TSA CBT Test Prep: The Definitive Practice Guide for 2024
Yedidya Lixenberg

Yedidya, Aviation Industry Expert at JobTestPrep.

Have a question? Contact me at: ask_the_team@jobtestprep.com

What to Expect on the TSA CBT Test?

The TSA Computer-Based Test (CBT) you receive may be one of two variations of the test: 

  1. The New TSA Test- contains 3 aptitude tests and lasts 25-45 mins: a 2D to 3D interpretation test, matching shapes, and connecting numbers and letters. 
  2. The TSA CBT X-ray and English test- takes 2.5 hours and is divided into five sessions with breaks between them. Contains 100 images in the X-ray Object Recognition Test (ORT) section and 50-60 questions in the written section. The test is taken at a TSA testing center (you can't take it at your own home).

Now, let's go over each test section so that you know exactly what to expect.

The New TSA Test Version - Skills Tests

This version of the CBT exam lasts about 20-45 minutes and includes 3 test sections that assess spatial awareness, attention, and processing speed.

1. The TSA 2D to 3D Interpretation Test

 This is the most challenging part of the test, in which you will be presented with 2D shapes and asked to select a 3D shape that corresponds with it. 

For example, the following question is taken from our complete TSA Prep:

Which of the possible options represents the shape in its folded form?

Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer

An effective way to answer such questions will be to try and look at the corners of the unfolded shape – the points where 3 lines will meet:

The unfolded shape shows that 5,8,9 will share a corner when folded. According to the options, only the 2nd choice follows this role, so it is the correct choice:


Notice that you could have chosen any corner of the unfolded shape, in this explanation we chose randomly 5,8,9. If you chose a different one and it does not roll all the options, its ok. Just roll the ones that you can and try a different corner as well.



3. Connecting numbers and letters

This part requires scanning number and letter circles and connecting them according to their order: 

  • First,  connect number circles according to the numerical order (1-2-3...). 
  • Then, connect letter circles according to their order (A-B-C...)
  • Finally, both number and letter circles will appear. You will be required to connect a sequence of number-letter by order (1-A-2-B-3-C...)

The challenge in this test is connecting the sequence quickly (without compromising on accuracy), since you will be graded depending on your speed. 


3. Image Matching

You will be presented with an image and asked to choose a matching image out of 5 possible answers. 


The TSA X-Ray Test [Legacy]: Overview, Sample Questions, and Tips

On the X-ray portion, also known as the image interpretation test, you will inspect luggage images. You will be asked to find various types of items buried in the luggage that have gone through the X-ray machine.

TSA X-Ray Sample Questions

Can you see a weapon in this X-ray scan?

x ray
Answer and explanation:

There is a knife in the bag but it’s at a 90 degrees angle. You can recognize it by the screws connecting the blue blade to the handle.


x ray answer


Some items can appear at an angle that makes them almost impossible to recognize. To prepare yourself for those images, you need to go over all the popular items and learn their shape from different angles. This kind of preparation is crucial to passing the exam.

In the TSA CBT practice pack, you’ll get a guide that will show you the items in various directions along with practice questions as well.


Is there a grenade in this bag?



Answer and explanation:

In this question there is a grenade. When identifying an object that may be a grenade, look for the most prominent features of the grenade – the lever and safety pin. The grenade in this question is masked by a pot.


grenade answer


When the bag is cluttered, the objects can overlap, making it difficult to distinguish between them. The best approach for coping with these kinds of images is to look for the unique features of the target item. You need to become an expert in identifying the parts of a range of weaponry and other popular targets.


Can you identify a pen in this X-ray image?

tsa x ray
Here it is!


Scan this suitcase and decide whether:

  • There is a gun
  • There is a knife
  • There is no weapon
x ray
Answer & Explanation

In this question, there is a gun with a full magazine inserted. To recognize it you can use a few factors:

The handle of the bag is used to cover its barrel, which appears dark blue–black since it is metallic.

The grip appears blue and has bullets inside.

The cases of the bullets appear brighter than the tips.


x ray answer


Understanding the meaning of colors is extremely helpful in preparing for the X-ray section since it allows you to become familiar with the characteristics of the targeted objects. The color indicates the density of the scanned items. The denser the material, the darker it will appear.

In the TSA practice pack, you’ll find more accurate questions for this category that mimic the real exam. So you won’t encounter any surprises on your TSA exam!


To get a good grasp of the X-ray section and become a master at identifying objects in these images, visit our thorough TSA X-ray test guide.


The Main Challenges of the TSA X-ray Test

Firstly, some questions are objectively hard:

  • The items might be overlapping or rotated at odd angles, which makes them hard to recognize.
  • In black and white images, the items you are looking for are visible and easily found. But for colorful scans - understanding the X-ray color principles is complex. Especially when trying to recognize items that have multiple color combinations.
  • Some items just can’t be detected, unless you know how they look on an X-ray in advance.

Secondly, there is a strict time limit. You will have only 15 seconds to look through the luggage and find objects such as weapons, bottles, drugs, or electronics.

And lastly – the TSA CBT exam is super long. It is an exhausting 2.5 hours, which makes it difficult to stay fresh and focused throughout the whole time.


Why Does the TSA Use This Test?

The test’s goal is to find candidates that will ensure travelers' safety across the country. Along with good English skills, they must also be able to quickly recognize objects- items that range from dangerous/ forbidden items to ordinary objects such as electronics, toys, or shoes. Similar tests are used by GardaWorld and other security service companies. 


The TSA Writing Skills Assessment [Legacy]

The TSA Written Skills Assessment, also known as the TSA CBT English test, is a multiple-choice test with 50-60 questions given with strict time constraints. This section evaluates your proficiency level in English using three categories:


Reading Comprehension

The TSA CBT reading comprehension section evaluates your speed-reading ability, general attention to detail, and overall grasp of the language. Each question contains a short paragraph followed by multiple-choice questions.

The task itself is not very complicated, but you need to practice reading quickly to successfully answer each question correctly within approximately 90 seconds.


🕑 Let’s try to solve this question in under 90 seconds:

>It's little wonder Russians are toasting oil: These are boom times. Global oil prices have increased tenfold since 1998, and Russia has pulled ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world's top crude oil producer. The Kremlin's budget now overflows with funds for new schools, roads, and national defense projects, and Moscow's nouveau riche are plunking down millions of dollars for mansion-scale "dachas."


The Russians now produce crude oil because:

  1. They just found it
  2. Prices are down
  3. Prices are up
  4. Growing demand
Answer & Explanation

The correct answer is (C).

According to the passage: "There's little wonder Russians are toasting oil: These are boom times. Global oil prices have increased tenfold since 1998." Russia has been producing oil as the prices rise.



Here, your vocabulary knowledge and spelling capabilities will be assessed. You will be given a word and asked to find its synonym or opposite word from several options.

To succeed in this section, you need to revise lists of common synonyms, antonyms (words having opposite meanings), homophones (words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings), and commonly misspelled words.


Try this question:

IMPERIOUS is the opposite of:

  2. MOODY
  4. QUIET
Check if you got it right:

The correct answer is (C) subservient.

Imperious means "domineering in a haughty manner; dictatorial; overbearing," so the antonym is subservient. Arrogant is a similar word but not a synonym. Quiet and stormy are not related. Therefore, the correct answer is subservient.


Written Communication

On those questions, you will be provided with a sentence structure and asked to fill in the blanks. The twist is that you will be provided with a list of word pairs. Some will be appropriate for the blanks but with spelling errors, while other pairs will not be correct at all.


Here is an example:

By ________ the fossil remains of animals, paleontologists can learn much about their ________.


  1. exxamining, apearence
  2. examining, appearance
  3. examinning, appearing
  4. examination, appearances
  5. None of these
See if you answered correctly:

The correct answer is (B).

By examining the fossil remains of animals, paleontologists can learn much about their appearance.


In the preparation pack, you’ll find 19 tests with answers and detailed explanations necessary to increase the speed and accuracy of your reading, grammar skills, and word usage.


For additional sample questions and practice tips, visit our TSA CBT English test guide.


How to Prepare for the TSA Test?

To ensure you score high on the TSA test and get into the “Best Qualified” category, make sure to practice the new TSA test version, and most importantly- the challenging 2D to 3D questions. our psychometric experts' team has created a valuable preparation pack customized for the new TSA exam and its challenges:

  1. Exclusive practice for the new TSA Test-  includes 2d to 3d interpretation practice tests with detailed answers and solving techniques enabling you to tackle these questions confidently on test day. 
  2. Timed TSA practice tests, resembling the actual test as closely as possible. It will help you get used to the demanding time constraints while reducing your anxiety. That way, you’ll come to the test calm and ready to succeed.
  3. TSA study guide and practice tests for the X-ray and English TSA exam-  to ensure you are all covered we have kept the legacy TSA practice materials, with tips and tricks to interpret the X-ray images easily (how to recognize different materials, identify objects and threats, and eliminate distractions).


See what you'll get

New TSA Test Version Practice
• 2D to 3D shape folding- 3 tests + 3 extra practice tests.
• Connecting the dots- 5 practice tests 
• Image matching- 4 practice tests

TSA CBT X-Ray Practice [Legacy Format]
• Weapons: 14 tests
• Toys, pens, keys, shoes: 10 tests
• Water bottles & tools: 9 tests
• Electronics (cellphones & more): 9 tests
• X-Ray analysis study guide 

TSA English Skills Practice [Legacy Format]
• Reading comprehension: 11 tests
• English (Vocabulary, Synonyms, Antonyms, Spelling): 17 tests
• Writing Skills (fault finding): 2 tests 

Yulia Pratt, USA
Verified Reviewer
"... I read some of the reviews and decided to purchase the TSA Test Prep. I learned a lot from that test. I took the TSA test the next day, and guess what? I passed thanks to this test prep! The test prep is really good, it has exactly what I had to do during the test. I highly recommend this website for anyone looking for a job or trying to pass a test. It's really worth the money. It helped me, and I'm sure it will help you too!"


To get a glimpse of our preparation pack, try a free TSA test sample (for both new TSA test and former X-ray & English exam)


TSA Test Results Quick Facts

After the calculation of your test score, you will be placed into one of 3 categories:

  • Best qualified - candidates in this category are the first to get a job offer.
  • Highly qualified – those in this category are chosen second after the ‘best qualified ’ candidates.
  • Qualified - Passed all selection criteria successfully, but will be picked only after those in the two higher categories fill up all available positions.

What Is a Good Score for TSA?

If you got into the TSA CBT Test “best qualified” category, then you have done extremely well. Scoring high is crucial because those who are placed in the best-qualified category have the highest chance of getting the job they want.

The other applicants might have to wait for a job offer for several months up to 2 years.

You may think you can just take the TSA exam again, but that’s not possible. You can’t retake the test during the waiting period to improve your score.

How to Score High on the Test?

To get a really high score, you must understand all question variants and also how to avoid all the traps that most candidates fall into.

We recommend putting in effort to ensure that you pass the test with the highest score you can achieve. Give yourself the competitive edge you need to get a job offer quickly.


To learn more about the TSA scores, visit our complete TSA scoring guide.


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

To get to the TSA CBT test, your first step is to apply for a position online. If your application is accepted, you will go through stages of screening to become a transportation security administration agent, which include:

  • The CBT test
  • Color vision test
  • Medical evaluation
  • Personal interview
  • Drug test
  • Medical condition test
  • Background investigation (Criminal history will be subjected to a thorough investigation)

To learn more about the TSA recruitment process and understand exactly what happens in each stage, visit our TSA hiring process page.


What to do if I couldn’t answer the question within the time limit?

Your final score is based on the number of correct answers. There is no penalty for wrong answers. So, if you're not sure what is the correct answer is, and you are running out of time - take an educated guess. Leave no answer blank on the X-ray test or the writing skills test.

Who can take the TSA CBT test?

Only US citizens who are at least eighteen years old and have a valid high school diploma or equivalent will take the TSA-CBT examination.

How many people pass the TSA test?

Only 30% of test-takers pass the TSA CBT test. In certain cases, those who pass the exam will be asked to retake it to prove that they passed because of their visual and cognitive ability and not by chance.

What happens after you pass the TSA CBT assessment?

After you pass the TSA CBT, you'll receive a Contingent Job Offer and you'll get 14 days to complete several forms, such as the E86 National Security Questionnaire. Additionally, the TSA will run a credit check on you. You must pass this step to advance to the next hiring stages.

What happens if I fail the TSA exam?

If you fail the TSA exam once, you must wait six months before applying for any TSO positions. If you fail the TSA CBT twice, you won’t be able to take the exam again. This means that you will no longer be able to apply for a TSO position.

How much does a Transportation Security Officer make per hour?

A TSO paid approximately $17 per hour. It changes slightly between different airports.

What should I wear to my TSA CBT test?

You can dress “smart casual” for your TSA CBT test. You need to look professional and presentable. However, there's no need to dress up. It's fine to wear a shirt and tie.

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