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TSA CBT Test 2024 – Everything You Need to Know

Jan 15, 2024

What Is the TSA CBT Test?

TSA CBT stands for Transportation Security Administration Computer-Based Test. If you are applying for jobs at the TSA, the CBT is integral to the recruitment process for many positions. 

This test is administered as part of the hiring process and Airport Assessment for prospective Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), TSA inspectors and managers. It is used early in the hiring process and the results indicate whether a candidate is likely to be a good match for the job role and organization. If you do not pass the test, your application will be rejected, and you will only be allowed one more attempt.

The TSA CBT is designed to assess applicants on skills and competencies related to the duties of a TSO. It includes sections on X-ray interpretation (object recognition), situational judgment, English language interpretation and personality assessment.

There are two parts to the original version of the TSA CBT exam. These are the writing assessment and X-ray image test.

The new version of the TSA CBT exam is split into three sections. These are shape folding, shape recognition and connecting the dots.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the original and new versions of the TSA CBT test, including example aptitude test questions that can be used as part of your test preparation.


Prepare for the TSA CBT Test with JobTestPrep


What Is on the Original TSA CBT Exam?

The original TSA CBT exam comprises 160 questions split into two sections:


Image Interpretation (The X-Ray Test/Bagger Scanner Training/Object Recognition Test (ORT)) – 100 questions

You must quickly recognize forbidden items such as guns, knives and other weapons. You will have up to two and a half hours to complete this test section, although many candidates finish it more quickly.

This part of the test must be completed at a dedicated test center. You must arrive at least 30 minutes before the test begins.

You will be asked to answer two practice questions before the actual test. For the first question, you must remember the shapes of up to six target items in 30 seconds. In the next section, you must identify the target items within 15 seconds. During the actual test, you will only have a few seconds to review each item and decide whether it contains any prohibited or target items.

Target items include:

  • Electronics
  • Weapons
  • Drugs
  • Bottles


Different X-ray machines produce different results, but you can usually work out the densities and materials of objects using the colors applied to the X-ray.

  • Low-density materialsThese appear in shades of black. This category includes low-density plastics and empty spaces.
  • High-density materials – These appear in shades of green or red. This category includes dense alloys and thick metal objects.
  • Inorganic materials – These appear in shades of blue. This category includes ceramics, metals and plastics.
  • Organic materials – These appear in shades of orange. This category includes food items, clothing and paper.


For each item, you will need to choose “hold”, “alarm” or “pass”.

  • "Hold” means you have seen a prohibited item requiring intervention from a TSO officer and additional screening.
  • “Alarm” means you have seen a prohibited item and require police intervention.
  • “Pass” means you have not seen any target items.


Some images will only feature non-dangerous items; others will include a combination of non-dangerous and dangerous objects. Your objective is to identify baggage containing prohibited items such as guns, knives, bombs and IEDs.

If you see a prohibited item, select “hold” or “alarm”, depending on the object.

Some of the images will be more complex than others. For example, some images will show objects overlapping, making identifying items more difficult.


Written Skills Assessment – 60 Questions

The written skills assessment is a multiple-choice test designed to check your understanding of the basic principles of the English language, including:

  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Syntax
  • Sentences
  • Paragraphs
  • Word usage


You must answer every question in the test. If you are unsure of the answer, it is always best to make an educated guess, as there is no penalty for incorrect answers. Your score is calculated according to the number of correct answers you give.

Some multiple-choice questions include option D, which says, “No correction is required.” If no changes are needed, this is the option you should choose.


TSA CBT English Test Practice Questions

Question One: Vocabulary

“Dignified” is the opposite of:

a) Refined
b) Joyous
c) Unrefined
d) Gentle

The correct answer is: c) Unrefined

Question Two

Identify the error(s) in the following sentence:

Mr Johnson’s apointment, has been moved, due to a Business meeting.

a) Grammar
b) Spelling
c) Punctuation, spelling and capitalization
d) No correction is required

The correct answer is: c) Punctuation, spelling and capitalization

The sentence should read “Mr Johnson’s appointment has been moved due to a business meeting.”

Question Three

Which of the following words is spelled correctly?

a) Intentitive
b) Acomodation
c) Relliable
d) Adjacent

The correct answer is: d) Adjacent


X-Ray Object Identification Sample Question

Study the image above. Would you choose “hold”, “alarm” or “pass” for this baggage?

The correct answer is: “Hold”. This bag appears to contain tools including pliers and a spanner. Tools are prohibited items but not dangerous weapons requiring police intervention.


What Is on the Newer TSA CBT Exam?

A newer version of the TSA CBT exam is available, although the original version is still used widely. The new version of the test is only available in airports that use more up-to-date X-ray systems.

The skills and aptitudes being tested are similar, but the new version of the test is split into three sections and does not include the X-ray identification questions.

The new version of the test comprises the following aptitude tests:

  • Connect the dots
  • Image matching
  • Shape folding


Each section of the new test lasts 25 to 45 minutes. To pass this version of the test, you must be able to scan visual information and identify patterns quickly and accurately.

Here are some example questions for the new version of the test:


Question One – Connect the Dots

Study the following image, then connect the letters in the following pattern:


 The correct answer is:

You will need to work quickly to choose the correct option.

Question Two – Image Folding

The correct answer is: b)

For these questions, you must work fast to identify the 2D shape once it has been folded into a 3D object. Take a close look at the layout of the 2D shape and any marks or numbers on it before choosing your answer.

Question Three – Matching Shapes

Which of the following figures is the same as the one shown below? You must identify the matching shape as quickly as possible.

The correct answer is: d)

When answering this type of question, you must work quickly to identify the matching shape. Some key things to check are the number of sides, color and orientation of a shape.


How Is the TSA CBT Assessment Scored?

TSA CBT exam scores are based on the number of correct answers given. Candidates are not penalized for providing an incorrect answer on this TSO CBT test.

Results are sent by email and are usually available within 30 minutes of completing the test. If you do not pass the test, you will have to wait at least six months before you will be allowed to reapply. You will only be allowed one further attempt.

If you achieve a pass, your score will be categorized as Qualified, Highly Qualified or Best Qualified. Your goal is to achieve the best possible score as candidates categorized as Best Qualified stand the best chance of being offered their preferred job role.


Where Can You Take the TSA Computer Test?

The TSA computer test must be taken in person at an approved testing facility. If you are invited to sit the test, you will be given information on your nearest approved testing facility.


Preparing for the TSA CBT Exam

Adequate preparation is vital for achieving the highest possible score on the TSA CBT exam.

Here are some ideas on how to prepare for the TSO CBT exam.


Find Out Which Test You Are Taking

The computer based test CBT for TSA is available in two formats: the original test and the new test. It is important to find out which version of the test you will be sitting.

If you are sitting the original version of the test, you will need to be prepared to answer the X-ray identification and English language questions. If you are sitting the new version, you must practice working quickly and accurately through the shape folding, shape recognition and dot-to-dot questions.

Knowing what to expect is one of the best ways to reduce nerves on the day of the TSO CBT test. Once you know which format of the test you will be taking, you can research practice assessments to simulate the real test.

If you cannot confirm which version of the test you are sitting, it is wise to prepare for both the original and new versions of the TSO CBT.


Understand the TSA X-Ray Image Rules

It is important to be aware of the TSA X-Ray image rules as you work through the X-ray part of the original test.

You should also spend time viewing X-ray security images online. This will help you to start recognizing different objects and identifying what items might be according to their color.


Review the TSA Banned Items List

You will also need to have a comprehensive knowledge of the TSA banned items list. You can view the full list here.

After studying the list, you could ask a family member or friend to test you on your knowledge.


Complete Online Practice Tests

Working through a few mock tests is one of the most effective ways to prepare for an assessment like the Transportation Security Officer computer based test.

Doing so will help you to familiarize yourself with the test format and you can also practice answering questions against the clock. This will help you improve your time management skills and feel more confident working under pressure on the day of the test.

You can find a TSA CBT study guide, practice questions and answers and mock cognitive ability tests on the JobTestPrep and TestHQ websites.

 When completing practice papers, it is essential to take time to read the questions carefully. Although this might slow you down at first, the more questions you answer, the quicker you will be able to work through TSA CBT practice papers in the future.


Read a Variety of Materials

If you are sitting the original version of the TSA CBT, you will need to spend time improving your overall knowledge and comprehension of the English language.

To achieve this, spend some time reading a range of different documents and publications such as newspapers, magazines and journals.

Use a highlighter to identify spelling or grammatical issues and look up any unfamiliar words in a dictionary and thesaurus. If you learn a new word, use it in context during a conversation.


Revise Basic Grammar Rules

It may have been a long time since you learned the basic rules of English grammar. If you are sitting the original version of the TSA CBT exam, it is wise to go back to basics and learn these rules from scratch.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is the CBT test easy for TSA?

The CBT test is important within the TSA hiring process. Many consider the test hard and you’ll likely find it difficult if you don’t prepare. The most challenging aspect of the original TSA CBT is the X-ray image interpretation section. The pass rate for this section is around 30%.


What is the new TSA CBT test 2024?

The new TSA CBT test 2024 is split into three sections. These are image folding, image recognition and connecting the dots.


What happens after you pass the TSA CBT test?

If you pass the TSA CBT test, you will be categorized as Best Qualified, Highly Qualified or Qualified. To stand the best chance of securing your preferred job role, aim for a Best Qualified result as these people are most likely to receive a job offer for their chosen position.


What do you wear to the TSA CBT test?

You should dress in smart clothing for the TSA CBT test. When choosing your outfit, find something that is both professional and comfortable. If you are sitting the original version of the test, you will be at the test center for up to two and a half hours.


How hard is it to pass a CBT test?

The TSA CBT tests are designed to be challenging. You are likely to find the test very hard if you do not prepare for it adequately. As a reference, the X-ray image interpretation part of the original test has a pass rate of just 32%.


Final Thoughts

The TSA CBT exam is designed to be a challenging assessment. The TSA seeks to recruit the best candidates for its job roles, and it uses the CBT exam to help identify people who have the required cognitive skills and abilities to succeed in TSA job roles.

The most effective way to prepare for the TSA CBT test is to familiarize yourself with the format. As there are two versions of the test, it is important to find out whether you are sitting the original or new version of the exam before starting your preparation.

If you are sitting the original test, you should spend time revising the TSA prohibited items and improving your overall knowledge and comprehension of the English language. If you are sitting the new test, you should complete a variety of aptitude assessments, including image recognition and shape folding.

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