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Editorial: Passing Your FCC Exams

In this brief article, I’m going to outline my personal recommendations for preparing for your FCC amateur radio exams. This is my personal opinion, and does not reflect the official opinion of the McKinney Amateur Radio Club, and is not an official endorsement of any kind.

I used this process to pass all three of my FCC amateur radio exams in a short period of time. I’ve also recommended this process to other people, and my 11-year-old son passed his Technician exam using this method. If this works for a sixth grader, it should work for older youth and adults as well!

The resource I recommend to people seeking to pass their amateur radio exams is the website HamStudy.org. The website is completely free, and I recommend that people create an account in order to track your progress. The interface is clean and uncluttered, and it’s community supported, and it works great.

The process that I recommend is to start with the flash cards in “Study Mode” on HamStudy.org. The website will present you with each one of the questions in the question pool, and I recommend trying to answer honestly. If you don’t know the answer, DO NOT GUESS! Instead, click “I don’t know,” and then click the upper-right corner to reveal more information about the answer. Guessing is fine on an actual exam, if necessary, but at this stage we want to accurately measure our actual knowledge, not our ability to guess correctly.

The HamStudy website will track two metrics for you: your overall aptitude, and the percentage of questions seen. Aptitude is a measure of how often you answer correctly, and the percentage of questions seen is self-explanatory. I recommend sticking with “study mode” until you have seen 100% of the questions, and your aptitude is up around 70-80%.

Once you have seen all of the questions, and your overall aptitude is around 80%, then it’s time to try a practice test! That’s a separate option from their menu, and it gives you an idea of what the questions will be like on an actual exam. There are hundreds of questions in the question pool for each exam, but you will only have to answer 35 for the Technician and General exam, and 50 for the Amateur Extra exam. There will be a certain number of questions from each of the sections, and the HamStudy website takes care of randomizing it for you to match real exams.

Taking the practice tests will help you identify any weak spots in your knowledge, and then you can then focus your studying on those particular areas. If necessary, spend a little time addressing those weak spots, and then try another practice test. Once you can pass multiple practice tests in a row, you’re ready for the real exam!

The ARRL has a great website that outlines what to expect and what to bring to an exam session. I strongly recommend that new hams get a FRN from the FCC before going to the exam. The FRN is simply a FCC Registration Number, and is your unique ID when dealing with the FCC. If you do not have a FRN, you have to provide the volunteer examiners with your social security number, and a FRN will be assigned to you during the process of assigning your call sign. However, it only takes a few minutes to register for a FRN online before the exam, and it means you don’t have to find and bring your Social Security card to the exam with you!

Good luck!

Some useful links:

January 2020 Program – Low Noise Receiving Antennas

Please join us for the January meeting as special guest Dick Sanders, K5QY, will be presenting on Low Noise Receiving Antennas. 

ARRL life member Dick Sanders – K5QY, was first licensed in 1958. Dick retired from Rockwell/Alcatel Telecom as a senior technical writer. For Ham radio he’s listed on the DXCC Number 1 Honor Roll and has 7BDXCC, 6BWAS, and WAS HF mobile. He is also an ARRL DX card checker including 160 meters. Dick has modeled, designed and built many of his antennas from 160-meter phased verticals to 440 MHz yagis.

Dick has given many antenna talks and presentations to local clubs and at DFW’s Ham-Com Hamfest.

Please check out his website when you get a chance. Lots of great information on antennas and more:

www.k5qy.net

Join us for this and more on January 14th, 7pm at Spring Creek BBQ, 75 and 380 in McKinney.

December 2019 Program – MARC Christmas Party

It’s time for the annual MARC Christmas Party!   This year the Membership did approve a modest increase in the budget for the event which will result in some pretty nice member door prizes. And don’t forget to participate in the gift exchange… just bring a wrapped gift (something that you would like to receive) and the exchange will begin. In addition, at the party, as in previous years, we will be collecting items for the U.S. Marine Corp Toys for Tots campaign. Just bring a new, unwrapped toy and we will see that it is properly delivered (note: cash donations are also acceptable, but a toy is a little more manageable).

Please join us for this and more on December 10, 7pm at Spring Creek BBQ in McKinney. We hope to see you there! 

November 2019 Program – Member Show and Tell

Our Program for the November meeting will be entirely member driven! Got a favorite QSL card? How about a really nifty design for a Go-Kit? Favorite story about a DX contact or expedition (or one that got away) ? Want to share a bit of HAM radio history with new HAMS? As long as it’s HAM radio related, let’s hear about it or see it! One other request, if you have your own QSL card, bring it to the meeting. We’ll line these up on the front table for all to see, the more the better!

Join us for this and the annual Club Officer elections on November 12th, 7pm, at Spring Creek BBQ in McKinney. If you have any questions or suggestions for future programs, please email me, programs at mckinneyarc.org. Hope to see you there!

Sid Gibson – K5DKW, MARC VP

2019 BSA Jamboree-On-The-Air

Jamboree On The Air, October 18-20, 2019

The McKinney Amateur Radio Club is once again supporting the Boy Scouts of America by assisting with a public Jamboree-On-The-Air event on Saturday, October 19th, from 11:00 am until about 6:00 pm, at Erwin Park in McKinney.

Jamboree-on-the-Air, or JOTA, is the largest Scouting event in the world. It is held annually the third full weekend in October. JOTA uses amateur radio to link Scouts and hams around the world, around the nation, and in your own community.

Scouts will be able to get on the air and operate on HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies, using FM, SSB, and CW, under the guidance of licensed amateurs. There will also be a Radio Merit Badge class that afternoon.

Scouts and/or hams interested in participating should contact Michael Jarvis, N5MAJ, via email N5MAJ at ARRL dot net.

September 2019 program – Lead Acid Batteries

Our September meeting will feature a presentation on lead acid batteries for ham radio use. Our very own John Urban, WA9UOD, will present for discussion, battery safety, makeup, voltages, capacity ratings, charging and more! Everything you ever wanted to know about choosing the right battery for your application, but were afraid to ask.
Join us on September 10, 7pm at Spring Creek BBQ in McKinney for this and more!

July 2019 Program – CERT

Our July program will feature our very own William N5WOI and Kenneth KF5TXL presenting on Allen CERT. Find out how Ham Operators provide critical communications during various emergency situations and how you can get involved. They will be also be sharing a real life example of the help CERT/ Ham Radio provided after the devastating Hail storm this past March in Allen.

Please plan on joining us for this and more at 7pm, July 9th at Spring Creek BBQ, 75 and 380 in McKinney. We hope to see you there!

June 2019 Program – Field Day

Field Day 2019 is almost here! Please join us on June 11th, 7pm at Spring Creek BBQ in McKinney for an in-depth look at MARC’s plans for Field Day 2019 and how you can be a part of it. We have something for everyone this year, from setup, takedown, GOTA station, VE Exam, Educational Activity, Satellite work, Traffic Handling (W1AW bulletin), Family dinner and of course, making as many contacts as possible on CW, Phone or Digital stations!

Hope to see you there!