The Ham Radio Exam
I've been thinking, for quite some time, about getting a ham radio license. I've been going to hamfests (mostly for the computers) since middle school, but never knew anybody well who had an amateur radio license.
The Technician class (entry level) exam consists of 35 multiple choice questions from a pool of 424. You must answer 26 questions correctly to pass. There is no longer any Morse code requirement at any level. The exam changes every four years, with the next change occurring on July 1, 2018. In 2015, I bought the ARRL Technician License Manual. Not wanting to waste the money I spent on it, I finally decided to read the book and take the exam this month.
The exam turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. I approached this with some background in electronics, but very little familiarity with radio. My first practice exam, before I even opened the book, I passed with exactly 26 questions. I tired twice more to see if that was anomalous, and unfortunately it was. I started reading the ARRL manual and was impressed with it. The manual explains concepts clearly and gives a review at the end of each section with the actual questions from the exam.
Exams are offered at most hamfests, and I was planning to attend the Hagerstown Hamfest on May 5, so I decided to take the exam while I was there, even though I had only made it through half the book. The test is $15, and you can retake it for an additional $15 in the sitting. Since I'd passed a practice exam before reading the manual, I figured I had a decent chance having read half of it, and it worked out. I didn't think to ask what score I got, but I did try the General exam (next level up) after that, and failed by 17 out of 35.
I received my call sign on May 10: KC3LKE. That got my wife excited, and she decided she wanted to get licensed also. I finished reading the Technician manual, and started to realize that most of the stuff that sounded interesting required a General class license, so I ordered the manual for that level.
I mistakenly thought the questions changed in June, not July, so Emily crammed to take the exam on May 15 at the local amateur radio club's meeting. Since I was going along, I decided to take the General exam then, too. I started reading the General manual, but this time only made it a quarter of the way though. Then I spent about five hours doing flashcards on May 15th, and passed with 33/35. My wife, who has no electronics or radio background, passed after doing flashcards for one week and not even opening the manual.
I regret waiting so long to take the exam. I kept putting it off because it seemed like it was going to be a much bigger deal than it was. Anybody reading this site could study the ARRL manual and pass without difficulty. If you're interested, but don't know anybody who's a ham, you're welcome to post here or in the forums.