Thursday, March 14, 2013

Want To Get A Ham Radio License?

My recent post on the $40 dual-band handheld radio seems to have prompted a few folks into getting into ham radio.  To do that, you need a license.

     The present entry-level license is the "Tech" and there is a test -- but it's multiple-choice, not very difficult and you only need a "C" to pass.

     You can either start out by taking practice tests or by using a study guide and either way, a good place to begin is at AA9PW's site.

     Once you're consistently getting passing scores on the practice exams (and there's a pool of questions much larger than the number of questions on any individual tests, so do take the practice exam lots!), you'll want to take the test for real.  This is done by "Volunteer Examiners," and the ARRL*, the national ham club in the U.S., has a search page that will quickly find the exam sessions close to you; I have had best luck  with ZIP-code based searches.
* The American Radio Relay League is the biggest, oldest ham radio club in North America and one of the oldest in the world.  Their name dates back to the days when a table-top spark-gap transmitter and simple "crystal set" type receiver had a range of a hundred miles or so and messages had to be "relayed" from one station to another to travel any distance.  It's still apt now that handheld VHF/UHF radios have, with a repeater, about the same range.  You can use other bands and cover the whole planet but emergency comms remains an up-close, short-range art.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Thanks. I actually bought the radio thinking I'd either get a license and use it, or resell it :)

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Hey, I got 23 out of 35 on a practice test without even studying. Not good enough to pass, but still, that's pretty encouraging.

Dave H said...

Fuzzy: That's about what I score without studying too, and I've been a ham for years. Er, decades.

Rick T said...

I just took the test and passed cold. Very scary...

I passed the 3rd Class test (w broadcast endorsement) mumblty years ago so I could be a DJ at our high school 10W FM station (the transmitter was in the studio).

Aubrey Turner said...

Let me put in a good word for Ham Radio (

We used his book in a recent class and I found the descriptions and explanations to be very helpful. He also has practice tests and additional information linked on the website.

(Note that I'm not related to the author; there are a gazillion of us Turners floating around the country.)

Divemedic said...

I have my Tech license. I have been wondering if I should try for my General. It would be pointless right this minute, because I can't afford another radio right now, anyway.

Eck! said...

Also for practice tests. The have try it free and paid for.

Have my Ham license since early 2001,
now an extra.

Do it. Its not hard nor is the TECH a super technical thing to study for. It's basic stuff and regulations. The resulting license allows the user to operation on many bands and fully experience ham radio.


jed said...

I haven't tested yet. I found Ham Radio for Dummies to be a pretty good book. A bit slow moving at times, but filled with a lot of stuff you'll want to know, not just for the test, but for operating, once you're on the air.

And don't forget to look for hamfests in your area.

Ritche said...

My blind pig score-29. Maybe I should look into this.

Stranger said...

W5YI ( also does a good job with a bit less regimentation than ARRL, and the fee is a buck less.

As a VE for both I prefer 5YI, since we do not have to guess about how many will show up for an exam.

On the other hand, the ARRL manuals are the best you can get. They give you the whyfore as well as the questions.


Dan KB6NU said...

I would invite everyone interested in getting an amateur radio license to check out my "No Nonsense" amateur radio license study guides. You can download the PDF version for free at



Jim Dunmyer said...

Is that radio actually any good at all? Seems "toy cheap" to me. It's very tempting, I've been thinking of getting a ham license for nearly 50 years now...might have follow through, just to cross it off my bucket list.

Roberta X said...

Well, Jim, it works okay for 2m ham and 450 MHz business band in the "intermod alley" of downtown Indianapolis. The real test of fire will be at the Motor Speedway in May, where even the high-end stuff flips out.

I wouldn't want to drop it six feet on a hard surface. OTOH, for $40, it can be replaced.