How to Prepare for TSA CBT Test: 7 Proven Tips to Score High

If you’re gearing up for the TSA CBT test, securing a job offer is likely your top priority.

To ensure you’re fully prepared, follow these 7 actionable preparation tips that cover everything from understanding the test format to mastering time management strategies.

Your success on the TSA CBT test can open doors to a fulfilling career in Transportation Security, and these tips are designed to enhance your readiness for the challenges that lie ahead.

Let’s delve into each tip to equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to ace the test and pave the way for a successful career with the TSA.

Ensure You’re Preparing for the Right Test Version

As of 2023, the TSA started to administer a new TSA CBT test in some of the airports (check our guide for the new TSA test here).

However, many airports are still using the previous TSA CBT test, which confuses many candidates who are not sure which test they’re about to take.

The only way to know for sure which version you’re going to take and avoid the frustration and disappointment of preparing for the wrong test is by looking at your email inbox.

Open the email you received from TSA with the exam invitation. If it includes the following lines, you’re taking the new TSA CBT Test:

This assessment is not an English language proficiency assessment. Overall testing time varies between candidates. However, you can expect to spend an average of 25-45 minutes in the test center.”

Otherwise, you’re taking the previous TSA CBT test.

Start Preparing As Soon As You Get the Exam Invitation

Since you only have two chances to pass the TSA CBT test, and you must wait six months between attempts, it’s important to start preparing as soon as you get the email invitation.

Failing the test twice means you won’t be able to apply for a TSO position. Beginning your preparation early allows you to use your time wisely and learn about the exam thoroughly.

Recognizing the limited chances and potential career impact of not passing the TSA CBT emphasizes the importance of early preparation.

By starting early, you not only maximize your chances of success. You also allow enough time to thoroughly understand the test structure, content, and any specific requirements, setting a solid foundation for effective preparation.

Know the Exam Inside Out

For the older version, there are two parts: an X-ray Object Recognition test with 100 X-ray images and an English proficiency section with 50-60 questions. It takes 2.5 hours to complete.

The new version has three sections – 2D to 3D Shape Folding, Connect the Dots, and Shape Matching, taking 25-45 minutes.

Delving into the specifics of each version clarifies what to expect on test day. The breakdown of the sections, question types, and time allocations gives you a roadmap for focused preparation.

Knowing the differences between the two versions allows you to tailor your study plan to the exact requirements of the version you will be facing.

Use Free Practice Resources to Get a Feel for the Test

To get a feel for the TSA CBT test, use free practice resources. Online platforms, sample questions, and practice exams can help you understand the test structure and types of questions you may encounter.

Utilizing free practice resources serves as a cost-effective way to gain exposure to the test format.

These resources not only offer a glimpse into the style of questions but also allow you to gauge your initial proficiency and identify areas that require more attention. It’s a practical approach to building confidence and competence before the actual exam.

Here are three sample questions to give you a taste of the actual exam:

X-ray Object Recognition Sample Question

Can you spot a knife in this X-ray image?

TSA X-ray Test Sample Question

TSA CBT Test X-ray Example - correct answer

There is a knife in this question. The item encircled is a kitchen knife, which may be a bit difficult to notice since it is from a top view.

TSA English Written Skills Sample Question

Please identify which type of error appears in the sentence below, if any.

The investigator is averse to conforming to the rules imposed upon him by the law but admits that he has no plan on breaking said rules.

A. Grammar
B. Spelling
C. Punctuations and capitalization
D. No errors

The correct answer is A.

“Plan” should be followed by the preposition “to,” not “on”- “plan to” discusses the actions, the intention to do something, while “plan on” discusses assumptions or predictions.

TSA Shapes Match Sample Question (New Test Version)

Please choose the figure that is the same as the one presented below, as fast as you can:

new TSA test shape match sample question
TSA test shape match sample answer 1
TSA test shape match sample answer 2
TSA test shape match sample answer 3
TSA test shape match sample answer 4
TSA test shape match sample answer 5

The correct answer is the 4th one.

Take more sample questions for both test versions on this page.

Get Used to Working Under Time Pressure

Time is crucial during the TSA CBT test. Get used to working efficiently within the given time constraints. Practice time management strategies during your preparation to ensure you can navigate through questions swiftly and accurately on the actual test day.

Time management is a critical skill for success in the TSA CBT test. Actively practicing under time pressure conditions helps refine your ability to allocate time wisely across different sections.

This skill not only aids in completing the test within the time limits but also contributes to maintaining accuracy, ensuring that rushed decisions don’t compromise the quality of your responses.

Consider Taking Full-length Practice Tests

Simulate actual testing conditions by taking full-length practice tests. This helps you get accustomed to the exam’s duration and identifies any potential challenges you may face. Evaluate your performance and focus on areas that need improvement.

Full-length practice tests serve as dress rehearsals for the real exam, allowing you to experience the entire testing process. This simulation helps in building the stamina and mental endurance required for a test that spans several hours.

Additionally, the post-test analysis provides valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses, enabling a targeted approach to further refine your preparation strategy.

This excellent test prep site provides dozens of accurate full-length practice tests for both versions of the test.

Learn Tricks & Techniques to Cut Down on Solving Time

Identifying and implementing time-saving techniques is akin to unlocking shortcuts to success.

These tricks can significantly impact your speed and accuracy. Integrating these methods into your practice routine not only refines your skills but also empowers you to navigate the test with a heightened level of confidence and proficiency.

Here are two examples of such techniques:

  • Grasping the significance of colors proves highly beneficial when gearing up for the X-ray section. It helps you become acquainted with the traits of the objects under examination. The color serves as an indicator of the density of the scanned items. Simply put, the denser the material, the darker it will show up in the X-ray image.
  • Search items on an X-ray image using a method to make sure you don’t miss anything. Try scanning the bags in snake-like movements or dividing the suitcase into four parts and searching each one separately. Don’t forget to examine the outlines of the suitcase/bag for items that might be hidden there.

Additional useful tips and techniques are found on this page.


By grasping the ins and outs of the TSA CBT test and using these practical tips, you set yourself up for success in landing that sought-after position.

These strategies not only boost your performance during the test but also improve your chances of getting a job offer.

Keep in mind, being prepared builds confidence, and as you tackle the TSA CBT test, you’re ready to showcase your skills and start a rewarding career in Transportation Security.