Why should I care?

There are many means of communications available to you in the everyday world including Cellular and Landline Telephones, SMS, Instant Messaging, Instagram, etc.

But these require a certain amount of infrastructure which may not always be available in a disaster.  Radio however and specifically Amateur (Ham) Radio provides that last means of contact, “When all else fails”.

For some, preparing for a grid-down scenario is all they want.  For others, they find Ham Radio is a collection of different hobbies.

The question is what you do want to do?  From radio and antenna building, to volunteering for your community, there are many different activities that you can do when you get your License.

What levels of licenses?

  • Technician – The Technician Class operator license can transmit on local frequencies.
  • General – The General Class operator license can also transmit on regional/worldwide frequencies.
  • Extra – The Amateur Extra Class operator license has extra privileges on the worldwide frequencies.

What is the cost of this?

The ten-year license is free but the testing fee is around $15 cash. Bring exact change. 

There are many free or low-cost study materials (YouTube, Testing/Flash Card Apps, and PDF Study Guides). 

A current study book costs around $25 and then can be passed on to someone else to take their test.  Or you can take a live class, which will typically include a study book, refreshments, and a test session for $25-50.

What level of time and effort do I need for this?

The time commitment to earn your license has been drastically reduced as the Morse code requirement has been removed from the license tests. 

You will likely need around 20 hours of personal study over several weeks. 

Or, this can be easily achieved by taking a two-day live class (Hamclass does two concurrent Saturdays and others do a Saturday/Sunday).   A one-day class is good for a refresher, but not good for a beginning student.

Ways to learn the material

There are a few ways to learn what you need for the test.

  1. Taking a live class forces you to set aside time to learn the material.  These classes offer a comfortable environment that provides interaction with experienced Hams and other students. The instructors take extra time with test sections that you may struggle with.  Typically, these classes will provide a testing session at the end.
  2. Watching a pre-recorded class on YouTube will allow you to view the material on your own schedule, at your own location, and at your own pace.
  3. Purchase/borrow a current book and download a study guide.  These go through all of the test pool questions.  The study guides will provide help on difficult sections.
  4. Use flashcards to study. The Android/iPhone app will let you do flashcards throughout the day.  Just 2-4 session of 10-15 minutes a day is about right.  Give yourself time in between study sessions so your brain will understand that this should be stored in longer term memory.
  5. Practice taking the test.  The Technicians test requires 74% (26/35 questions correct), so strive for a consistent 85% or greater on practice tests to easily pass the real test.  The pool of test questions and answers are public, so all practice tests randomize actual test questions. . 

Study intensely for a few weeks and take the test.  Don’t drag it out.  The primary goal is to pass the test.  The secondary goal is to learn the material. 

After you pass the Technician test, upgrade your license to General quickly as most of the material overlaps.  It is more difficult to upgrade after time passes and you have forgotten most of the material, as well as your inertia and motivation.

How to Study the Questions

Use Technician Pool Questions 2018-2022, General 2019-2023, and Extra 2020-2024

Read the questions, study the correct answers only and ignore the incorrect ones.  Simplify the math formulas or skip them altogether as you can pass the Technician test without memorizing them.

There is a lot of new terminology as well as safety and protocol information that needs to be learned, but

Using flashcards and practicing taking the test are the keys to passing the test.

How do I take the test?

Find a Volunteer Examination testing location and time.  Some locations require pre-registration. Bring pencils and $15 cash. You may bring a non-programmable calculator. Follow all of the VE instructions. 

When you take the test, first answer all the questions you immediately know and skip any that you have to think about. Make sure you fill the correct ovals corresponding to the question!

Then answer all the questions that you have to think about but are confident in your answer. Again, make sure you fill in the correct ovals!

Now count how many you have answered.  If it’s more than 26 on the Technicians test, then you probably have passed.  The pressure is off now.  Now try to answer the remaining questions, answering the easier ones first. If you get stuck on a question, then eliminate the two worst answers and guess (50/50 chance). It’s better to narrow choices and guess on those questions than leave them blank.

When you hand in your test, and are informed that you passed the Technicians test, why not take the General test at that time for no extra charge?  There are lots of hams that skipped Technician.

Now what do I do?

You will be able to transmit using your assigned call sign when your name shows up in the FCC database.

Visit KC HamLink – http://www.kchamlink.org/ and learn how take your first steps as a new Ham.  Watch the Ham 101 series.  Herb does a great job to cover the basics.

Depending on where you live, you may have dozens of radio clubs and organizations that you can try.  Remember that each club has a unique personality, so try several out and see which ones fit you.

If you want to volunteer, then there are service clubs that use Ham Radio to support the community.

Resources

  1. Live Classes
  2. Pre-Recorded Technician Classes
  3. Study Books
  4. Study Guides/Helps
  5. Practice Tests (use the flashcard or study correct answers option)
  6. Testing locations
  7. General Information and clubs

If there are updated links or recommendations, please contact us for corrections.

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