Prepare for the TSA CBT Test : Guide & Quick Tips

Posted September 20, 2022 by in Career

Do you wish to fly on an airplane? Most likely, you will have to go through the TSA test. What exactly is the TSA? The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for security at all U.S. airports. They screen passengers and baggage to ensure that no dangerous items are brought onto the plane.

Woman walking through airport with rolling luggage

TSA Test Pattern

The test consists of two parts—a written exam and TSA-CBT X-Ray Test

Written Exam

The TSA Written Skills Assessment, or the TSA CBT English test, is a multiple-choice exam consisting of 50-60 questions with a tough time constraint.

This part assesses your English language proficiency in three categories:

  1. Reading Comprehension
  2. Vocab
  3. Written Communication Test

Reading Comprehension

This section assesses your speed-reading ability, detailed knowledge, and general language understanding. Each question has a brief paragraph followed by multiple-choice questions.

Preparation Tips:

Though the task is not more complex than it may appear, with regular practice you’ll be able to answer each question in under 1.5 minutes.


This assessment will put your vocab and spelling abilities to the test. You’ll be given a word and have to select its synonym or antonym from several different options.

Preparation Tips:

To pass this section, review lists of common synonyms, antonyms (words with meanings that are the opposite of each other), homophones (which sound alike but have different spellings and definitions), as well as frequently misspelled words.

Written Communication

On these questions, you will be given a sentence structure and asked to complete the blanks. The difference is that instead of a single-word answer, you’ll have a list of word pairs. Some pairings on the list might work in the blanks with minimal grammatical mistakes, while others will not at all.

Preparation Tips:

Familiarize yourself with common English grammar rules, including subject-verb agreement, pronoun usage, and modifiers. This will help you to identify the errors in each sentence so that you can choose the word pairings that create the most grammatically correct sentences.

TSA-CBT X-Ray Test

The object recognition section of the exam, which consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, is more important than the other segment. This exam measures your ability to identify potential threats in images of baggage and passengers. This section will present you with X-ray images, and you will be asked to choose one of several response options, such as “no threat” or “alarm.”

It would be advisable to use simulations that resemble the real test as closely as possible to progress further in the hiring process. The questions will come in image form and include hidden objects such as knives, guns, working tools, electronics, and even explosives like grenades; You will be using X-ray color patterns to determine which items are safe and which are not.

TSA X-Ray Test Format

The TSA X-Ray Test will give images of luggage with many items to study. You will have two trial runs before the actual test to help you familiarize yourself with what is required. First, try to memorize the shapes of three to six target items in 30 seconds. This way, when you see the next screen, it’ll be easier to identify the correct item out of all those pictured.

Type of Images 

In the X-Ray section of this test, you will see a combination of harmless and dangerous objects in X-Ray images. You may come across threatening items such as guns, knives, bombs, and IEDs.

If you come across any images with no dangerous materials, you are responsible for sounding the alarm if you notice anything illegal in the X-Ray image.

How Complex Will the Images Be?

The high-resolution X-ray images you see will differ in complexity based on how the targets blend or overlap. There is no standard for how complicated an image may be.

While some images will be simpler, some may require you to rotate the item in your mind or find various pieces of the illegal object.

How Many People Pass?

Approximately 30% of test-takers pass the Object Recognition Test, considered the more difficult part of the exam.

In unusual instances, those who pass the exam may be requested to retake it to ensure that they truly passed due to their visual and cognitive capabilities rather than pure chance.

What Are the Testing Circumstances?

Make sure to arrive at the testing center 30-45 minutes before your specified time to fill out any extra forms. The Object Recognition Test consists of two parts, each with a time limit. Only multiple choice questions will be used in the English section of the exam.

How to Read an X-Ray?

It might be difficult to interpret an X-Ray. Finding harmful items while comprehending the many color combinations may be more difficult.

The images are quite clear, especially those that are black and white. The goods may be very apparent, depending on what you’re searching for. The gun, bullets, and computers can all be easily distinguished.

How Do You Interpret X-Ray Colors?

When the photo is not simple, you may use color discrimination. Understanding X-Ray color theory begins with recognizing that color highlights the difference in density of various materials. For example, blue items are denser, whereas red objects are less dense and lighter.


Blue is generally used to represent hard materials like metal, hard polymers, alloys, and other substances. The blue/black scale contains wires, batteries, sunglasses, weapons, etc.


The color green represents less dense plastics and alloys. It will make some electronic devices like phones or computers made out of these materials.


The orange represents any biological material, covering natural items materials like food, rubber, leather, liquids and non-plastic explosives. These colored items are often essential to pay attention to because explosives are partly composed of organic materials like potassium nitrate, glycerin, and TNT. Additionally, drugs like heroin and cocaine are all classified as organic products. 


The red zone indicates objects made of light materials, such as fabric, cartons, or paper. It means that when scanning these objects, the machine encounters little resistance.

How to Prepare for the TSA Test?

To get a high score on the TSA test, use the following tips to prepare.

TSA CBT Test Prep

  1. To get a sense of the test, take a TSA CBT Test Prep with questions and practice papers that resemble the actual exam.
  1. Use this quiz to help you understand the science behind X-ray images to better interpret and analyze them. The in-depth instruction will assist you in comprehending the fundamental techniques required for passing the test.
  1. Learn how to read X-ray images, such as recognizing various materials, identifying items and dangers, and eliminating distractions.
  1. Make sure you study every part of the exam. Each question has a detailed description to assist you in developing a solution plan.

Taking TSA practice tests that mirror the real test will help you get comfortable with the time restrictions while reducing your anxiety. So when it’s time to take the test, you’ll feel confident and ready to succeed.

There is no perfect way to prepare for the test, but by following these tips, you can give yourself the best chance of success.

How to Score High on the Test?

To get the best score possible, you must be familiar with all question types and know how to avoid common traps. We recommend putting in extra effort to make sure you pass the test with a high score. It will give you a competitive advantage and help you get a job offer more quickly.

Aerial view of an airport

If you follow the tips and advice in this guide, you should have no trouble passing the TSA CBT test. Just remember to relax, take your time, and focus on each question. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to breeze through the exam with ease. 

Good luck!