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Special Agent Entrance Exam Explained: Components, Duration, and Prep Tips

The SAEE or The Special Agent Entrance Exam is the exam all potential agents have to pass before embarking on a career as a special agent or in the secret service.

The test is long, difficult, and arduous, but we have compiled a comprehensive guide to help all potential agents succeed and begin a special agent career.

Take the Special Agent Entrance Practice Test to improve your score.

So if you spent your childhood idolizing the Men in Black and Mission Impossible, humming the James Bond theme, or yearning for a spot in Spy Kids, this test and career are for you.

To see all of the components of the SAEE, keep reading!

What Is The SAEE Test?

The SAEE stands for the special agent entrance exam. It is the only examination used to determine eligibility and induction into espionage and secret services like CIA & FBI.

There are two methods for the test:

  1. On a computer with an administrator
  2. A good old-fashioned paper and pencil test with an administrator present in the room

If those wishing to start a secret service or spy career fail the SAEE test, they can wait six months before attempting the exam again. With limited space for test slots, it is best to know your material and prepare once you receive a testing slot.

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What Is On The SAEE Test?

The test has five separate sections:

  1. Logic-Based Reasoning
  2. Experience, Inventory Part One
  3. Language Usage
  4. Experience, Inventory Part Two
  5. Detail Observation

Let’s break down what each of those sections looks like. We will point you to the top practice resources on the internet too, so you can become familiar with the questions.

studying for the exam

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1. Logic-Based Reasoning

This difficult section presents test-takers with thirty questions to complete in a 40-minute time frame. As it is logic-based, there are twelve passages complete with a bunch of facts. The test-taker reads the facts and answers a few questions based on the reading.

Usually, you will read the passage and choose between:

  • True/False/Not enough information to disclose questions
  • More than likely/less likely statements

Be careful in this section, the passages pay attention to minute details, and if you rush through the sections, you will trip up. Take your time, underline, and read each word carefully before moving on to the questions.

Reread each passage and use the context clues from the passages to narrow down your answers and select the best choice.

How to prepare for logic-based reasoning

Job Test Prep is hands down the best resource on the internet to prepare for the SAEE exam. Their prep pack includes:

  • Two practice logic-based reasoning tests
  • 11 drills focusing on mastering the art of logical deduction. AKA helping you determine if there is enough information to decide if a passage has a true or false answer.

Tips for Preparing with the Study Guide:

  • Approach the study guide and practice test as if it is the actual test.
  • Set the timer and read thoroughly but carefully to ensure you pick up every detail.
  • Only base your answer on the information given to you. Even if you think you know the answer based on context clues, solely focus on the written information in front of you.
  • Make sure you understand the difference between each option. This section uses language in a more refined manner than common vernacular. They are trying to be as direct as they can be, which can trick you. Read the passages without bringing any outside information into it. Take it for what it is.
  • Pick the answer you think works.
  • After completing the practice exam, consult the in-depth explanation of the answers and pay attention to sections that tricked you and sections you answered correctly. Pay more attention and spend more time on the sections that you answered incorrectly.
  • Move on to the next practice test and repeat.

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2. Experience, Inventory Part One

This section of the SAEE boasts 64 questions to answer in a 20-minute time frame. You can relax a little bit for this section because it asks you about previous experiences.

It might ask if you ever studied for more than two hours, had a friend sleepover, or hosted a large shin-dig. There are multiple questions the test could ask, and you answer in the capacity you’ve completed the activity.

Example Question:

Have you ever received detention in school?

  • Never
  • Once
  • More than once
  • Many, many times

The test will format the questions in this fashion. Circle the answer that applies to your honest answer and push through the rest of the exam. Don’t spend too much time on a single question.

Preparing for Experience, Inventory

Job Test Prep’s preparation package comes with a personality test to help you ace this portion of the exam.

An inventory experience guide is also included in this prep pack.

Tips for Preparing with the Study Guide:

  • Treat the personality test as the actual test.
  • Answer questions quickly and with honesty.
  • Don’t spend too much time on a particular question because you have a time limit.
  • Once you complete the test, take the time to review the answer explanations. If there are certain personality characteristics you need to show on the secret service exam, consult the personality trait guide to see how to answer those questions.
  • Study your results and repeat until you master the test.

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3. Language Usage

Student is Writing on a paper

This portion of the exam has 25 questions to complete in 40 minutes. This section has two kinds of reports to quiz you with.

  • Memoranda
  • Summary reports

Both mediums have errors throughout the bodies of text. Your job is to find and identify the errors.

Let’s take a look at some common errors in the Language Usage portion.

  • Spelling – Pay attention to misspelled words and note them while reading the passages. If you read too fast, you might skip over important misspelled portions, so here’s another reminder to pay attention to every aspect of the passage. Don’t move too quick, don’t move too slow. To master the speed, practice with the practice tests. And to pick up on misspelled words, practice reading material up until the real test. Quizzing yourself is a great way to improve spelling.
  • Punctuation – This offers pauses and reprieves between words and sentences. Knowing their function of them is essential to passing this test. You need to know when to use them, where, and how. Some examples of punctuation are apostrophes (‘), exclamation marks (!), periods (.), and question marks (?) Commas are tricky if you don’t know how to use them. To refresh your memory, consult books and Job Test Prep’s study guides.
  • Subject-verb agreements – These deal with singular and plural objects and their corresponding verbs. For example, if you have a singular object, you need a singular verb, and if you have a plural amount of objects, you need a verb to account for the number of objects.

Example subject-verb agreement question:

“She is great.” This sentence illustrates one person — she, who is great. The verb “is” applies to one singular person. The incorrect subject-verb agreement for this would be “She are great.” “Are” applies to more than one person, making the verb account for more than one person.

A plural example of a correct subject-verb agreement looks like this. “Jim and James are wonderful.” Jim and James represent two people (a plural) amount and the verb “are” matches their amount. The incorrect use of a subject-verb agreement for this statement would look like this, “Jim and James is wonderful.” The verb “is” represents a single person, but James and Jim are two separate people.

The passages have numbered sentences and will ask you questions relating to the grammar. For example, the test could ask which sentence needs proper punctuation. You choose between all the examples and pick the best choice.

Language Usage Preparation

To practice, read quickly but carefully and note any grammatical issues. When you see the options for the sentences with errors, reread each sentence and see if they have any errors.

They will probably all have errors, so you must pay attention to the particular error the sentence asks about. To hone this skill, you can practice with Job Test Prep’s prep guide. It includes:

  • Two language usage practice tests
  • Six practice drills explaining grammatical errors

Tips for Preparing with the Study Guide:

  • Treat this portion like the real exam.
  • Set the timer and begin reading the passages.
  • Take your time with each section and note any grammar issues you see in your first read.
  • Read the passage again and mark any grammatical issues you missed.
  • Look over all the options for answers and reread each sentence mentioned as an answer.
  • Note any errors in the sentences given for answers.
  • Reread the question and select the best choice.
  • Repeat until you master this section.

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4. Experience, Inventory Part Two

Like the first inventory assessment, this one is about you; however, you need to answer questions describing how people view you. You need to have a pretty good understanding of yourself and be self-aware for this section.

It has 96 questions for you to complete in 30 minutes. The questions revolve around how your supervisors, mentors, or teachers would describe you. Questions can range between your work ethic, attitude, or personality.

Example Question:

An example of one of these questions is: You need extra time to complete your work.

You pick the best option between:

  • Strongly agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

This shouldn’t attack your character, the test administrators and graders use it to get a better understanding of your character and eligibility for the secret service. And be honest, some questions can pick up on dishonest answers.

Experience, Inventory preparation

Job Test Prep’s packet comes with a personality test to assist you in preparing for this portion of the exam. This prep test shows you how to answer questions to illuminate the best parts of your personality.

Plus, how to answer questions that apply to the job but might not align with your personality, so they still consider you for hire.

An inventory experience guide also comes with the prep pack.

Tips for Preparing with the Study Guide:

  • Take the personality test and treat it like the real exam.
  • Answer each question honestly.
  • Resort to the answer explanations. If there are certain personality characteristics you need to show on the secret service exam, consult the personality trait guide to see how to best answer those questions.

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5. Detail Observation

This section of the SAEE uses photographs instead of passages or statements to assess you.

This portion has three photographs and three groups of questions based on each photograph and unrelated to the photographs. The photographs are ones you might see while working as an agent, but the questions following the photos relate to the material in the pictures.

What’s the catch?

You have to use your memory during this exercise because you look at the picture and answer questions that don’t have anything to do with the photos. This segment tests your memory by giving you distractions to interfere with your memories. After you answer these questions, you move on to questions about the photos.

You look at each photo for two and a half minutes, answer the questions not about the photo for five minutes, and after that time runs out, you answer the questions about the photo for six minutes.

For these questions, you answer them without looking at the photos. To the best of your abilities, you answer the questions. The questions can ask about

  • People in the photographs – Try to recall any defining information about the people in the photos. For example, hair color, eye color, skin tone, clothes, demeanor, actions, location, etc.
  • Items in the photographs – Take in the entire photo and pay attention to the different objects in the background and throughout the photo. Was there caution tape in the frame, a lamp, or a bunch of house plants? Or was the photo framed in a desolate, barren part of town?
  • Background of the frame – Similar to location, pay attention to where the photo takes place. Does it appear to be in a big city, a small town, outside, inside, etc.?

Preparing for Detail observation

Job Test Prep’s practice guide includes four practice detail observation tests that help improve your memory and answer questions based on visual data.

Tips for Preparing with the Study Guide:

  • Go into this study guide just like the other ones, treat it like a real test and observe the photos.
  • Assess everything you can about the photo and try to take a mental picture of it.
  • Don’t stress about remembering it during the unrelated questions, as stressing too much about remembering the image might make you forget it.
  • Answer the questions with care.
  • When you get to the questions about the photos, recall the mental image and answer questions to the best of your ability.
  • Repeat until you master this portion.

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How Long Does the SAEE Exam Last?

The overall exam takes over three hours to complete. Make sure to rest, study, and eat properly before heading into the exam room.

The complexity of the exam compares to some of the same difficulties with standardized exams. Still, the SAEE has more complex and trickier questions and additional sections making this test more difficult to pass.

The secret service does not report how many people take or pass the SAEE test, nor what the passing grade for the exam is, but the rates are slim.

To dress for the part, wear formal business clothes like a suit and pants. Also, remember to tie your hair up if you have long hair.

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The Secret Service Does Have a Study Guide

Woman preparing for exam

The Secret Service provides study guides and prep materials for the test, but no other company delves into as much detail as Job Test Prep. While you can also use the help of the secret service’s guides, Job Test Prep will increase your score even more.

This study guide focuses on the main studying tips. General ones that do not break down specific questions you might have trouble with.

General tips work when you begin studying, but if you have difficulty with a detail observation question, the secret service’s study guide does not explain how to answer it correctly. Job Test Prep’s guide breaks down each answer and why the correct choice is correct.

The Secret Service does not supply timed tests, meaning you might spend two hours on a section instead of the hour you have to devote to answering the questions.

If you only practice with this study guide, you will run into trouble and time constraints when you take the real administered exam.

This study guide asks fewer questions than the one Job Test Prep supplies, and it doesn’t bother to give users any help with the personality/ inventory section.

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Why We Prefer Job Test Prep’s Study Guide

Since the secret service does not release the passing scores for any of the sections on the test or the cumulative score required to enlist as an espionage agent, you need to make sure you prepare for the most intense and tricky questions.

We prefer the materials of Job Test Prep over most other test prep companies out there. Here are some additional offerings included with their packages:

  • Job Test Prep has the most understandable guide out of any other market today. They are familiar with the SAEE enough to draft similar questions to the ones asked on the actual exam. And Job Test Prep explains the answer for each question in the study guide. If confused, just resort to the in-depth explanation guide attached to the practice tests and study guides.

This also helps improve your score and notice which sections you need more help with or need to spend more time practicing.

  • The company took the time to research each section of the test and come up with the best practice questions to help real candidates succeed and enroll as espionage agents.

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Secret Service Hiring Process


If you are studying to take the SAEE, you might know the hiring process for the secret service. But here is a refresher for those who are not so familiar with the hiring process.

The process has two phases:

  • Competency Phase
  • Security Phase

Let’s look at what each phase entails.

Competency Phase

  1. When you first discover a job posting for the secret service, you will stumble upon the job recruiting website USAJobs.
  2. Once you decide to move forward with the process, you submit a resume and application for the service to study, review, and assess. If they move forward with your candidacy, you can move on to the SAEE portion of the hiring process.
  3. You complete the three-hour intensive examination.
  4. If you pass, you receive an email from the Secret Service Talent and Employee Acquisition Management Division to move on to the next stage. You will complete a physical exam to measure your capability to handle the daily activities of espionage.
  5. Next is an interview with the service. Probably with someone mid-level or high up in the agency.
  6. If you succeed in all of those categories, you will receive a job offer and you move on to Phase II. The Security Phase.

The Security Phase

  1. You will complete a security interview and undergo a credit check. The service wants to know the kind of person they are hiring. They will conduct interviews with friends and family members as well as former employers. If you have outstanding credit, they might ask additional questions and bring you in for more assessments.
  2. As the Experience, Inventory section on the SAEE could detect if you fabricated some answers, this polygraph test will detect if you lie when answering questions in person. Be careful, though. The polygraph test can also pick up on elevated heart rates, nervousness, and sweating. So if you are generally a nervous person, you might tip off the polygraph detector.
  3. Medical and psychological exam. Depending on the findings, certain medical and psychological issues or disorders disqualify candidates from the secret service.
  4. If you’ve come this far, you go through a background check to find any remaining incriminating information against you, and if you pass…
  5. You enter a hiring panel and might join the team!

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Joining the secret service is difficult and the hiring process takes months — even if you don’t make it through to the end. The SAEE test is the first examination required for admittance into the service. While it is time-consuming and strenuous, Job Test Prep’s study guide and test prep kit can help you prepare for the test.

By using these resources, you have a higher chance of joining the team and becoming a secret agent!

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