What you need to know about the Postal Service Exam™

Student taking the Postal Service Exam™.

The U.S. Postal Service™ (USPS™) administers this test, often referred to as “Test 473.” The exam is required to secure an entry-level job with the USPS™. It is a multiple-choice test given in these four sections with the number of questions and time limit to answer them listed here:

  • Address Checking: 60 questions in 11 minutes
  • Forms Completion: 30 questions in 15 minutes
  • Coding and Memory: Coding—36 questions in 6 minutes; Memory—36 questions in 7 minutes
  • Personal Inventory: 236 questions in 90 minutes

The Personal Inventory is actually given first, online, at a computer of your choice. If your score on that is satisfactory, you will be sent an invitation to take the other three sections at a specific testing facility.

It is important to know that some sections of the Postal Service Exam™ impose a penalty for wrong answers, which means you shouldn’t guess unless you can narrow the choices down to two. Consult our study guide for each section to find the exact penalty guidelines.

What are the costs?

There is no charge for taking the Postal Exam™ or for applying for a position with the USPS™. Be alert for scams that may ask for a fee for taking this exam or for applying for U.S. Postal Service™ work. They are not legitimate.

What should I bring?

On the day of testing, you will need to bring:

  • a valid government issued photo ID
  • your candidate ID
  • your login ID and password (obtained during your test registration process)

How is it scored?

Your score will be sent to you in an email immediately following your test center session. You must score between 70 and 100 on the Postal Exam™ to qualify for continuing the hiring process. However, no score guarantees you a USPS™ job offer. A minimum score of 70 simply means that your name will be placed on a list of candidates. The USPS™ uses this list, called a register, when evaluating candidates for vacant positions.

When you prepare, try to set your goal above the 70 mark. A higher score will make you more likely to be considered for a position. Scores that are considered “good” usually fall in the 80s and 90s. The “list” mentioned above ranks the test-takers in order of score and you’ll want your name to be near the top of that list for greater likelihood of consideration.

Note that there are test benefits afforded to veterans that include adding 5 or 10 points to a veteran’s test score, preference for disabled veterans in the employee selection process, and veteran access to test sessions that are not open to the public. There are also special provisions for qualifying family members of deceased or disabled veterans.

What kind of job can I get?

The United States Postal Service™ processes and delivers mail of all kinds across the United States and around the world. There are various entry-level positions for which you can apply, including mail carrier, mail processing clerk, mail handler, and customer support (“Sales, Service, and Distribution”). Other, more specialized, USPS™ jobs require additional tests prior to qualification for employment.

Am I eligible?

Before you can be employed by the United States Postal Service™, you must:

  • be 18 years old or 16 years old and have a high school diploma
  • be a U.S. citizen
  • speak and read English at a basic level
  • be registered with the Selective Service if you are a male over 18
  • pass a drug screening test
  • have a good driving record (for USPS™ jobs requiring driving)

The USPS™ will also review your employment and military history and do a criminal records check.

You may not retake the Postal Service Exam™ for the same job, but you may retake it after waiting 120 days if applying for a different position with the Postal Service™. Note that your most recent score is always considered for employment purposes, even if it is lower than previous scores.

Why does it matter?

Your application process for a USPS™ job will be halted if you don’t score at least 70 on the Postal Exam™. The test is a vital step and you must meet qualifications to be considered for any USPS™ position. You may retake the test, but only after a waiting period of 120 days, so passing it the first time is a real time-saver.

What salary can I expect?

Typical annual salaries for USPS™ employees range from about $48,000 for a mail carrier to a postmaster’s salary of over $69,000. Years of experience and advanced degrees can increase these figures.

When is it available?

The first step in accessing the Postal Exam™ is to apply for a position with the USPS that requires this test. When your application is complete, you may be invited to take an unproctored/online assessment, provided the limit on people testing for that position has not been reached. You will receive a message at the end of the application process telling you if an invitation will be sent. If the message says you will be invited, you’ll need to watch for further email instructions.

Then, if you are successful on the online test, you will be invited to schedule a proctored assessment at an approved testing site.

There is a time limit for registering for and taking the test after the invitation has been sent. You will be notified 1 week before the test about testing details, such as date, place, and time. Note: If you do not adhere to the time frame given, your application will be removed from that USPS™ job. You may apply to other USPS™ jobs, but new time frame requirements will then be in place.

Time Allowed

Total actual testing time for the online part of the Postal Exam™ is 90 minutes. The proctored version, taken at an approved site, also requires 90 minutes of testing time but may be given online or using paper and pencil. Each part of the proctored test is timed separately and finishing a section early does not mean you can go back and work on a section you didn’t finish, so use your time very wisely.

Neither of these times includes any sort of registration, instructional, or clerical activities that may be required before and during the testing process.

Practice using our expertly crafted questions!