Preparing for the ATF Special Agent Exam

Sample Questions

This booklet provides samples of the types of questions found in the ATF special agent exam. Each test is divided into three parts: Part A, Verbal Reasoning; Part B, Quantitative Reasoning; and Part C, Investigative Reasoning. The sample questions in this booklet are similar to the questions you will find in the actual tests in terms of difficulty and form.


Part A — Verbal Reasoning

In each of these questions you will be given a paragraph which contains all the information necessary to infer the correct answer. Use only the information provided in the paragraph. Do not speculate or make assumptions that go beyond this information. Also, assume that all information given in the paragraph is true, even if it conflicts with some fact known to you. Only one correct answer can be validly inferred from the information contained in the paragraph.

Pay special attention to quantifiers such as “all,” “none,” and “some.” Also, pay special attention to negative prefixes and negated verbs. For example, from a paragraph in which it is affirmed that “it is not the case that all contracts are legal,” one can validly infer that “some contracts are not legal” or that “some contracts are illegal,” or that “some illegal things are contracts,” but one cannot validly infer that “no contracts are legal,” or that “some contracts are legal.” Similarly, from a paragraph that states “all contracts are legal” and “all contracts are bipartite,” one can infer that “some bipartite things are legal,” but one cannot validly infer that “all bipartite things are legal.”

Bear in mind that in some tests, universal quantifiers such as “all” and “none” often give away incorrect response choices. That is not the case in this test. Some correct answers will refer to “all” or “none” of the members of a group.

Be sure to distinguish between essential information and unessential, peripheral information. That is to say, in a real test question, the example above (“all contracts are legal” and “all contracts are bipartite”) would appear in a longer, full-fledged paragraph. It would be up to you to separate the essential information from its context and then to realize that a response choice that states “some bipartite things are legal” represents a valid inference and hence the correct answer.

Sample questions 1 and 2 are examples of the verbal reasoning items on the test.

Question 1

During an investigation, a lead will be investigated if, and only if, it is deemed credible by a Special Agent. Leads will generally be considered credible when the information comes from a trusted source. To increase the chances of finding credible leads, some Special Agents spend time building relationships with informants. Informants are often useful in verifying information about suspects under investigation, such as the suspects’ identities and addresses. If an informant provides accurate information about a lead, the chances of successful prosecution are increased.

From the information provided above, it can be validly concluded that:

  • A.  The chances of a successful prosecution are increased if an informant provides accurate information about a lead.
  • B.  If an informant provides accurate information about a lead, then the chances of successful prosecution are decreased.
  • C.  If it is determined that a lead will not be investigated, then the lead was deemed credible by a Special Agent.
  • D.  All Special Agents spend time building relationships with informants.
  • E.  None of the investigators who spend time building relationships with informants are special agents.

The correct answer is response “A." The essential information from which the answer can be inferred is contained in the last sentence of the paragraph. This sentence states, “If an informant provides accurate information about a lead, the chances of successful prosecution are increased.” Since response “A” refers to a circumstance in which an informant provided accurate information about a lead, we know that, in that circumstance, the chances of successful prosecution are increased.

Response “B” is wrong because it contradicts the information in the last sentence of the paragraph. From that sentence, it can be concluded that if an informant provides accurate information about a lead, then the chances of successful prosecution are increased.

Response “C” cannot be inferred because the paragraph does not provide information about the circumstances under which a lead will not be investigated if it was deemed credible by a special agent.

Response “D” is cannot be inferred because the paragraph does not support the statement that all special agents spend time building relationships with informants. It may be that some special agents do not spend time building relationships with informants.

Response “E” is wrong because it contradicts the information in the third sentence of the paragraph. From that sentence, it can be concluded that some of the investigators that spend time building relationships with informants are special agents.

 

Question 2

All successful law enforcement officers are required to perform satisfactorily on tests of physical fitness. Physical fitness is key to an officer’s ability to apprehend suspects, cope effectively with long work shifts, interact with uncooperative individuals, and recover from injuries that may occur in the line of duty. After a serious accident, law enforcement officers that are physically fit have a greater chance of returning to duty. Some physical abilities, such as using firearms, are not often used in the line of duty. The fact that some abilities are not used daily does not diminish their importance.

From the information provided above, it can be validly concluded that:

  • A.  All officers that are required to perform satisfactorily on physical fitness tests are successful.
  • B.  None of the abilities often used in the line of duty are physical in nature, such as using firearms.
  • C.  Every officer that is required to perform satisfactorily on a physical fitness test is unsuccessful on duty.
  • D.  At least some law enforcement officers that are required to perform satisfactorily on physical fitness test are successful.
  • E.  None of the physical abilities, such as using a firearm, are used often in the line of duty.

The correct answer is response “D.” The essential information from which the answer can be inferred is contained in the first sentence of the paragraph. This sentence states “all successful law enforcement officers are required to perform satisfactorily on tests of physical fitness.” Since response “D” refers to a circumstance in which law enforcement officers are required to perform satisfactorily on tests of physical fitness, it can be inferred that these law enforcement officers are successful.

Response “A” is incorrect because the paragraph does not provide enough information to infer whether or not all law enforcement officers that are required to perform satisfactorily on tests of physical fitness are successful. The paragraph only supports that officers that are successful are required to perform satisfactorily on tests of physical fitness.

Response “B” is incorrect because the paragraph does not provide enough information to infer whether or not abilities that are often used in the line of duty are physical in nature.

Response “C” is incorrect because it contradicts the information in the first sentence of the paragraph. From that sentence, it can be concluded that all law enforcement officers that are required to perform satisfactorily on a physical fitness test are successful on duty.

Response “E” is incorrect because the paragraph does not provide enough information to infer that no physical abilities are often used in the line of duty. The paragraph only supports that some physical abilities are not often used in the line of duty.


Part B — Quantitative Reasoning

In this part you will have to solve problems formulated in both verbal and numeric form. You will have to analyze a paragraph in order to set up the problem, and then solve it. Sample questions 3 and 4 are examples of the first set of quantitative reasoning questions in the test. The use of calculators will not be permitted during the actual testing; therefore, they should not be used to solve these sample questions.

Question 3

A police department purchases badges at $16 each for all graduates of the police training academy. The last training class graduated 10 new officers. What is the total amount of money the department will spend for badges for these new officers?

  • A.  $70
  • B.  $116
  • C.  $160
  • D.  $180
  • E.  $200

The correct response is "C." It can be obtained by computing the following:

16 × 10 = 160

The badges are priced at $16 each. The department must purchase 10 of them for the new officers. Multiplying the price of one badge ($16) by the number of graduates (10) gives the total price for all of the badges.

Responses A, B, D, and E are the result of erroneous computations.

 

Question 4

An investigator rented a car for six days and was charged $450. The car rental company charged $35 per day plus $.30 per mile driven. How many miles did the investigator drive the car?

  • A.  800
  • B.  900
  • C.  1,290
  • D.  1,500
  • E.  1,750

The correct answer is "A." It can be obtained by computing the following:

6(35) + .30X = 450

The investigator rented the car for six days at $35 per day, which is $210; $210 subtracted from the total charge of $450 leaves $240, the portion of the total charge which was expended for the miles driven. This amount divided by the charge per mile ($240/.30) gives the number of miles (800) driven by the investigator.

Responses B, C, D, and E are the result of erroneous computations.


Sample questions 5 and 6 are examples of the second set of questions in part B. In this set you will be presented with a short passage, which describes a set of facts. Read the passage carefully and then evaluate each conclusion against the following options:

  • True, which means that you can infer the conclusion from the facts given.
  • False, which means that the conclusion cannot be true given the facts.

The Gun Control Act was enacted in 1968 to: 1) regulate imported firearms, 2) expand licensing and record keeping requirements for firearms dealers, 3) place limitations on the sale of handguns, and 4) define persons who are banned from buying firearms. The Gun Control Act prohibits the sale of firearms to convicted felons and fugitives. If an individual is found to be selling or transferring firearms to a convicted felon, fugitive or illegal alien, then that individual can be sentenced to a prison term of up to 60 months.

The Gun Control Act was amended by the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. This act states that all persons engaged in the dealing, manufacturing or importing of firearms must obtain a Federal firearms license (FFL). Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received and inspected approximately 14,000 applications for new FFLs and 23,000 applications for license renewals. All applications for FFLs are inspected to ensure that the applicant is at least 21 years of age, has a place to set up a business and store firearms, and has never been convicted or is not currently under indictment for a felony.

Every FFL is required to utilize the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to perform instant background checks on prospective firearms transferees. All fugitives and individuals who have been convicted of a felony have a record in NICS.

Currently, approximately 60,000 FFLs are authorized to conduct commerce (i.e., sell or transfer) in firearms. To ensure compliance from these licensees, ATF has conducted inspections of 15% of the current FFLs within the last year. Legace’s Defense, a retail chain that sells firearms and camping equipment, was inspected by ATF six months ago.

 

Question 5

If an individual is sentenced to a prison term of up to 60 months, they were found to have been selling or transferring firearms to a convicted felon, fugitive or illegal alien.

  • A.  True
  • B.  False

The correct answer is response "B" (False). The essential information from which the answer can be inferred is contained in the last sentence of the first paragraph. This sentence states “if an individual is found to be selling or transferring firearms to a convicted felon, fugitive or illegal alien, then that individual can be sentenced to a prison term of up to 60 months.” The paragraph does not support the statement that in all circumstances in which an individual is sentenced to a prison term of up to 60 months, they were found to have been selling or transferring firearms to a convicted felon, fugitive, or illegal alien.

 

Question 6

Some individuals or organizations that are required to perform background checks on prospective firearms transferees are Federal Firearms License holders.

  • A.  True
  • B.  False

The correct answer is response "A" (True). The essential information from which the answer can be inferred is contained the first sentence of the third paragraph. This sentence states “every Federal firearms license holder is required to utilize the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to perform instant background checks on prospective firearms transferees.” Since this item (question 6) refers to individuals or organizations that are required to perform background checks on prospective firearms transferees, it can be inferred that some of these individuals or organizations are Federal firearms license holders.


Part C — Investigative Reasoning

In this part you will be presented with a paragraph and several related statements. Sample questions 7 through 9 are based on the following paragraph and statements. Read them carefully and then answer questions 7 through 9.

On October 30th, the Belton First National Bank discovered that the $3,000 it had received that morning from the Greenville First National Bank was in counterfeit 10, 20, and 50 dollar bills. The genuine $3,000 had been counted by Greenville First National Bank clerk, Iris Stewart, the preceding afternoon. They were packed in eight black leather satchels and stored in the bank vault overnight. Greenville First National clerk, Brian Caruthers, accompanied carriers James Clark and Howard O’Keefe to Belton in an armored truck. Belton First National clerk, Cynthia Randall, discovered the counterfeit bills when she examined the serial numbers of the bills.

During the course of the investigation, the following statements were made.

  1. Gerald Hathaway, clerk of the Greenville bank, told investigators that he had found the bank office open when he arrived at work on the morning of October 30th. The only articles which appeared to be missing were eight black leather satchels of the type used to transport large sums of money.
  2. Jon Perkins, head teller of the Greenville bank, told investigators that he did not check the contents of the black leather satchels after locking them in the vault around 4:30 p.m., on October 29th.
  3. Henry Green, janitor of the Greenville bank, said that he noticed Jon Perkins leaving the bank office around 5:30 p.m., one-half hour after the bank closed on October 29th. He said that Perkins locked the door.
  4. A scrap of cloth, identical to the material of the carriers’ uniforms, was found caught in the seal of one of the black leather satchels delivered to Belton.
  5. Brian Caruthers, clerk, said he saw James Clark and Howard O’Keefe talking in a secretive manner in the armored truck.
  6. Thomas Stillman, Greenville bank executive, identified the eight black leather satchels containing the counterfeit money which arrived at the Belton First National Bank, as the eight satchels which had disappeared from the bank office. He had noticed a slight difference in the linings of the satchels.
  7. Virginia Fowler, bank accountant, noticed two 10 dollar bills with the same serial numbers as the lost bills in a bank deposit from Ferdinand’s Restaurant of Greenville.
  8. Vincent Johnson, manager of Ferdinand’s Restaurant, told police that Iris Stewart frequently dined there with her boyfriend.

 

Question 7

Which one of the following statements best indicates that satchels containing the counterfeit bills were substituted for satchels containing the genuine bills while they were being transported from Greenville to Belton?

  • A.  Statement (1)
  • B.  Statement (3)
  • C.  Statement (4)
  • D.  Statement (5)
  • E.  Statement (7)

 

Question 8

Which one of the following statements best links the information given in statement (1) with the substitution of the counterfeit bills?

  • A.  Statement (2)
  • B.  Statement (3)
  • C.  Statement (4)
  • D.  Statement (5)
  • E.  Statement (6)

 

Question 9

Which one of the following statements along with statement (7) best indicates that the substitution of the counterfeit bills casts suspicion on at least one employee of the Greenville bank?

  • A.  Statement (1)
  • B.  Statement (2)
  • C.  Statement (3)
  • D.  Statement (5)
  • E.  Statement (8)

The correct responses for questions 7 through 9 are:

  • C
  • E
  • E
Last Reviewed March 29, 2017