Pass your ham radio license test
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After one of those what if the internet/communications went down zombie apocalypse type conversations, I told my husband I wanted to look into ham radios. I knew nothing about them, but didn’t people always say, “yeah, well, if communications go down, there’s always ham radio.”
Little did I know there’s a lot to learn about ham radio. It isn’t just something you jump into “when you need it”. One of the first things I realized was that in order to operate a ham radio, you’re supposed to be licensed by the FCC. In order to get that license, you have to take a test.
For Christmas last year, my husband bought me a handheld ham radio—as well as one for himself— but then it was up to us to study for the test to be able to use them. A month later he announced that a local amateur radio club was having a “ham fest” in a couple weeks and would be offering the test there. We decided to hit the books and study for the Technician class test, the first of three licenses you can obtain.
Passing the Technician class test gives you the right to transmit, but only on certain frequencies. The Technician class test consists of 35 questions from a pool of 423 questions, and you have to get 26 right to pass. The topics range from operating procedures, electrical principles and components, antennas, feedlines, modulation modes…
Y’all, I was a theater and choir geek in school. Electronics? Antennas? What did I get myself into?
Spoiler alert: I studied for two weeks and passed the test. In fact, I totally smoked it.
I’ve had a lot of people ask what study materials I used to pass the Technician class license test in the span of two weeks, so this post will talk about those materials. I’ve posted Amazon affiliate links to the books I used, as well as a link to an app I found helpful. These materials are posted in the order of how I used them. If you learn like I learn, I would suggest you go in the same order.
Note: the way you learn/study will determine what works for you. I’m a reader/visual learner with an almost photographic memory. My husband prefers learning through video and did a lot of what we like to call “YouTube University” to study for his test, which he also passed with flying colors. (Check out Ham Radio 2.0, etc.)
Note: The question pool for the Technician, General, and Amateur Extra Class tests changes every several years. Make sure that the study guides you’re using are current for the year you’re testing.
Pass Your Amateur Radio Test is really all about learning the right answers and none of the wrong ones. There’s no fluff. There’s no extra information. It’s literally what you need to know for the test, and nothing that you don’t. There are several tricks and hints included, and those things definitely stuck with me.
I spent about five hours with the Kindle version of this book one night, and immediately ordered the paperback—due to the fact that flipping back and forth through pages is much easier in paperback than it is on Kindle.
I will say that starting with this book is what made me not only want to continue learning the information, but it made me believe I could learn the information.
This is the thing that everyone told me I needed to get. I hate paying for apps—and this one costs 3.99— but it was worth every penny. You can take practice exams, and it will tell you what questions you got wrong, and explain why you got them wrong. You can drill the information subsection by subsection. There is a study mode and a cram mode. The app was very helpful and made me confident about taking the test.
After spending the initial five hours with Pass Your Amateur Radio Test, I took a practice test on the HamStudy.org app and failed… but just barely. I started digging in to a few things I didn’t understand and decided I needed a bit more of an explanation. That’s where the next book comes in.
The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual is more like a textbook for the technician license exam. I liked it because of all the diagrams and charts—which I wanted in order to solidify my understanding of some things. There were also some explanations of certain points that I appreciated.
However, had I started with this book, I would have given up. It’s a LOT of extra information that you don’t need for the test. It’s a lot of words, a lot of reading, a lot of digging, a lot of highlighting.
I actually went back and read this book after passing the test and got a lot more out of it.
After feeling like I had a solid grasp on the information, I started running practice tests on the HamStudy.org app, two or three times a day.
A couple days into it, I was passing more than I was failing.
A week into it, I was passing every practice test I took.
Study what you NEED to know for the ham radio test.
There are two ways to go at the ham radio test:
- understand everything about ham radio (as far as the technician license frequencies/operation is concerned), or,
- just learn what you need to pass the test.
I opted for the second choice, and that is also what was suggested to me by other already licensed operators.
That’s not to say that you’re somehow learning a bare minimum or walking into the world of amateur radio completely unprepared. It is to say that once you pass the test and have your license, you finally get to key the mic. And being able to go hands on with your radio is where the real education begins.
So, if you’re thinking of getting into ham radio and studying for your Technician class exam, I encourage you to go for it! A world of communication options will open up to you, and it’s a fun rabbit hole to go down.
And when you pass that Technician class test… you can start studying for the General class test. 😉
More questions? Post them below, email me ([email protected]), find me on social, or wait for an upcoming interview on the podcast that we’re working on that’s all about getting started with ham radio!
— Amy Dingmann (KF0HXL) 2-16-22
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