What is the Certified Transportation Broker Exam and How to Prepare?

Freight brokers play an essential role in the transportation industry by connecting shippers and carriers to safely move goods across the nation at a rate that satisfies all parties involved.

People looking to work in the transportation industry have many choices when it comes to employment and career trajectory. They may choose to work for an employer or open their own brokerage. Since freight brokers work in every city in every state across the US, there are always opportunities to start, no matter your location.

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A Freight Broker’s day starts early and can be pretty chaotic. Someone who enjoys connecting with all kinds of people and enjoys a high-energy work environment where every day can look different may really enjoy working in the transportation industry.

If you are considering this career path, the next step is to prepare for your Certified Transportation Broker Exam. If you’re unsure where to start, read on. This article covers the basics of exam prep and helps familiarize you with the process before you start.

Is Certification Required?

Generally speaking, freight brokers are not required to become certified. However, they are required to obtain their broker authority license from the government. This is not associated with certification. While some schools may display “certified” in the title of their program, a certification is only obtained through undergoing specific training.

Although it’s not mandatory, certification can be highly beneficial for your career path, especially if you plan to open your own brokerage. You may attract clients via word of mouth as you progress in your career, but when you are first starting, having a certification goes a long when you want to gain a new client’s trust.

Multiple certifications exist for freight brokers but the following are considered the most useful in the industry:

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): Although many people identify CMA’s with accounting, this certification is popular with many professionals in the transportation industry.
  • Certified Transportation Broker (CTB): One of the most popular certifications among industry professionals, this certification was developed by the Transportation Intermediaries Association in order to build up the integrity of the transportation industry.
  • Commercial Driver License (CDL): Many brokers start out as drivers and then progress to working as brokers in a brokerage or by starting an independent business. Other brokers may find that having their CDL gives them a good perspective into the specifics of working as a carrier.

Becoming Certified

The most common certification for freight brokers is the Certified Transportation Broker. It is also the most recognized in the industry, making it an excellent choice for those wanting to show that they are serious about working in and upholding the integrity of the transportation industry.

Those who are interested in obtaining their CTB certification must complete the corresponding program offered through the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA). To determine if you are eligible to complete the course, the TIA has put together a point system. You need to score at least five points to feel confident about completing the program. The point system is based on personal working experience and education.

Personal Working Experience

  • One – six months (1 point)
  • Six months – one year (2 points)
  • One – two years (3 points)
  • Two-three years (4 points)
  • 3 + years (5 points)


  • Associates degree (2 points)
  • Bachelor’s degree (3 points)
  • Graduate degree (4 points)
  • Concentration in transportation (1 point)

If you look at the above rating system and are not able to come up with five points, the TIA offers a New Broker Course which is aimed at individuals who are interested in opening a new brokerage. Taking this course does not allow you to sit the CTB exam, but it will prepare you to complete the CTB course and corresponding exam in the future.

Course Outline

The cost of the course plus the exam is $1050 for members and $1325 for non-members. Students should know that they have the option of paying for the course and exam separately if they prefer. The course runs three times throughout the year and is followed immediately by the examination. Each session includes an intensive three-month online program that most students complete over the course of 60 – 180 hours. Students who finish the material early will still have access for the entire three months. The program includes a structured review of the exam materials but allows for students to process the information at their own pace.

Online study materials are accompanied by a textbook that students must purchase separately from the course itself. If you plan to buy a used copy of the book, make sure that it is up to date and that you will not be missing any vital information.

What You Should Know About the Exam

The exam is made up of three components consisting of multiple-choice questions, and students have four hours to complete the examination. Students can choose to write all three components at the same time or separately as long as all sections are completed within three consecutive testing cycles. Students should be aware that there are three testing cycles per year. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the idea of writing all three modules at once, spacing them out is not an issue at all and will not cost any more as long as they are taken within the correct time frame.

The exam fee is non-refundable, and any requests to transfer the date of a student’s exam will only be approved on a case-by-case basis by the TIA.

Exam results are given on a pass or fail basis, and all three components must be passed in order for certification to be awarded. Students may retest on any section they did not pass but must pay per section they are re-taking. Fees per section for members are $125 and $175 for non-members.

Students will receive their exam results approximately one week after the exam has been completed. Since the exams are graded on a pass or fail basis, no percentages are given out, and students will not be told which answers they answered incorrectly.

If a student is unable to pass all three sections within three exam periods, they must re-enroll in the CTB course at a reduced rate of $325 (for members) and $400 (for non-members).

How to Prepare

No matter how well you feel you know the materials, most people find sitting exams to be a stressful experience. The exam for the CTB is no exception, but there are things you can do to help you feel more prepared and relaxed.

The CTB course itself was created to help prepare students to pass their exams, but if you feel that you need some extra assistance, there are multiple options available.

The Program -The program consists of modules, and as they are completed, students may be presented with a quiz to help them access their readiness to take the exam. Quiz answers aren’t sent out to the students in order to uphold the integrity of the exam.

The Transportation Intermediaries – There are multiple educational offerings through the TIA that could be helpful such as their daily lunch and learns that are open to both members and non-members. Subjects are not specifically geared towards the CTB exam, but they are interactive, and students may find opportunities to discuss topics if they are struggling.

Becoming a TIA member is not required to take the CTB course and exam, but it does offer discounts on many different programs, as well as networking opportunities that could be helpful while preparing for the exam as well as into your career as a freight broker. 

Connect – If you know of others who are also going to be taking their exam, connect with them to create a study group. If that isn’t an option, find friends or family who are willing to help. Have them quiz you and explain your answers vocally; this can help you better retain the information you are taking in.

In Review

One of the most important things to remember when taking a course and preparing for an examination is to take advantage of all resources available to you. If you are struggling, there is no shame in asking for help.

Once you have prepared as much as you feel possible, make sure that you get enough rest the night before your exam. Eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of water so that your body and mind have the energy they need to perform at their best.