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!
Some useful links: