U.S. HAM RADIO LICENSES, EXAMS, AND CALLSIGNS - UPDATED DEC. 16, 2016
License Classes And Required Elements:
Here are the current amateur radio license classes, and required test elements, for the UNITED STATES, and its territories. You MUST pass all
"lower elements" before the license class privileges of a "higher license"
may be used.
Those interested in amateur radio license exam elements for Canada, or
other countries, should contact the respective amateur radio licensing
entity for that country for details.
Novice and Advanced Class licenses are NO LONGER ISSUED, as of April 15, 2000...but holders of these licensees may continue to use their license privileges, as long as their licenses are not expired, and they may renew
them at the appropriate time.
Also, Morse Code is NO LONGER REQUIRED for any class of U.S. Amateur
adio License, as of Feb. 23, 2007. You can learn, then use Morse Code on
the air, and many hams will continue to do so...but, you don't have to
prove that you know it.
You may download the appropriate license class element question pools,
and if applicable, accompanying graphics (in .PDF format) from the Ham
Radio files area...or from either http://www.arrl.org/question-pools
on the Internet. The free Adobe Acrobat Reader (http://get.adobe.com/reader
) is required to view the .PDF files. For a detailed list of license class privileges by amateur radio band, see the category "Band Plans".
2 Technician Theory -- Technicians have all amateur radio privileges above
50 Megahertz, including the popular 2 meter band. They also have the
following HF privileges, identical to the former Novice Class license:
80 meters: CW (Morse Code) only: 3.525 Mhz to 3.600 Mhz
40 meters: CW (Morse Code) only: 7.025 Mhz to 7.125 Mhz
15 meters: CW (Morse Code) only: 21.025 Mhz to 21.200 Mhz
10 meters: CW (Morse Code), RTTY, and data only: 28.000 Mhz to 28.300 Mhz
10 meters: SSB Phone Only: 28.300 Mhz to 28.500 Mhz
Technician Class or higher licensees may also use the Voice Over Internet protocol (VoIP) modes of Echolink, IRLP, WIRES-II, D-Star, CQ100, HamSphere, etc.
The advantage with using Echolink as a Single User setup, D-Star via a
DV Dongle, or with CQ100 or HamSphere, there are no additional antennas,
rigs, cables, etc. required...just a computer with an Internet connection
(DSL or broadband is PREFERRED...dial-up internet connections are STRONGLY DISCOURAGED because of speed issues), and a sound card interface...using
either a headset microphone, or a desktop microphone and speakers.
With these, they can still talk around the world. This is particularly
useful for those living where outdoor ham radio antennas are either
severely restricted, or prohibited altogether.
CQ100 and HamSphere are "virtual ionospheres for amateur radio", as no
actual RF occurs. While Echolink is free, CQ100 and HamSphere each have a yearly fee. For details on CQ100, go to http://www.qsonet.com
-- and for details on HamSphere, go to http://www.hamsphere.com
on the Internet -- information on pricing for each is on the respective websites. Hamsphere
is as close as you can get to ham radio, with "antennas", "propagation",
However, unlike Echolink, IRLP, WIRES-II, D-Star, D-Rats, and CQ100,
there are also SWL'ers (Short Wave Listeners), who are NOT licensed ham
radio operators on Hamsphere.
The Technician Class license is now the ENTRY LEVEL license for amateur radio. Note that except as noted above, NO OTHER HF PRIVILEGES EXIST FOR
NOVICE OR TECHNICIAN CLASS LICENSEES.
3 General Theory -- must also have element 2 if wishing to gain access
to HF privileges, specific to the General class license. The General
Class license allows all amateur radio privileges, except for the 500
kilohertz of spectrum on the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands, that the
Amateur Extra Class licensees have.
4 Amateur Extra Theory -- must also have elements 2 and 3 if wishing to
gain access to HF privileges, specific to the Amateur Extra class
license. which allows ALL amateur radio privileges...including some on
the 80, 40, 20, and 15 meter bands EXCLUSIVE to them.
Question Pools And Effective Dates:
The amateur radio license class Question Pools are to have at least ten
(10) times the number of questions that are on the license exams for each
test element. With 35 questions on both the Technician and General Class License Exams...and 50 questions on the Amateur Extra Class exam...
depending on which element, or how many license class elements you plan
to test for, you'll have from close to 400 to over 1600 questions to study. And, because they're in the pools (unless a particular question has been withdrawn), there is a CHANCE that ANY of the questions in the pools WILL appear on the test!!
The Question Pools are updated and released every 4 years, based on new technologies, rules changes, etc. The actual release date is around six
(6) months prior to the effective date (January 1st release date for a
July 1st effective date).
This allows time to catch any errors...and change or withdraw any
questions that are vague, with incorrect data, etc.; so that various
companies that publish study guides can have accurate information in their products. The ARRL Question Pool website on the Internet (www.arrl.org/question-pools) has this information as well.
Technician: Changed in 2014; Changes in 2018, 2022, 2026, 2030, etc.
General: Changed in 2015; Changes in 2019, 2023, 2027, etc.
Extra: Changed in 2016; Changes in 2020, 2024, 2028, etc.
BE SURE THAT THE QUESTION POOL YOU OBTAIN FOR STUDY, HAS THE CORRECT
DATES. If not, you could be in for a "rude awakening" on exam day.
On The Thunderbolt BBS, in the Ham Radio Exams file area, are as follows
(all of these require the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them):
Amateur Radio Technician Class license question pool, valid from July 1,
2014 to June 30, 2018. Requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
2014TCHG.PDF Graphics for the Technician Class license question pool,
valid from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2018. Requires the Adobe Acrobat
Reader to view.
Amateur Radio General Class license question pool, valid from July 1,
2015 to June 30, 2019. Requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
2015GENG.PDF Graphics for the General Class license question pool, valid
from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2019. Requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader to
2012 Amateur Extra Class license question pool, valid from July 1, 2016
to June 30, 2020. Requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
2016EXTG.PDF Graphics for the Amateur Extra Class license question pool,
valid from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2020. Requires the Adobe Acrobat
Reader to view.
Years ago, to take an amateur radio license exam, you had to usually
travel a long distance to an FCC Field Office. The Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) program and groups were created in 1982. Volunteer
Examiners (VE's), accredited by the respective VEC, began testing in 1984,
and have been administering ham radio license exams ever since. Now, in
most cases, there is a license exam available in your area...or nearby...on either a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or even an "on demand"
basis. The amount of advance notice required will vary with each VE Team,
but for teams that I work with in central Arkansas, please give at least
24 to 48 hours notice, so a VE Team, and a location can be obtained, that
will be suitable to the examinee, and the VE Team. The best time to do an
exam is on evenings or more likely on weekends.
Any Amateur Radio Operator holding a valid General, Advanced, or
Amateur Extra Class license, is eligible to apply to be a VE...as long
as they are at least 18 years of age, their license has never been
suspended or revoked, and there is not a question about the amateur
radio operators "integrity" as a Volunteer Examiner.
Speaking of which, integrity of the exam sessions is a huge part, as
the VE's basically are putting their own licenses on the line. According
to Part 97 of the FCC Rules...if a VE team, or individual VE, administers
or certifies an exam by fraudulent means, they could lose BOTH their VE accreditation, and their ham radio licenses FOR LIFE...and the examinee
may have to re-take the exam elements in question...either before another
VE Team, or before the FCC itself, as noted later in this bulletin.
The VE team is to TERMINATE the test session of any examinee, who is
caught CHEATING, or if they fail to comply with the instructions of the
VE team. Should this occur, the exam will be marked as FAILED, and the
cheater will be ordered to leave the premises. This could also affect
their ability in the future to attempt to test at another license exam.
A prospective VE must go through the accreditation process. For the
ARRL/VEC, it's an OPEN BOOK TEST, that you take at your leisure. When
done, you return the test sheet to the ARRL for processing...which
takes 3 to 6 weeks. The prospective VE *MUST* have either a valid
General, Advanced, or Amateur Extra Class license *IN HAND*, or in the
FCC database (such as on www.qrz.com) BEFORE applying to become a VE.
ARRL VE Accreditation is free. There are other VEC groups, and their accreditation processes may be different.
Once accredited, the following tests may be administered:
VE/Ham License Class: Amateur Radio Exam That May Be Given:
Novice NONE -- not eligible to become a VE.
Technician NONE -- not eligible to become a VE.
General Technican Class Exam ONLY.
Advanced Technician or General Class Exam ONLY.
Amateur Extra ANY exam (Technician, General, or Amateur Extra).
Note: It is REQUIRED that 3 VE's be at an exam session...preferably 4
or more...in case the team has to test in one room, and grade in
another...or if a VE has to step out of the room for a short time. It
is also preferred that the MAJORITY of the team include a MINIMUM of
3 Amateur Extra Class licensees. That way, all exams can be given, as
On June 9, 2014, the FCC issued a "Report And Order" (R&O) in response to
a previously issued Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which sought
comments on revising the exam procedures. The following changes to exam sessions took effect on July 21, 2014:
1) A holder of a General, Advanced, or Amateur Extra Class license which
is EXPIRED MORE THAN 2 YEARS, can get back into the hobby, by passing
Element 2 (the Technician Class exam) at a license exam session.
The examinee will still have to provide proper identification (listed
elsewhere in this bulletin/message thread), provide proof of the prior
amateur radio license, provide their Social Social Security Number (if
a Federal Registration Number is not on the expired license), and pay
the appropriate test fee.
Upon passing the Technician Exam, they will be granted a Certificate Of Successful Completion Of Examination (CSCE) for the license they held,
if it was a General or Extra Class license. However, Advanced Class
licensees are DOWNGRADED to General, since those licenses are no longer
issued. In any case, these licensees will be issued a NEW CALLSIGN about
10 to 14 days after the exam session.
Once they have their new callsign, they can apply for their old callsign
under the Vanity Callsign system, but there is a possibility that their
former callsign will have since been re-assigned to another amateur radio operator, once the original license had lapsed (it had been more than 2
years since its expiration).
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