[islandlabs] Technician Radio Licensing

Joe toolfox at gmail.com
Tue Oct 5 06:38:55 EDT 2010

Amy, again.

All you really NEED to know was in my previous post and Matthew's
replies (thank you, Matthew!), but here are some additional points
(in no particular order), some of which will put things into context,
others are just me running off at the mouth:

- As Matthew posted, the Technician exam is the easiest of the three
  U.S. Amateur Radio license exams.  Don't let it scare you.

- Although it is the most restricted of the three, the Tech license
  isn't very restrictive.  You can do almost everything that the
  higher class licenses are allowed to do, just not on all the
  frequencies or at the same power as the higher licenses.

- You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to take the exam.  However,
  you can't be a representative of a foreign government.  I take that
  to mean a diplomat, head of state, senator, or some other
  elected/appointed government office for another country.  If you
  think it would be an issue, contact a VE (Voluntary Examiner)
  representative or liaison for your local amateur radio club.

- There are no age restrictions for licensing.  If you're old enough
  to pass the exam, you're old enough to have a license.  There have been
  licensed amateur radio operators as young as 6.  When I sat for
  my Technician exam, a little girl (9 years old) sat for hers as well.
  When it was clear she passed, everybody present -- from young dudes
  to gray-beards -- gave her a round of applause.

- There are no requirements regarding physical ability when it comes to
  obtaining your license.  VE's are allowed and encouraged to
  make (reasonable) accommodations for examinees who need it (say,
  giving the exam orally to the visually impaired, etc.) 

- Once you decide to sit for the exam and you find a VE exam session,
  call or email them a few days ahead of time to let them know
  you're coming. Some sessions welcome walk-ins, and others require an
  appointment, so it's best to assume the latter and contact them..
  It's no big deal; they just want to make sure they have enough
  materials on hand and enough space.

- Naturally, make sure you show up on time or a little bit early.
  The examiners are volunteers.  They will appreciate your being 

- If you pass the Technician Exam (they grade it right there), the VE's
  will likely ask if you'd like to take a stab at the General Exam for
  no extra charge.  If you think you might want to go beyond your
  Technician's ticket, consider studying up for General as well and
  save a few bucks.  Like the Tech exam, the General exam is a 35
  multiple choice question test taken from a pool of around 400
  questions.  It's a bit tougher than Technician, but definitely

- Likewise if you pass the General Exam, they might offer to let you
  try the Extra Exam for no extra charge.  The material for this one's
  rough.  It's also longer -- 50 questions from a pool of about 800.

- No Morse Code is required for ANY new license, be it Technician,
  General, or Extra.

- You don't NEED a class to prepare for the exam (at least, not the
  Technician Exam), especially if you already have a strong command of
  electronics concepts.  Some find a class helpful, some don't.  It
  depends on the student and the instructor and the class.

- If you are studying as part of a class, they will likely specify
  which book you should use.  But if you're studying on your own, use
  whatever materials you like, whether it's from the ARRL, Gordon West,
  or elsewhere.  As Matthew alluded to, there are numerous free study
  guides on the Internet, especially for the Technician Exam (they get
  rarer with the General and Extra exams). Try googling "amateur radio
  technician exam study guide" or some-such to get started.  Just make
  sure that they are for the CURRENT question pool (should indicate
  that they are for use ON OR AFTER July 1, 2010).

- Things to bring with you to your exam include:
  - a couple of pencils with erasers.
  - two forms of I.D. (at least one should be photo I.D.)
  - exam fee (usually $15) - the exact amount in cash is best -
    checks are usually OK - plastic is usually a no-go.
  - CSCE (Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination) if you
    have one (and you'll only have one if you already passed an Amateur
    License Exam).
  - FRN (Federal Registration Number) if you have one (and you probably
    won't have one unless you already passed an Amateur License Exam).

Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to mention is that once you pass the exam,
you're not "legal" until your call sign appears in the FCC's ULS on-line
database (so don't think that you can walk out of the test ready to
rag-chew).  This can take a few days to up to a week.


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