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border services officer test

How to prepare and pass the Border Services Officer Test

The Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams

Do you want a rewarding career in law enforcement where you can serve Canada and Canadians?

Do you want a job where you can make a positive difference, have job security,  a good salary, great benefits and a solid pension?Well, you have to pass the test first….

The vast majority of people who take the test fail. I have heard it is around 80% who fail.

From my personal experience, it was the hardest aptitude test I have taken. It was much harder than the both the RCMP and the Provincial Police Tests I have taken in the past. It wasn’t difficult because the questions were so hard. It was difficult because:

1. It is 4 and half hours long – you need endurance for a test this length and you need to be able to manage your time. The test is broken down into sections and each section has its own booklet. When the test facilitators say “stop” that’s it for that section and you need to move on to the next.

2. In my opinion, the RCMP test is more right brain challenging, while the provincial police test was more left brain challenging. The BSOT however, is almost the perfect mix of both. So you must be equally strong in both areas.

3. There is no indication of how many points each question or section is worth so you have to either make your best guess on where to concentrate (I have my suspicions) or apply your efforts evenly. Since there are 178 questions and the total score is out of 900, obviously each question is not necessarily worth the same number of points.

4.. Unless you’ve taken the test before, you have no idea what to expect. You are in effect going in “blind”. The questions can be considerably harder than the examples provided in the info booklet provided by the CBSA.

The BSOT is 4 and half hours long and requires a passing score of at least 585 out of 900.

Officially the CBSA says “Because performance on the Border Services Officer Test does not depend on knowledge of a specific topic, candidates cannot study for this type of test, except for knowing basic mathematics, grammar and spelling.”

This is somewhat true. But you can totally be better prepared and score higher by understanding the format, managing your time, practicing and brushing up on basic Math and English/French.


(from the CBSA website)

The test consists of 15 sub-tests. There are 178 multiple-choice questions.
It takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete the test (this includes the break and administration

The timing of the test is organized as follows:


Candidates are given a study booklet and allowed 20 minutes to study the material. Candidates will need to recall this information to complete sub-tests 6, 7 and 8 in Part 1.

TEST – PART I Candidates are allowed one hour to complete sub-tests 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Candidates are allowed 2 minutes to study 4 photographs in order to complete sub-test 8 and 9.

TEST – PART I (continued) Candidates are given 20 minutes to complete the remainder of Part I (sub-tests 6 to 9). Questions are based on the study booklet and the photo booklet.

BREAK  30 minutes

TEST – PART II  Candidates are given 1¼ hour to complete sub-tests 10 to 15.

So here’s what you need to do to pass….

1. Get this book.

The Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams

2. Practice memory work. –  My suspicion is that the memory portion is worth a lot of points.

3. Brush up on all the basic math and grammar – its all covered in the book!

I recommend using the memory palace technique where you take a location, place or object you are very familiar with and then associate what you need to memorize with it. The stranger the association the better. The Study guide book has exercises so you can practice.

4. Take the practice tests in the book and time yourself. Then comeback a few days later and try again. Don’t run out of time. There is no penalty for a wrong answer so make sure you answer every question.

5. On any section of the test where you are allowed, as soon as the facilitators tell you that you may begin, flip through and answer the types of questions you find the easiest. It is my suspicion that the questions get progressively harder so they must be worth more points as you get deeper into each section. So jump forward and answer what you are good at.

If you do all this, you will be better prepared than any everyone else and can be part of that 20% that is successful.

So click on the image below now and order your copy of the Study Guide from Indigo Chapters.

The Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams

The Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams

How to become a Customs and Immigration Officer in Canada – A job as a Border Services Officer

This post is to help those of you interested in becoming a Customs and Immigration Officer for Canada. In Canada, the duties of a customs or immigration officer are performed by a border services officer. In 2003, the Canada Border Services Agency was created in a response to 9/11 to amalgamate the enforcement and front line processing of Customs, Immigration and the Food plant and animal legislation. The goal was to create an Officer that can perform all functions at the port of entry. I.e. land border, seaport or airport.


Prior to 2003, there were 3 different types of officers at the port of entry, Customs officers, immigration officers and officers from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Now, they are all one…the border services officer.


The mandate of the CBSA is to “provide integrated border services to support national security and public safety priorities and free flow of people and goods, including animals and plants that meet all the requirements under the program legislation.” The official mission is to ensure the security and prosperity of Canada and Canadians by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada.


In a nut shell, the above paragraph captures what the Agency you possibly hope to work for is all about. The CBSA is Canada’s version of the Department of Homeland Security in the US.


Below is the basic overview of the hiring process. Keep in mind that you need to be screened or pass to move on to the next level.


Educational Requirements
I have noticed that this seems to change from time to time. The minimum education requirement I have seen on a job poster is 2 years of post secondary education. That means 2 years of college or University. Previously, high school was sufficient but not any more.


* note that you will have to prove your education through diploma, degree, or official transcript.
*When applying, it helps to get screened into be invited to write the exam for your area of study to be law or enforcement related.


No experience is required to apply, however to get screened in to write the entrance exam you must show that you have experience applying rules, by-laws, legislation, or enforcement, or been in a position of responsibility, position of authority, dealt with the public etc…anything that would help in preparing you for a job where you deal with the public and have to uphold the law or some kind of rules or regulation. Many officers I noticed used to work in banks, customs brokerages, and some type of security.


Where to apply
All applications are now processed online through the Government of Canada Jobs site at www.jobs.gc.ca . If you’re interested you should check periodically or sign up an account and set up an email alert for the type of job you are interested in. At the bottom of the job posting you will see where you can apply directly online. You can complete all the required information directly or copy and paste your cover letter and resume from somewhere else.


In order to get screened into write the test I recommend reading over the key words in the posting and ensure that you have addressed how you meet the requirements or skill sets.
There are many Border Services Officers retiring in the next few years so there should be lots of openings if the economy begins to improve.


For more detail on the entire process visit the CBSA Website where the CBSA breaks down the entire process.


The Border Services Officer Test
This is not an easy test nor is it extremely difficult. It is 4-5 hours in length and is basically an aptitude test. You will need to know Math and English (grammar and spelling). You will need to do memory work and be able to apply logic and reasoning.


You need a minimum pass mark of 585 out of 900.


When I prepared for the exam I used a book called the Police Prep Test available at Chapters or Indigo. Now the same company has Test prep book specifically for Border Service Officers called the Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams. I highly recommend this.

Click on the image below to purchase this book through Indigo Chapters.

The Comprehensive Guide to Canadian Military, Border Services, Corrections and Security Exams

 The reason I recommend this book is because it teaches three crucial aspects to successfully passing the test.


    1. Understanding the format of tests. Going in blind is a huge mistake. The examples on the CBSA website are not indicative of the level of difficulty of the actual test.


    1.  Practising and learning basic memory, logic and reasoning skills, and knowledge of math and English. The book also gives basic training in all these areas.


    1. And lastly, Time! Because the test is timed and the test is broken down to different section, each with a time limit…practising with a timer is crucial. The prep book has practice tests and how long you have for each section so I highly recommend practicing within the time constraints. There are no deduction of marks for wrong answers so the last thing you want to do is not answer a question.


 So if you want the best chance in passing the BSOT I would prepare for it using the above study guide and practice tests.


The CBSA Learning Centre in Rigaud, Quebec
The college in Quebec is where all new recruits must attend and pass POERT, which is Port Of Entry Recruitment Training. The course has varied in length of time. It has run anywhere from 13 weeks – 9 weeks. With the arming of Border Services Officer, at some point firearms training will be part of the curriculum and the length of time at the college will probably increase.


During this time, if you are not already an employee of the Government of Canada, you will not be paid. There is a small weekly allowance now but it’s not even worth mentioning and you most likely won’t see a penny until near the end or when you’ve already finished. There are 2 determination points or testing phases in Rigaud. You must pass both to graduate. The college is stressful and there’s a lot to learn. But if you survive you will come out of it with a job/career with the CBSA and the Government of Canada.


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