We’ve put together some information that will be handy to have for anyone looking to get into the hobby and even those that might have been licensed for several years.
Topics on this page include:
Learn more about Amateur Radio
While you might be ready to jump in with both feet and start studying for your first license it can be worth while to learn more about Amateur Radio and some aspects of the hobby you might not know about. The exam will cover several of these areas so knowing a little more about them can help get you ready.
Some of the best information about Amateur Radio can be found at the ARRL’s website for Licensing, Education, and Training. The ARRL, or Amateur Radio Relay League, is the national association for Amateur Radio in the United States. Their website has a lot of resources for Amateur Radio.
Members of our group are interested in; APRS, HF rag-chewing, contesting, high altitude ballooning, communicating through and with the International Space Station, using micro-computers, repeaters and repeater linking, digital radio, and on and on.
Study for the exam
There are three schools of thought when it comes to studying for your amateur radio license, or “ticket”.
First, there is the traditional way of studying to understanding the theory and topics and then taking a test to see if you’ve retained the information. This is most akin to traditional course work where you study information from a book and then take a test at the end. Several books are available from on-line (and sometimes local) retailers that cover the information needed and the questions that will be on the exam. Gordon West and and the W5YI Group have books available for all three license classes. Several local amateur radio clubs offer technician courses and study sessions with many only requiring that you purchase the book they will be using.
Second, is just studying (or memorizing) the questions and correct answer for each question in the question pool. This is possible because there is a pool of 426 questions that all 35 questions on the technician exam come from. This method of studying most resembles a flash card system where you look at the question and possible answers on one side and flip it over to see the correct answer listed on the back. There are several internet sites that offer this type of studying at no cost. HAMSTUDY is a great resource for this method. Be sure to create an account so it will track your progress.
The third method is a combination of the above two and likely the best. Many people find that for some of the questions it is pretty easy just to remember the question and the correct answer but for other questions understanding a few basic things will allow you to answer many of the questions without having to memorize those particular questions and answers.
Whatever method best suits you it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind.
First, any particular question pool is only valid for about four years. While many of the questions will remain the same some questions are removed, some are added, and some updated depending on changing technologies and license requirements. The current technician question pool is valid until June 30, 2018. You’ll want to make sure the study material you are using is for the current question pool (that 10 year old technician study guide is cheap for a reason, it’s no longer valid!).
Second, don’t spend a lot of time studying things that you just aren’t going to understand and will never be able to answer those questions correctly. Rather, spend that time studying the things you do understand and will get correct. This is because you only need to get a 75% to pass the test and get your license. So, if there are five math related questions on the test and you aren’t going to get them right study everything else and get the other stuff right. With 35 questions on the test you could miss all five and still get an 86%.
Where exams are offered
Many clubs sponsor license exam sessions. The cost is typically $15 or less and goes to cover the costs associated with giving the exam and sending results in. The ARRL offers a page to Find an Amateur Radio License Exam Session. It’s a good idea to call or email the contact listed to make sure the exams is still taking place, find out the exact cost (it’s always good to have cash in the right amount), find out information on parking and other things. Exams will be scored on site and often you can retake the exam (for an additional cost) if you didn’t pass the first time.
Check out the ARRL’s What to Bring to an Exam Session page for more information.
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The FCC’s ULS
The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Universal Licensing System (ULS) is a one stop shop for checking to see if your call sign has been issued, applying for a vanity call sign, updating your address, renewing your license, and more.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is register your Social Security number (SSN) and obtain a Federal registration Number (FRN) from the FCC. With your FRN you won’t need to use your SSN to take the exam. If fact, some testing location will only accept an FRN. For instructions on how to register your SSN with the FCC and receive an FRN, visit the FCC’s FAQ page and the FCC’s registration instructions page (thanks goes to the ARRL for providing some of this information).
[More info to come]