Learn How to Pass the MTA Bus Operator Exam - JobTestPrep
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What Is the MTA Bus Operator Exam?

The MTA Bus Operator Exam is the initial screening stage you will go through when applying to a bus operator or train conductor position. It is one of the most common MTA employment exams and is obligatory to all candidates.

There are two types of exams you might take as part of the bus driver exam:

Note: The multiple-choice and BOSS tests are used by all of MTA’s subsidiary and affiliated agencies, including MTA Bus Company, New York City Transit (NYCT) and MaBSTOA (Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority).


What Does the MTA Bus Operator Test Look Like?

As I mentioned before, the bus/train operator exam has two forms: BOSS and Multiple Choice. These two tests are completely different in nature, so it is crucial that you first understand which test you will be taking. 

To find out, have a look at the "Type of Test" box on the top right-hand side of your NOE (notification of examination):

Case I

If the term “See the Selection Process Section” appears, it is most likely you will be taking the BOSS exam. You can indeed take a look at the selection process section on the NOE to make sure.

How To Apply To MTA

Source: MTA's official notice of examination (NOE)

Go to: BOSS Exam>>

Case II

If the term ‘multiple choice’ appears in the box, you’re expected to take the MC exam.

MTA Free Exam

Source: MTA's official notice of examination (NOE)

Go to: Multiple-Choice Exam

The MTA Hiring Process

Becoming an MTA bus operator has a 4-stage hiring process: 

1. Apply

You must apply online for most jobs at the MTA. Do do this, you need an e-mail address. Make sure that your e-mail address is professional- an e-mail that includes simply your first and last name is best. You need to fill out all of the application pages and give details on your educational background, contact information, and past job experience. You will also need to attach a copy of your resume. Once you have found a job that you want to apply to, you can select the job and add it to your Job Basket. Make sure that you fit the requirements for the job that you want, and then click on Apply for Jobs in my Job Basket to complete your application.

2. Take an MTA employment exam

Any candidate for the conductor, operator, or driver positions is required to sit the MTA employment exam. Successful candidates will be contacted for an interview at any point following the MTA assessment, even years later.

3. Drug test & medical exam

All candidates must pass a drug test and a medical exam (physical) to get hired.

4. Interview

This is the last step of the application process, and only candidates who achieved a high score on their pre-employment test will be asked to complete an interview. For your interview, you should arrive ten minutes early and dress professionally. You may find it helpful to practice with a friend ahead of time so that you will feel confident and prepared for your interview. 

MTA Hiring Process


How Long Does It Take the MTA to Hire?

After applying, you will usually wait 3-4 months to your test. If you pass the MTA Bus Operator Exam successfully, you will be called to an interview whenever job vacancies are available. That may take from several weeks to several years, all depending on the number of open jobs and your ranking in the candidate pool.

MTA Bus Operator/Conductor BOSS Exam

✯ What is the MTA BOSS Exam?

The BOSS (Bus Operator Selection Survey) Exam was developed in 1996 by EB Jacobs and APTA (American Public Transportation Association) and is used by various public transportation employers in the U.S, the major of which is the MTA.

It is a personality profiling test, which means it evaluates your personality traits and whether they are a good fit for the job.

✯ Your Score on the MTA BOSS Exam

The scoring of the BOSS Exam is on a pass/fail basis. According to official MTA data, around one-third of candidates who show the least suitable personality traits for a bus conductor are disqualified at this stage.

✯ Structure of the MTA BOSS Exam

The test contains 75 questions to be solved in 75 minutes, and revolves around 3 main themes, each containing 2-4 sub-themes:

I) Being There

(a) Are you a dependable employee?

(b) Do you adhere to schedules?

II) Being Safe

(a) Do you adhere to safety regulations and make responsible decisions regarding safety?

(b) Is your driving safe?

(c) Do you pay attention to details when it comes to safety?

III) Being Courteous

(a) Are your interactions with others agreeable and polite?

(b) Do you have a good service orientation?

(c) How well do you interact with your superiors?

(d) How well do you interact with your coworkers?

To measure all those sub-themes, the BOSS exam uses a sophisticated set of questions, with approximately 7-8 questions for each topic. All of these questions are formulated in the following manner:

You will be presented with a statement and will then be requested to rank how much you agree with that particular statement.

While the test is long, there are many questions that ask you essentially the same thing. Therefore, your answers should be consistent throughout the entire exam.

BOSS Exam Sample question

MTA Free Exam
How Should You Answer This Question?

When deciding how to answer this question, you may debate whether you should show that you like to be very focused when you do your job, or whether you should show that you're approachable even when concentrating on other things.

After some contemplation, you may be tempted to choose an indecisive answer (Neither Agree nor Disagree or the middle number in the Likert rating scale).

Responding indecisively throughout the test can lead evaluators to conclude that you're an indecisive person and that you didn't handle the testing situation well. Indecisiveness won't help your application, nor will employers appreciate it.

For cases in which you are tempted to select the neutral option, we recommend that you reconsider and evaluate which answer more appropriately represents the qualities that are suited to the position you have applied for.

For example, if you're going to work as a customer service representative, you should show that you are very approachable. Yet you are applying for a bus operator position, and as important as it is to have a service-oriented approach, your utmost priority is safety. Therefore, it would be expected of you not to allow distractions while driving.

Note that despite the aforementioned rule, it is okay to occasionally choose the middle answer. However, if you answer this way for a large number of questions, it will be seen as a problematic pattern.


✯ Succeeding in the MTA BOSS Exam

The BOSS Exam is no easy task to complete successfully. You need to be both consistent and understand what the MTA expects from its employees. On top of that, the test has a 75-minute time constraint. To score high and make it to the next stage, we recommend paying attention to the 3 following tips:

Tip #1 – Get used to personality questions and reduce stress

Unlike most personality tests, the BOSS has a strict time limit of 1 minute per question on average. In other words, you have one minute to read, analyze, interpret and decide the desirable response for each and every statement or scenario. All that stress makes it even more essential than usual to get familiar with the various questions that may appear on the exam.

When it comes to personality tests, stress might result in carelessness, over-investment or indecisiveness, all of which will be monitored by your BOSS exam administrator and might affect your score.

Tip #2 - Change Your Behavior, Not Your Personality

It is likely that you have multiple personas. You may have a “professional persona,” which is responsible, meticulous, and courteous. You may also have a “home persona,” which is irresponsible, unorganized, and has some temper. While you may possess both personas, you are still the same person.

However, on employment personality tests, it is vital to portray only your “professional persona.” This may sound deceptively simple; however, upon taking a practice test, you will start to understand why this point is worth mentioning. After looking at the answers for the first few questions, you will be amazed at how your answers may unwittingly work against you.

Tip #3 – Consider “Right” and “Wrong” Answers

Those who administer personality tests like to claim that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers and often refer to personality tests as personality “questionnaires” instead of “tests.” This is untrue.

A personality assessment aims to find the person who has a profile suitable for a specific position; clearly, then, that there ARE right and wrong answers associated with specific positions.

Preparing for the personality test in advance will allow you to become well-acquainted with the types of questions asked and what the optimal answers are.

Bonus Tip: the principles you learn on your BOSS exam preparation will also serve you in your interview. After all, that is what your employer is looking for. Consider rehearsing your BOSS exam practice material a couple of days before the interview.

MTA Multiple-Choice (MC) Exam

✯ What Is the MTA Multiple-Choice Exam?

The MTA Multiple-Choice Exam for operators and conductors is a pre-employment test that focuses primarily on cognitive ability. That is, your ability to learn new ideas and solve problems. Below you can see the list of subjects appearing on the exam, and a sample question of each.

✯ Your Score on the MTA Multiple-Choice Exam

A passing score is 70% and higher. Anyone with this score or above it is eligible for a position on the MTA’s employment list. However, your score is then compared to the rest of the applicants, and the candidates with the highest scores will be the first to move on to the next stage. Considering that you might sometimes spend several YEARS on the MTA's waiting list, it is crucial that you rank at the top of the candidates' pool.

✯ Structure of the MTA Multiple-Choice Exam

The test includes questions on the following topics:

➛ Written Comprehension

These questions will test your ability to understand and draw conclusions from written texts.
Sample Question

➛ Written Expression

These questions aim to measure your ability to properly use the English language in writing.

Sample Question

➛ Inductive Reasoning

Here you will be requested to come to a general conclusion based on several events or rules.

Sample Question

➛ Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning questions assess your ability to draw conclusions regarding specific incidents based on general rules.

Sample Question

➛ Information Ordering

Such questions will require you to arrange a set of things or actions according to certain pre-determined logical rules.

Sample Question

➛ Problem Sensitivity

This section of the exam will test your ability to identify and prioritize problems in general, as well as their specific components.

Sample Question

➛ Spatial Orientation

Spatial orientation is the ability to determine the locations of objects relative to each other or to you.

Sample Question

➛ Visualization

These questions measure your ability to visualize a certain object that has been transformed in some way – how it will appear after being moved, disassembled or rotated.

Sample Question

➛ Mechanical Aptitude

Mechanical aptitude is the ability to understand and apply general physical principles to specific, everyday situations.

Sample Question

➛ Short-Term Memorization

Short-term memorization is your ability to remember data immediately after viewing or hearing it. Such data may be addresses, number or letter combinations, etc.

Sample Question

✯ Succeeding in the MTA Multiple-Choice Exam

The multiple-choice exam assesses a completely different set of skills than the BOSS exam and should be treated as such. To maximize your score and reach the top scorers, use the 3 following tips:

Tip #1 – Practice timed tests

As any cognitive ability test, the MTA MC exam takes two factors in mind – solving problems and time.

Therefore, although it is highly important to practice the test material, learn the techniques and perfect your ability to solve the MTA Multiple-Choice exam questions, that's only half the work. Solving 100% of the questions in double the time means one thing and one thing only – failure.

That is why practicing timed simulations is so critical. It will not only help you solve better and faster, but will also:

  • Get you to know yourself – where are your weak spots and what requires more practice.
  • Push you towards mastering new time-saving techniques that will be essential in the grand scheme of things.
  • Teach you how to allocate time wisely and alleviate stress.

For the reading comprehension section, try to read a range of written materials such as newspapers, books, and magazines. While reading, ask yourself what the main point of the passage is, what is the author's point of view, and what are the different opinions shown in the piece. 

Tip #2 – First things first

Each test emphasizes different aspects of cognitive ability, based on the qualities required of employees. The list of subjects on the MTA Multiple-Choice Exam is long, but based on our many years' experience, some subjects will be more common than others.

That is why we have designed the MTA PrepPack™ to guide you from first to last. That is especially important if you're short on time!

Tip #3 – Use the last day before the exam to rehearse everything

It is recommended to dedicate the last day before the exam to brush up on all the test subjects. Research shows that we tend to forget things we've learned in the first couple of days. Re-practicing all test subjects on the last day will solidify the material in your mind.

What Are the Next Steps after the MTA Jobs Exams?

After you have finished the test, you will receive a letter in the mail that contains your list number. It may take from a month to one year for you to receive your list number, so be patient. The higher your score, the more likely it is that you will be called for an interview. That is why it is so important that you practice for your test. Exams are usually given only once every four years, so don't miss out on your chance to get hired as a conductor or bus operator for the MTA.


How Long Is the Hiring Process to Be an MTA Bus Operator or an MTA Conductor?

It can take up to a year to be contacted by the MTA after you receive your list number. However, it may take up to three years if you passed the BOSS test, but didn't score high enough to be a preferred candidate. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the difference between a train conductor and a train operator? 

A train conductor is more of a customer service agentthey are in charge of opening and closing the train doors, making announcements, and helping customers. The train operator is the worker who drives the train and is responsible for all aspects of operating the train. 

Who is eligible to be a train operator?

To be a train operator, you must have a valid New York State driver's license, a high school diploma (or equivalent), and one year of work experience. (Conductors only need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent.)

Can I review my application before submitting it?

Yes, you can review your application before submitting it, and it is highly recommended that you check your application and resume for spelling errors before hitting send.

I took my test and still haven't heard back. What should I do?

It can take several months for you to receive your letter from the MTA. Try to be patient.

How can I find the answers to my test?

There are proposed answer keys for all of the MTA Multiple-Choice exams on the MTA's website.


MTA Bus Operator and Train Conductor and other trademarks are the property of their respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with JobTestPrep or this website
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