License Study

SARA License Study ~ last update: 03 Feb 2024

License Classes Vs Test Elements

The regulations that govern the Amateur Radio Service in the United States are Part 97 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations. All American people interested in amateur radio should read Part 97 {this is link to a current copy}. The Federal Communications Commission [FCC] is responsible for administering these regulations. The FCC requires that all radio amateurs pass a test before attaining the privilege of operating an amateur radio station. A 'test fee' is part of the procedure starting in 2023. All the ham exams are built from established "question pools", with a pool for each of three elements that are used for the tests {Elements 2~4 -- hey it is the government and they start counting anywhere}. The question pools align with the three classes of ham radio licensing which are:

Technician class (Element 2) Pool is effective July 1, 2022 and is valid until June 30, 2026. The test contains three schematic diagrams. See the ARRL web link for some additional Technician License information. {You can go to NCVEC Technician Test Pool for the current listing of test questions and all details}. Note: One of the questions is currently 'withdrawn'.

General class (Element 3) Pool is effective July 1, 2023 and is valid until June 30, 2027. Contains about 450 questions and 1 schematic diagram. See: NCVEC General Class Test Pool for current listing of test questions.

New questions for 01 July 2023 and beyond are available as of Dec 2022. There were some changes in the April time. 

Extra class (Element 4) Pool is effective July 1, 2020 and will be valid until June 30, 2024. The test is 50 questions. NCVEC Extra Class Test Pool has the latest questions list.

The question pools are reviewed as part of a regular process. Each question pool is reviewed and updated on a four year rotation. Generally each pool will have more than 10 times the test level number of questions (a '50 question test' will have about 500 questions in the 'pool' from which test questions are pulled). The National Conference of Volunteer Examiners [NCVEC] is a group of volunteers which control all of the question pools. 

Suggested Study Process: (steps)

The following steps can quickly lead you to an amateur radio license. SARA highly recommends that you follow these steps which lead via a short path to successfully passing your test(s):

As in any technical area, mathematics leads the way to a quicker understanding, but the mathematics level can be at very basic levels for any of the amateur radio tests. In today's world, computers and mathematics seem to be required, but you can decide what level you wish to let these influence your ham future. The final answer should always be: "It is your 'hobby' and should always be fun!". If not, you are doing it wrong. Do not let influences push you to an unhappy state, just set your pace, move forward and enjoy the journey. Make it one of your fun hobbies, thus making it a great hobby!

Math Tutorials: {to assist you, if required}

We just mentioned mathematics, so here are some very basic mathematical guides for your review:

Mathematics is a scientific language (tool) for understanding detailed interactions of real world relationships in an accurate and precise manner. It is used in engineering and science to explain how things work in our universe. Most details are explained using simple levels of math! Complex (vectors, etc.) math becomes a 'shorthand method' to show many very complex relationships in a simple process. Luckily a good mathematics understanding of what hams require is mostly in the 'simple math' language operations. Most require little more than a few simple algebraic concepts. You can get through these with very little effort, so have no fear. Advanced concepts can be explained in higher mathematics quickly and precisely, but they are NOT required for ham licensing. Kids in the 6 to 8 year old levels have earned ham licenses without the 'heavy math' - have no fear about the issue.

A basic understanding of scientific notation and some low level understanding of logarithms will assist you in scaling from very small numbers to very large numbers. Scaling numbers and pattern recognition are two of the human brain's strongest features. Some elementary trigonometry can be a help (sine, cosine, unit circle, etc). These areas are very important to intelligence levels for all living species.  In order to obtain an amateur radio license, it is a requirement to understand some of the various levels of science and physics and how they are used in "the real world" around us, but again at very basic levels only.

Technician Class Test Makeup Details:

The actual test is a multiple choice 35 question test with four answer choices per question. The 35 questions are drawn from a "test pool" of 'greater then 10 times the required test questions' (greater than 350 total questions for the technician class). The test pool has 35 sections, thus one question from each of the sections is used on a random basis to make up each individual test. Each pool's contents are publicly released six months before becoming active for testing. All of the questions, with correct answers displayed, and connection to the Part 97 references are freely available. The challenge to a new candidate is to read Part 97 [See: FCC Part 97 References] and then study every possible question from the entire pool. Part 97 is about 35 pages of material to understand. The logic involved is not difficult, but it does take a little effort. If we were to make a slide presentation of each current question and a follow up slide showing the correct answer, we would have 792 different slides. If you looked at each slide for an average of 1 minute, you would spend over 13 hours going through the slides - this is NOT very efficient in a classroom environment, but gives you an idea of how much study is really required to fully cover the topic. If you want to pass-the-test, then you must be prepared. Actually if you just read a question and answer once, you probably will score above 65%. Just a little time using "self study" and you will do fine and be at (or above) the 85% level quickly. If you can score 85% on a quiz basis exam, you are ready for the 'real test'. On the actual test you need to get 26 correct out of 35 questions (75% grade; so you can miss 9 and pass the test). Practice until you are little above that level and then go for your real test!

We present here links to the Part 97 and to the 'Technician Class - Element 2' question pool. Please take the time to read and study this information. You will notice many questions are closely related and thus if you understand that portion of Part 97, you will be able to answer many of the subelement T1 questions quickly.

The NCVEC Organization (home page) coordinates the question pools for all amateur licensing.

The Technician Question Pool used in testing is from the NCVEC pages. Links from this page can get MS Word; Adobe PDF; ASCII text files of the question pools for your use. If the question is on a regulatory basis (subelement T1), the Part 97 specific paragraph is referenced. The correct answer to the question is listed in the pool. You should read all the possible answers and know why some are incorrect as this helps you remember the reason for the correct answer.

If you read through part 97 and review the 'technical aspects' of the test you are along way towards passing the first time you actually try. In the Michigan area there are 'one day classes' that will almost guarantee passing. Some of these are in the Ann Arbor area, costs are not high and actual testing is the last thing in the class. They take about eight hours and many have started that way. They have a success rate in the 90% range. Those having trouble are the ones who come without having read the material. They think someone will force feed the required data and are surprised, success requires work and preparation from you before the class. Study a few minutes each day for 30 days  and you should be ready.

Element 2 ~ Subelement T1

It is recommended that you study the T1 subelement in a 'self-study' manner. Individual concentrated study is the quickest method to obtain the required knowledge. If your local club provided an 'Elmer', they can be a great resource in explaining the tough parts. Use the NCVEC link page for the FCC Part 97 References and click on the desired paragraph numbers to read the paragraph information. The information is used for the T1 subelement. The paragraph numbers are referenced in the pool questions and are what you will want to read and study closely. In subelement T1 all but five questions come directly from the Part 97 regulations and have reference data. That means 63 of the 68 questions in this subelement (T1) are understanding the FCC rules. T1B01 & T1B02 are about the International Telecommunications Union [ITU] which is a United Nations [UN] agency for information and communication technology. The ITU divides the world into different regions. The United States of America [USA] is in region 2. T1C02 and T1C04 are about USA callsign format and foreign country operations - it is best you just memorize these at this point. That leaves only one question that I have not identified {yet}.

Some Added Online Study Guides/Courses for the Technician Class License
    (Easy reading or watching!)

Practice Exams for Technician Class License

SARA has a tradition of supporting licensing and education of new hams. The following exam practice aids have been developed by other hams to support that effort and are shared freely with all others who want to obtain or upgrade to a particular license. These are in addition to the ARRL Exam Review site listed above. Check these out to see which one(s) might be most useful to you:

Remember to take lots of 'practice exams' as they help you prove to yourself that you are getting better. Also, the questions you do get wrong, show which subelement you need to concentrate on for further study. If you pass several tests in a row above the 85% level, you can seriously consider taking the real test and have an excellent probability of passing it. We invite local visitors to come to the club for assistance in getting their first license or any level of 'upgrade'.

After passing the Technician Class License Test - then what?

You will probably wish to buy a radio and setup a station, but that usually leaves many wandering along with no clear direction.  Currently (Nov. 2022) there is a 'free radio' given to new ham licensees ~ See 'SARA Club Items' on top menu and look down the list ' SARA Ponderings' for details, then down again.

A "basic division" of radio types is useful when starting out:

Both radio types are great ways to talk and meet new people on a very easy to use communication method. A little listening will allow you to understand the correct protocols being used, just do not wait to get started. Almost all people on the air should assist you if you ask. I must admit there are some 'jerks' in the amateur radio community, but they are way outnumbered by the 'good social people' group involved in our hobby.

Please consider, the areas of social aspects, further education, personal involvement, and the impact of your decisions to those around you. These thoughts will lead you to a good direction for you to follow. Remember: Use those new radio skills and privileges for your advancement - it should take some time to understand exactly where your interests are and the best path for you and they may change over time ~ that is "normal" for everyone. If you do not regularly use your radio, you will probably quickly lose interest in the hobby (a recent development in our modern society and not really what you should desire).  Give it a fair shot on impacting you life, set a goal of four radio communication periods per week and make each period at least 10 minutes in length. Forty minutes per week is not really that difficult for most people. Making it a lifetime interest will insure good future benefits and will be very rewarding. So, GET ON THE AIR! quickly and often!

License up grading follows similar paths and should not be a large chore - keep it fun!

REMINDER: The ARRL has an 'Ham Review' cell phone/tablet app to help you at any class of license. ARRL EXAM REVIEW app site. You need to establish an account and respond to an email, but then your review is just a click away. {It is 'free'.} This is a good path to continued growth in ham radio.

REMEMBER: SARA can provide 'Elmers' and assist you in many ways ~ just ask us! (personal contact/email/'on-the-air' methods are possible). It is usually easier if you are local, but we can do email and/or internet and/or 'on-the-air' methods to assist anyone anywhere. Even during COVID 19 we can figure out something.

Free Study Guides are available from KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog for higher class licenses, there are some here having a small fee, See: KB6NU Web Site. He has Technician, General and Extra Class Guides. They will help you get through the Q & A portion of getting to the proper license class. These with a little 'hands-on' electronics will get you well along learning all the amateur radio electronics you desire. Dan Romanchik helps out the hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor, MI and he has been active in local clubs and ARRL activities during his ham radio career. Read his blog for lots of good stuff, KB6NU Blog

... Welcome and enjoy your new hobby!!