be?

There are many ways that the enemy will try to disguise and conceal their weaponry from view.

Angle and Location – For instance, if a knife is at a 90-degree angle, it will be tough to distinguish it in the middle of a whole bag.

However, you can detect it by looking out for the blue metal, highlighting both the blade and the little blue screws connecting the blade to the handle.

Additionally, the bad guys will often try to place the weapon at the very edge of a suitcase because they know that our eyes automatically move to the center of objects.

So, it’s essential to be scan the entire bag.

Disassembled – Here is another trick used often, especially for guns. To fool the X-ray machine and the officer, guns are often dismantled and stored in different places throughout the bag.

So, unlike the example above, where you can follow the blue screw dots to understand how the blade connects to the handle, you will have to find scattered colors throughout the bag.

Overlapping – Overlapping objects can make identifying even a potentially dangerous object challenging.

The best way to deal with this is to learn and memorize what a wide range of weapons look like so that you can begin looking for prominent features like the pin of a grenade or the distinct shape of a gun hand.

However, this takes practice and patience.

Improve your ability to deal with the complexity of x-ray image questions by doing X-ray practice tests that mimic the real exam.

How Do You Interpret X-Ray Colors?

While we mentioned some of the colors above in passing, let’s get a more comprehensive understanding of the x-ray scan colors:

  • Blue/Black – These colors will include a range of metal objects like sunglasses, wires, guns, bombs, or batteries (which can be transformed into bombs.
  • Green – Objects like plastic toys, ceramics, even stones can be depicted as green. Additionally, since many electronic devices are mixed with metal and plastic, creating a lighter alloy, they can also appear green.
  • Orange – Generally organic liquids and powders, food, leather, rubber, and drugs (both prescribed and illegal.) First, some of these ingredients can be used in weapons, and some, like illegal drugs, are just simply illegal.
  • Red – Fabrics and paper will appear red and are the least dense of all the colors.

What to Expect on the TSA English Skills Assessment?

As briefly mentioned above, The TSA CBT English Skills segment of the TSA Test will include 60 multiple choice questions divided between reading comprehension, vocabulary, and written communication.

Let’s tackle this subject by subject, so you can get the correct answers every time.

Reading Comprehension: Can you read quickly and accurately? Well, we are soon going to find out!

This section ensures that you can pay close attention to details while fully grasping the language and concepts presented in the texts.

For example, you might receive a paragraph about the price of oil for Russia in the wake of the ongoing assault on Ukraine.

To get you off track, the section will throw in a bunch of details about the war and refugees that have nothing directly to do with the price of rule, and it’s your job to find the key point.

Vocabulary: Can you spell accurately? Time will tell.

This section of the test will focus on choosing the right synonym or antonym, differentiating between homophones, and uncovering misspellings from among a list of possibilities.

This means that you will need a strong vocabulary going into the test. You will be granted 90 seconds per question and practice for every type of vocabulary question that you are currently weak in.

For instance, you might be given the word “happy” and asked to find the antonym for it between – troubled, light, content, and blessed. Can you find the right word?

Written Communication: This last section will ask you to fill in two blanks to finish a sentence.

The purpose is to test your writing skills, however, it will not be so simple. The possible answers will include pairs of words that might be correct.

However, some will be correct in meaning but have spelling errors (making them incorrect.)

Others will be the right idea, but will not exactly conform to the sentence.

How to Prepare for the TSA Test?

There is no doubt that JobTestPrep has the best practice tests out there on the market that we have seen to date.

The team over at JobTestPrep has devised a comprehensive guide and practice test that mirrors the real deal.

Here is a short overview of what you will get with JobTestPrep’s TSA test prep.

Image Interpretation: This is super important as you will be given various tricks and tips to discern between dangerous or banned objects and permitted ones.

Before you try to get to the correct answer on x-ray images, you must understand the theory, which includes shapes, the color range, and how it plays out on the screen.

Practice Questions: Not only will you practice every question in the same format as it shows on the test, but we have also added explanations to every answer.

This is beneficial for those who got the question right or wrong, as it allows everyone to understand the logic, making the answer entirely correct.

Also, some questions (especially the images) require a strategy, which JobTestPrep provides in full.

Timed Test: The strict time limits make this test truly stressful, so the more you practice under real-time restraints, the better you will do on the test. Ensure that you are calm and ready for action with no surprises.

Click to access TSA CBT test questions, TSA assessment practice, and a Free Transportation Security Computer-Based Test Study Guide.

TSA CBT Scores Overview

Ok, so now that we have gone through the test itself, you are probably wondering how you will be graded?

What TSA score do you need to pass? How many pass? Waiting time, and what happens if you don’t pass?

How Long Does It Take to Get the Test Results Back?

There is no wait time because your score is immediately calculated.

How Is the TSA Test Scored?

You will not get a score in the form of numbers or percentages. Rather you will fall into one of three categories:

  • Best Qualified – Candidates with the highest chances of receiving a job offer.
  • Highly Qualified – Second in line for offers.
  • Qualified – Last in line for offers.

Improve your chances of getting into the best-qualified list. Practice with more TSA test prep sample questions.

The exercises include X-Ray images, Verbal Reasoning and Comprehension, Vocabulary, and Sentence Completion questions.

Isn’t it Enough to Pass the TSA CBT Test?

Well, the answer to that is no. There is fierce competition to get a position, and considering the importance of the work for national security, the TSA wants the best.

Also, it’s important to remember that the TSA was plagued with underperforming employees who failed undercover security breach inspections by the government in recent years.

So, they have learned from past mistakes and only want top-notch employees.

How Many People Pass the TSA Exam?

The TSA Test has a tremendous fail rate of 70%, which further highlights the need for you to study hard and smart.

What Happens If You Fail the TSA CBT Test?

Failure to pass the test will mean taking a six-month break and that in turn, will only push off your chances of getting a job, because it’s based on availability and demand.

Also, the TSA is stricter than baseball, it’s two strikes, and you are banned for life! So, you want to do everything you can to prepare.

Can You Find Out What You Got Wrong on a TSA Test?

Unfortunately, you are only provided with a score with no explanation as to what you got wrong.

However, you can write to the Transport Security Administration and request a breakdown of your results, which can help you with the retake.

What Happens After You Pass the TSA CBT Test?

Congratulations, you finally passed the TSA Computer-Based Test! But now what?

You will not get what they call a “contingent job offer,” but you actually do not have a job yet because there are many more steps and training that you must go through in order to get put in the TSA waiting pool.

And even then, you can theoretically have to wait up to two years if you are placed in the lower score levels.

What to Expect on the Rest of the TSA Hiring Process?

Let’s start from the beginning to provide you with a complete map of the process, and so where you can see the TSA CBT falls in the midst of it.

  1. Application for a position – Go to the TSA website and search via position, location, work schedule, etc.
  2. TSA CBT test – See all the text above; no need to review!
  3. Contingent job offer, credit & security check – In this stage, you will fill out a wide range of forms and questioners and wait a couple of weeks until all checks are cleared.
  4. TSA Airport Assessment and Evaluations – You are now drawing closer to the goal. You will now go through a range of tests: Interview, color vision, hearing test, fingerprinting, a full medical evaluation, drug test, and background test.
  5. Getting into the “Ready Pool” – Remember the three categories we talked about above – Best qualified, highly qualified, and qualified? Your position in the waiting pool will be determined based on that score from your test in phase 2.
  6. Orientation – Now, you begin your two-week intensive training period to get you ready for the job! It’s been a long road, but you made it. Be careful; people get thrown out of training or even the first orientation day for transgressions like falling asleep.
  7. Entry on duty – You are now an official TSA officer working for the crowds at the airports.


How to Know Where Is Your Test Location (Testing Center)?

Your test location will be determined according to your location and specified in the invitation.

What Should I Wear to My TSA CBT Test?

You should come in business attire.

What Should I Bring to the TSA Exam?

You must bring proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport.

How to Reschedule the TSA CBT Test?

While it is possible to reschedule the test free of charge, you must ensure there is remaining time in your date range.