MTA Bus Operator Exam 2024 | Ultimate Guide
Shir Enzer

Shir, Civil Service Assessments Expert at JobTestPrep.

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What Is the MTA Bus Operator Exam?

The MTA Bus Operator Exam is the initial screening stage for candidates looking to become bus operators or train conductors. It is one of the most common MTA employment exams and is obligatory for all candidates.

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

This page offers practice questions for both! Click on these links to jump to the relevant part on this page:

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).


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What Does the MTA Bus Operators Test Look Like?

The exam bus operators/train conductors 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. 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 Test>>

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 Test

✯ What is the MTA BOSS?

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.

Here are some practice questions for you to consider:

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.

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.

✯ MTA Multiple-Choice Exam Practice Questions

The test includes questions on the following topics:

Written Comprehension

This section measures our ability to make correct conclusions based on text passages. You may be asked which of several statements is true/false based on the text, or asked a direct question that the passage contains the answer to.

Here's a practice question for you to try:

Dealing with a personal fire

If your clothes catch fire don’t run around; you will fan the flames and make them burn faster. The correct thing to do is to lie down as this makes it harder for the fire to spread and reduces the effect of flames on your face and head (flames burn upwards), smother the flames, and cover the flames with heavy material, like a coat or blanket; this blocks the fire's source of oxygen. Roll around – rolling smothers the flames.

If your escape route is blocked:

If you’re on the ground floor, go out of a window – throw bedding or cushions onto the ground outside to break your fall. If you can’t open the window, use a heavy object to break it at the bottom corner and cover any jagged edges with clothing, a towel or a blanket. Lower children as far as possible before letting them drop. Get an adult to break their fall if you can. Lower yourself by your arms from the window ledge before dropping.
If you can’t get out, get everyone into one room: choose a room with a window and, if you can, put cushions, towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block smoke; open the window and call for help. Think now about which room might be best for this – you need a window that can be opened and, if possible, a phone for calling 999.

Which of the following statements is correct?

A. Allow children to jump out of the window if there is a blanket below.
B. Even if the escape route is blocked, try to get it open for other people to use.
C. Put cushions in a safe room so everyone will be comfortable.
D. Use soft materials to break your fall.
Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer
The correct answer is D. The text states: "throw bedding or cushions onto the ground outside to break your fall."

Written Expression

This section will check our punctuation, spelling, restatement and paragraph organization abilities to see if you can use written English in a way that is clear to others.

Here's a free practice question from this category:

Select the answer choice that represents the most appropriate and effective ordering of the sentences:

1. Before actually deciding upon a correctional officer, people usually think about endless possibilities.

2. Choosing a career in the correction services is an important decision to make.

3. In summary, after lots of thought and information, you can make the best decision for yourself.

4. It is important to think about yourself in different situations; and in doing so, you will come up with your personal interests, goals and abilities.

A. 1324
B. 2134
C. 2143
D. 1342
Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer

The correct answer is C.

Looking at the sentence choices, sentence 3 starts with "in summary" which indicates the end of a paragraph, as it concludes the main idea after it had already been discussed. It would not make sense to place "in summary" in the middle. Therefore, you can eliminate A, B and D.

Another way of solving this is by looking at the answer options. Looking at the answer options you can see the first sentence will either be sentence 1 or 2. Sentence 2 is a general sentence introducing or summarizing the paragraph while sentence 1 is particular, indicating it is a support sentence. So you can eliminate all options that start with sentence 1, which is A and D. Options B and C both have the first two sentences as 2 and 1, so now you only need to determine what the last two sentences are. Sentence 3 starts with "in summary" which indicates it is a summary of the paragraph, which would make it a great closing sentence. Sentence 4, on the other hand, is a support sentence; it justifies a point rather than summarizing it. Remember, an excellent paragraph introduces the idea (introduction sentences), then has 2-3 sentences supporting the idea (supporting sentences), and finally summarizes the information given (closing sentence).

Arranged correctly it should read:

Choosing a career in the correction services is an important decision to make. Before actually deciding upon a correctional officer, people usually think about endless possibilities. It is important to think about yourself in different situations; and in doing so, you will come up with your personal interests, goals and abilities. In summary, after lots of thought and information, you can make the best decision for yourself.

Short Term Memorization

This category will measure your memory abilities by showing you information for a short duration for you to memorize and then asking questions about what you saw.
The full preparation pack includes times short-memory practice drills just like the one on the MTA exam.

Problem Sensitivity

This section tests your problem-finding abilities. This includes discrepancies, large-scale or small-scale issues, and so on.
Here's a question you can try yourself:
A murder took place on January 12, 2013 at 11:34 PM at the victim’s residence on 65th Street,New York City.  One of the suspects, Ryan, claimed that at that he was on the train with four of his friends from Boston at that time.  Each of his four friends described that night as follows:

Friend 1: “I picked up Ryan from the hotel in Boston at 10:30 PM. We arrived at the train station fifteen minutes later and boarded the 11:15 PM train. I listened to music and saw Ryan sleeping across from me on the train until we arrived in New York at 2:30 AM.”

Friend 2: “I arrived at the train station in Boston at 10:15 PM for our 11:15 PM train. I was with Ryan from the moment he arrived at the train station thirty minutes later until we arrived in New York at around 2:30 AM when I saw Ryan get in a cab home.”

Friend 3: “When I got to the train station at 11:00 PM, Ryan was already there. We got on the 11:15 PM train and all sat together. I watched a movie and saw Ryan stretched out across two seats eating a big bag of chips and reading a magazine during the ride. We arrived in New York at 2:30 AM and I saw Ryan get in a cab home.”

Friend 4: “I picked up Ryan to catch our 11:15 PM train from Boston to New York. We arrived at the train station thirty minutes early and Ryan and I went to buy some snacks and a magazine which we ate and read on the train. When arrived in New York at 2:30 AM Ryan and I split a cab home.”
Given this information, there is a problem with the description given by friend:
A. 1
B. 2
C. 3
D. 4
Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer
The correct answer is A.

The first thing to notice is that both Friend 1 and Friend 4 claimed to have picked up Ryan to go to the train station in Boston. Since both of them could not have picked him up, there must be a problem with one of their descriptions. Friend 1 said he saw Ryan sleeping on the train, which contradicts what Friend 3 and friend 4 said, that Ryan was snacking and reading a magazine on the train. 

Deductive Reasoning

This subtest deals with applying general rules to more specific problems. This means checking if a rule applies, and understanding which of the answers breaks/follows the rule.
Try this question to see what it's like:
 The following table describes the minimum amount of emergency personnel that need to respond in different situations:

  Police Firefighters Paramedics 

Class I Fire




Class II Fire




Class III Fire




Crime With No Injuries




Crime With Minor Injuries




Crime with Serious Injuries




Class I Car Crash




Class II Car Crash




Class III Car Crash




Which of the following statements is true?
A. All car crashes have the same number of minimum responders.
B. A crime with serious injuries requires more responders than a Class III car crash.
C. A Class III fire requires the greatest number of all types of responders.
D. Firemen do not need to respond to crimes.
Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer
The correct answer is B.

A crime with serious injuries requires 5 policemen, 2 firefighters, and 2 paramedics. In total, it requires 9 responders (5 + 2 + 2 = 9). A Class III car crash requires 3 policemen, 2 firefighters, and 3 paramedics. In total it only requires 8 responders (3 + 2 + 3 = 8). 

Answer A is incorrect. All car crashes require the same number of policemen and firemen, but the number of paramedics change based on the class of the car crash. 

Answer C is incorrect. A Class III fire only requires 4 policemen, while a crime with a serious injury requires 5 policemen.

Answer D is incorrect. 2 firemen are required to respond to
crimes with serious injuries. 

Inductive Reasoning

This category has you combine separate pieces of information to solve specific problems or infer general rules or conclusions.
The preparation pack offered on this page includes both text and graph-based versions of these questions, so you're fully prepared for your test.

Ordering Information

Here, you will need to follow rules to arrange numbers, shapes, or locations in the correct order. 
Here is a math version of this question, which you may encounter:
Complete the last two terms of the number series:
0.0002, 0.0004. 0.002. 0.004. 0.02. 0.04, ____?, ____?
A. 0.02. 0.004
B. 0.2, 0.4
C. 0.042. 0.0042 D
. 0.2, 0.004
Correct Answer
Incorrect Answer

The correct answer is B.

This series advances according to two rules:
(1) Odd terms- increase by x10
(2) Even terms- increase by x10

0.0002 , 0.0004 , 0.002 , 0.004 , 0.02 , 0.04 , 0.2 , 0.4

✯ Succeeding in the MTA Multiple-Choice Exam

This 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 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 tests on the MTA's website.

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