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How to Prepare for the Artificial Language Test (ALT) in the U.S. Border Patrol Entrance Examination

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The illegal aliens that Border Patrol Agents encounter speak only one language: Spanish. This is the reason why agents are required to learn the language at the Border Patrol Academy before they are sent to their duty stations. Knowledge of Spanish is not a requisite for employment. You can still be accepted as a new recruit even when you don’t speak it at the time of your application. However, to determine if you are capable of learning the language when you start training at the Border Patrol Academy, you need to take the Artificial Language Test (ALT) in the U.S. Border Patrol Entrance Examination.

The ALT is an exam that utilizes an artificial language where some of the grammatical rules are based on Spanish. In a nutshell, the ALT requires you to translate sentences or phrases from the artificial language to English. To help you do this, you will be given a “Supplemental Booklet” in the actual test which contains a vocabulary or a dictionary for the artificial language; the glossary of grammatical rules for the artificial language; and a glossary of grammatical terms. The glossary of grammatical terms serves as a refresher for such verbs, nouns, adjectives, and the like. All these resources will be available to you during the test. It’s best to study a reviewer found in the Customs and Border Protection website ( Doing so will help familiarize you for the ALT.

Take note that you don’t have to memorize the vocabulary and grammatical rules since they are not necessarily going to be the same ones that will be given in the actual ALT. But by understanding and getting a clear picture of what kind of test the ALT is, you will be more comfortable when you take it.

You should study the glossary of grammatical terms before taking the ALT even if this will be available for you to use during the test. These terms relate to English, Spanish, and the Artificial Language. Review your infinitives, articles, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and the like. If you can get a grammar book on Spanish that will give you an idea of how these terms are used in this language then that would be to your advantage too. An extensive discussion of these terms can also be found in the preparation manual that you can download from the CBP website.

The words used in the ALT are going to be very foreign—and this is exactly its essence. You are going to be learning an entirely new language so the ALT gauges your ability to master it given a certain time frame. Don’t get overwhelmed and just follow the grammar rules given in the Supplemental booklet.


Good luck in your exams!

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