The Exam Corner

Continuous improvement in our knowledge and skills is a fundamental obligation of every radio amateur.  So, it is natural that license class upgrades are an important part of the Amateur Radio experience.  Contrary to most of the time that the amateur radio service has been in existence, the FCC now only awards three license levels, so only two upgrades are possible:  from Technician to General, and General to Extra Class.  This presents a remarkable opportunity for Tech licensees, since it is now possible to gain dramatically increased privileges with only one upgrade.

The General license is now the sweet spot – I estimate that it provides 90% of the rights that Extra Class Hams have, compared to perhaps 20% for Technicians.  General Class opens up the traditional Amateur Radio experience, with the opportunity to “work the world” and utilize almost the entire spectrum of modes and frequencies that are allocated to radio amateurs.  You can disagree with my percentages, which are just my opinion, but it is beyond dispute that General licensees now get the vast majority of the maximum privileges given to Extra Class Hams.  It is a great deal that every Tech should consider.

I maintain that almost anyone holding a Technician license can upgrade to General with a very reasonable amount of effort – far less effort than many believe.  Why do I say that?  Because the FCC has established rules that are so much in your favor:

  1. The exam is multiple choice, with only four answers per question, and no penalty for guessing.
  2. The passing score is only 74%. And you can re-take the exam as many times as necessary.
  3. You only have to do it once in a lifetime – there are no continuing education or re-testing requirements.
  4. And most importantly, they tell us all of the possible questions in advance!

Of course OHKYIN offers excellent classes for those desiring to upgrade, but many people fail to take advantage of them.  Maybe you are too busy to take an entire night for a class each week, or you are uncomfortable in a classroom situation, or you prefer a slower and less intense approach than weekly classes, or you just didn’t realize until now how close the General is to full amateur privileges and how worthwhile it is to pursue, or you have test-taking anxiety.

In any case, this column is an experiment, to cut out as much extraneous information as possible and focus on the knowledge needed to pass the test, with an important component being to gain familiarity with the actual questions that will appear on the test.  I can assure you, from personal experience, that there is nothing like going into an exam session and thinking, I know that one, and that one, and that one, over and over, because I have seen them before. Exam anxiety is banished!  There are also online practice tests to take before the real thing so you will know when you are ready and be confident.  You can do this!

This column is not just for Techs, though.  All of us who hold General and above licenses can benefit from refreshing our knowledge.  If there is interest, this will be a continuing series until the entire volume of General exam material has been covered. Steve AA8SW

Safety 1a – Safety in the Ham Shack
Safety 1b – Safety in the Ham Shack Part 2
Propagation 1 – Solar Activity
Propagation 2 – MUF and LUF
Propagation 3 – Ionospheric Layers
Emissions 1 – Basic Types of Emissions
Emissions 2 – RF Back to Audio
Emissions 3 – Evolving Digital Modes
Antennas and Feedlines 1 – Impedance and SWR