Getting Started in Amateur Radio
Amateur Radio is a fascinating hobby. There are many aspects to ham radio. Of course there’s getting on the air and talking with friends and new people. But beyond that are many things you can do.
While Morse code is no longer required to get your license, many hams, new and old, still enjoy operating using Morse code. Others like to use digital modes, letting their computers connect to hams operating their computers. No internet required! Other hams like to communciate over satellites devoted to ham radio. Yes, ham’s have their own satellites! You can do even more with space, the International Space Station has a ham radio station that gets used quite frequently. There are hams who will bounce signals off the moon, or off of meteors.
Other hams enjoy getting involved in community service. Some work with the local weather offices with storm spotting. If you ever hear your local weather person say “we have a report of…” during a weather emergency, odds are that report came from a ham! Others hams work with the county Emergency Management Agency in the county where they reside, or agencies such as the Red Cross.
There’s even more! Many hams like to participate in contests, or search for “DX”, long distance contacts in other countries. All this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are limitless possibilities in the hobby of amateur radio.
Currently there are three license classes. The beginner level is called the Technician license, or Tech for short. The next level up is the General class. The ultimate license is called Amateur Extra, or Extra for short. Below we’ll have sections for each class with study materials. Books will have links to Amazon, most have both a printed version as well as electronic (Kindle) version. Alternatively, all of the books should be available through your local bookstore or other online book sellers.
To get your license you will have to take an exam. All of the questions, as well as possible answers and the correct one, are publically available and are the basis for most study guides. Collectively these are known as the question pool. Be aware the exams are revised every four years, so if you buy used be sure to check the valid dates on any exam guides. Generally there are very few changes, but as new operating modes come into effect they may not be reflected in older study guides.
License exams are administered by Volunteer Examiners, it will typically cost around $15 to take an exam. The fee is to cover the cost of printing exams, supplies, postage, and the like. In addition you will need to bring a copy of your ID such as a driver’s license (make a copy to leave with the examiners). If you already have a license you should bring a copy of that as well. Once you pass they will submit the information to the FCC, who will soon issue your call sign. With that you’ll be able to get on the air!
The Technician, or “Tech” class is the introductory level for licensing. Getting a Tech license will give you access to talk locally on VHF and UHF bands. You also have the opportunity to communicate over longer distances on the 6 meter band (50 Megaherts, or MHz). You’ll also have even longer distance privilidges on the 10 meter band.
Before you buy, be aware the new question pool for the Technician class will take effect on July 1, 2018. While we intend to update the book links below at that time, be sure to double check the book description to ensure you are getting the study guide for the current question pool.
The General class will open up a whole new world of amateur radio to you. Getting your General will grant you the rights to sections of the HF, or high frequency bands. These are the shortwave bands that travel around the world and let you easily talk to people in other areas of the globe.
While not easy to pass, getting your Extra class license gives you the ultimate in operating privilidges. While the General class gives access to a subset of frequencies, the Extra class permits you to operate across all frequencies granted to ham radio operators. It’s well worth the effort to get your Extra class license!
As mentioned, the question pools for all three classes are publically available. This has allowed websites to create practice exams you can take, to prepare you for taking the real exam. Most of the sites below have practice tests for all three exams. We encourage you to take practice exams on multiple sites to get the best mix of questions.
ARRL Exam Review – The ARRL, Amateur Radio Relay League, is the parent organization for Amateur Radio in the US. They have many great resources not just for getting your license but after you get it as well. You don’t have to be a paying member to take practice exams, although you will need to setup a free account.
HamExam – The Ham Exam site offers practice exams, additionaly they have flash cards and access to the entire question pool.
eHam.net – eHam.net is a popular site with forums, classifieds, and more. They also offer free practice exams.
QRZ – QRZ is a popular site among hams, with many valuable resources such as forums and news. Practice exams are free to take, but they do require a free account so they can help you track your progres.
HamStudy – The HamStudy site offers practice exams, along with study tips, links, and other resources.
HamTestOnline – While not free, this site goes beyond just practice tests combining training along with practice exams. The study questions are integrated into the test so you get the best of both worlds.
If you’re looking to learn and work on your testing skills the ARRL sells many books. For the budget minded there are many sites which offer free on-line practice testing. There are literally hundreds of these on the internet, try a Google search by clicking on this link Amateur Radio Practice Exam.
ARRL – Ham Radio License Manuals
- Technician Class
- General Class
- Extra Class
- Technician, General and Extra Class License Books
KB6NU *** Excellent Material ***
- No-Nonsense Study License Guides – Technician, General, Extra
www.eHam.net/exams Amateur Radio Practice Exams
www.AA9PW.com Amateur Radio Practice Exams
www.qrz.com/hamtest Amateur Radio Practice Exams (registration required)
www.hamexam.org Amateur Radio Practice Exams
www.hamstudy.org Flash Cards and Practices Exams
www.hamradiolicenseexam.com Study Materials and Practice Exams (paid site)
This list is not a substitute for study and in-class learning experiences. It will not teach you what you really need to know to become a Ham Radio Operator!
YouTube Videos *** Excellent Training Videos ***
- Ham Radio Technician Class – Presentation given by the Hurst Amateur Radio Club, W5HRC, for those interested in getting their first Ham Radio License. This is a 3-part class that was Livestreamed on YouTube April 30-May2, 2020. Replays are now available. Material follows this book – https://amzn.to/3bJjhCg
- Ham Radio License Training: Part 1
- Ham Radio License Training: Part 2
- Ham Radio License Training: Part 3
- FULL Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…
W5HRC Website: https://w5hrc.org
Tech Class Slides: https://w5hrc.org/techclassslides
Amateur Radio License Testing Locations
This will be updated when we start testing sessions.
ATTENTION: Anyone Interested in Obtaining a Technician Class Amateur Radio License
FCC now requires new applicants to register in CORES
The FCC recently announced that all new license candidates for an amateur radio license must register in CORES prior to taking an amateur radio exam. This process will generate an FCC Registration Number (FRN) to be used in place of a Social Security number on Form 605.
We strongly encourage you to register if you have not done so. Eventually the FCC will no longer accept Social Security numbers on Form 605. To register, go to https://apps.fcc.gov/cores/userLogin.do. Any questions, contact the FCC using the phone number or email address posted on the CORES page.
The Volunteer Examiner Coordinator will not have the capabilities for candidates to register on CORES at a testing session. If you have not registered and if you do no have an FRN, you will NOT be able to take an examination!