There are three levels of amateur radio licensing: Technician, General, and Extra Class.You must pass a multiple choice exam to get an amateur radio license. Morse code is not required, but it’s handy to know and easy to learn.
There are a number of ways* to study for the ham exam. The exams are multiple choice and the question pools are available in a number of formats. A good place to start is to:
- Read the Technician Class 2014-18 FCC Element 2 Radio License Preparation 8th Edition by Gordon West. The author presents the technical aspects of ham radio operation in a straightforward manner. The General Class and Extra Class study books are also available by Gordon West;
- Search the internet for the numerous ham test study sites like Eham, AA9PW, HamStudy and ARRL. The online ham test study sites provide unlimited practice sessions and grading so you can track your progress;
- Download a ham exam study app for your cell phone;
- Periodically, SVRC offers ham exam classes; and of course,
- Stop by one of the monthly SVRC club meetings to ask any of the Elmers your ham radio questions.
*How much time have you burned up when you could have been studying? Many hams have used a phone app to study in restaurants while waiting for their food, in various offices waiting for appointments, where ever there is a line to wait in, and, of course, just for fun. Studying with others is also helpful.
In addition to covering the basics, the FCC Technician 35 question multiple-choice license exam focuses on VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) applications. With a Technician Class license, you will have all ham radio privileges above 30 MHz (megahertz). These privileges include the very popular two-meter band. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other modes. You can even make international radio contacts via satellites, using relatively simple station equipment. Technician licensees also have additional privileges on certain HF (high frequency) frequencies. Technicians may also operate on the 80, 40 and 15 meter bands using CW (Morse Code), and on the 10 meter band using CW (Morse Code), voice and digital modes.
To upgrade to General Class, you must already hold a Technician Class license (or have recently passed the Technician license exam). Upgrading to a General license-which conveys extensive HF privileges-only requires passing a 35-question multiple choice written examination. Once you do, the entire range of operating modes and the majority of the amateur spectrum below 30 MHz become available to you.
General licensees may upgrade to Extra Class by passing a 50-question multiple-choice examination. In addition to some of the more obscure regulations, the test covers specialized operating practices, advanced electronics theory and radio equipment design.