How Do I Prepare For The TSA CBT Test?

Have you set your sights high? Do you want to help protect the skies?

Do you wish to work as a manager, inspector, marshal or security officer with The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)?

If so, you will need to pass the TSA-CBT test. In fact, joining the TSA involves partaking in many screening rounds and tests. When you apply to work for the TSA, the Computer-Based-Test (CBT) will be administered as part of the first round of your selection process.

About the TSA Test

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has jurisdiction over the security of the traveling public in the United States of America.

To become a TSA employee, all candidates need to successfully complete the TSA computer-based test. This exam includes two sections:

  1. Section one measures your ability to decipher X-Ray images (the Screener Object Recognition Test).
  2. Section two measures your English writing skills (the Screener English Test).

In all likelihood, the Object Recognition Test (ORT) is very different from any other test you have taken. In the ORT (or X-Ray test) you will need to be able to make sense of X-ray scanner images quickly and accurately. The test is used to see how quickly you can correctly identify prohibited objects. This part of the TSA test is demanding and that’s why it is highly recommended that candidates prepare prior to taking the TSA test.

How Can You Prepare For The TSA Test?

Competition is fierce and the failure rate is high, so it’s important to practice before you sit the TSA test.

TSA Writing Skills Test

The Screener English Test, or the English proficiency test, is used to assess your grammatical skills and English language abilities. There are three sub-tests found in this part of the test: reading comprehension, vocabulary, and written communication test. The questions are multiple-choice and the test is timed.

Preparing for the TSA-CBT Writing Skills Test

The sub-tests:

  • Vocabulary

To prepare for this sub-section you need to go over lists of words that are commonly misspelled, common synonyms (words with the same meanings) and antonyms (words with the opposite meanings), and homophones (words that sound similar but have different meanings and spellings).

  • Written communication

Many of the questions in the section are straight forward, however it can be useful to revise your knowledge of basic English grammar. Such as accurate use of tense, verb-noun matching, articles and punctuation.

  • Reading comprehension

This section of the TSA test examins your speed-reading ability, understanding of the English language, and attention to detail. Each question features a small paragraph which is followed by a multiple-choice question. You will need to practice reading fast so you can answer all questions within the time-limit of the test.

TSA X-Ray Image Test

In this test, you will need to locate suspicious objects on an X-ray screen. The items you may need to spot in the luggage include, drugs, shoes, guns, electronics, and bottles.

To accurately spot the weapon you will need to be very familiar with the parts of various weapons and understand how the colors of the X-ray image can assist you.

Preparing for the X-ray Test

Objects are presented in different colors on the scan, according to their density. Generally, the denser the object, the darker it will look on the scan.

  • Blue

Objects that look blue in a scan are dense. Such as hard plastics, metals, alloys, and dense ceramics. As the majority of weapons will appear on the scan in blue, these are the first items you should pay attention to when examining a scan.

  • Green

Objects that look green are less dense. They are generally less dense alloys, softer plastic, or inorganic materials. Such as electronics, which are made of a mix of medium-dense and dense parts. Electronic objects often appear green and blue.

  • Orange

Objects that appear orange are low density, including food, clothes, fabric, and liquids. This color is difficult as it may be hard to see the difference between harmless and banned items (for example it may be tricky to see the difference between flour and cocaine, or maple syrup and nitro-glycerine). In short, many explosive materials look orange in the scan.


Irrespective of what position you are applying for at the TSA, you want to give it all you’ve got if you are going to get a high score on the TSA test. We’ll leave you with some final tips: read the instructions carefully, answer every question, take a practice TSA test, and enroll in a prep TSA-CBT test course.