or ham radio
licensing varies from country to country. This writeup describes the licensing process in the United States
. Information is current as of August 2010.
In the United States
there are three
classes of Amateur Radio license
, governed by four different examination
5-WORD PER MINUTE (WPM) MORSE CODE EXAMINATION.
Element 1. Not a terminal
exam but an endorsement
for all following exams. Not necessary for the Technician exam, but permits the "Tech" endorsement holder privledge
s on HF
for the General
licences. Usually consists of listening
five minutes of code
, then taking a ten-question "fill-in-the-blanks
" test on the material or presenting one minute of mistake-free copy. A sending test is no longer required. UPDATE:
All morse code testing has been discontinued as of February 2007.
Requires passing the Element 2 written exam on the basics of VHF
radio use. Mostly concerned with regulatory necessities
, the frequency boundaries
of the given license, and RF energy safety
(i.e. "How far should an operator
hold a handheld transciever
from the body
?"), and some antenna
design. Technicians can operate only on frequencies above 50 MHz, but may use CW
) on these frequencies without taking the code test. This is by far the most popular ham radio
license in the US.
Requires passing Elements 1, 2, and 3. Since this license is the "gateway
" to HF operation, Element 3 tests regulations specific to these frequencies, as well as the rudiment
s of etiquette
and frequency boundaries. Other topics include emergency
operations, radio wave propagation
, use of non-CW digital
, and some brief electronics algebra
. General Class operators have the use of the majority of HF frequencies, being excluded from some areas rich in DX
or rare foriegn
countries. Until early 2000
, Generals required completion of a 13 word per minute code exam to gain the license.
. The Extra Class is the terminal Amateur Radio
license. Many have distinctive call signs
, usually consisting of four characters
, that are desired for their brevity
. Until early 2000
Extras had to sit for a 20 word per minute code exam, most having prepared by spending a year or two on the air honing
their code skills with contacts. Having recieved my Extra in early 1996 I was a bit frustrated
to learn a few years later that the "new" Extra did not require high speed
. Predictably, many "old" Extras cried foul
when the new regulation
s were proposed. Nevertheless, the universal 5 word per minute regulations are here to stay, probably because the United States was one of the last fast speed testing holdouts. Many amateurs who recieved Extras before the reform qualified for very prestigious
call signs under a brief FCC call sign
recycling program, so the truly snobbish
(like me) can revel in holding the most sought after call combination
The current incarnation
of Extra requires passing Elements 1, 2, 3, and 4. The Element 4 exam focuses primarily on space
and data communication
s, electronics math and circuitry
, being an examiner
and test coordinator
, and regulatory
information on the names of different types of radio spectrum emission
s. Also included are questions on proper antenna
setups, as well as the ever present test on amateur radio frequency boundaries. Extra holders are permitted use of all frequencies given to US amateurs by ITU
law. An Extra license is crucial for working the rare DX and contesting
, or multi-day radio competitions in which competitors scrounge to make the most and rarest contacts in the briefest period possible.
Until the 2000 reforms, two other license classes existed -- the Novice
Classes. The Novice
was designed as an Amateur Radio "learner's permit
", consisting of the 5 wpm exam and a brief exam pretty much testing the user on the minimum electrical know-how to build a radio without dying of shock
. By the late 1990's most hams were entering at the Technician level with store bought
radios. That, an a decline in CW and HF operations, rendered the Novice class little more than 50's nostalgia
for older hams.
slotted between the General
. No code testing beyond the old 13 wpm exam was necessary. A long exam, it focused primarily on electronics equasion
s, reading of schematics
, and quizzing on abbreviation
s and technical terms. Many hams considered the Advanced exam harder than the Extra. In my opinion the Advanced and Extra written exams were bookend
s. One was the higher level electronic theory exam, the other the final regulatory exam. One could argue that the Advanced evolved into little more than a speed bump
on the way to Extra.
As of 2010, Technician Plus
licensees have been merged with the Technician
class at renewal time. No new Novice
licensees are being issued. However, these licenses are renewable.
All exams are administered by a Volunteer Exam Coordinator
, or VEC
. The American Radio Relay League
) is the largest, not suprising since the ARRL is the national
ham radio organization. Since examiners must be of a higher class than their testers, most volunteer examiners
(VE's) are Extras. The examination pool
s are available online
and in print
from a number of source
Most of this is from my bank
of general knowledge
, though I did look at the online
ARRL/VEC test pools at http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/pools.html to get a sense of testing changes.
The Canadian ham radio licensing system is less complex than the American model.
5 WPM CODE TEST
The exam allows Basic license holders HF
operation at 250 W.
. 50 question exam on elementary operating procedure and electronics. This license allows operation on all frequencies above 50 MHz at 250W. Pass is 70%.
. A person who passes the Basic exam at 80% ("Honours Pass") is allowed to operate on HF at 250W. In other words, Industry Canada
waives the 5 WPM code test for a person that passes the Basic with distinction.
. The full license. The exam covers intermediate electronics theory. Unrestricted operation on any amateur radio frequency alloted to Canada. Kilowatt power allowed. An advanced licensee may operate a repeater
or trustee a club station
(a radio station shared by a number of hams