So you want to take a remote exam…

So you want to take a remote US Amateur Radio License Exam? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Since the lock-downs with COVID-19 started the world of Amateur Radio testing has nearly turned on its head, and the HamStudy.org team has been at the center of most of it! If you read our recent press release then you already know about the group that grew up to take on this new challenge and it has been our privilege to provide the software that nearly all of them use.

It has been an interesting challenge, but I think we can definitely say at this point that fully remote examinations are a well defined thing — and still following all of the same rules and regulations as in-person testing have followed for years. In the last few months there have been over 1200 fully remote exams administered through GLAARG, W5YI, and ARRL (in order of how many each has done) and in the last few weeks the number of teams able to administer them have really picked up.

In short, it’s finally a good time to start looking for a remote exam session!

So here is what you need to know, and please read this list carefully — you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t read and how much trouble it causes those working to make this happen!

What you need to have to test

  • First, you need to have a good internet connection capable of doing video conferencing. If you don’t then you might consider contacting the Anchorage ARC VEC who use an on-site proctor and thus have less stringent requirements for this.
  • Next you need to have a good webcam on your computer — you may be asked to use a cell phone or similar as a second camera. You’ll need to be able to prove your test area is “clean”
  • The specific video conferencing software used will depend on the VE team, but you’ll need to be able to install it.
  • You will need a “clean” environment to take the exam in — one with nothing around that could be hiding cheat methods and one where nobody will be entering the room unexpectedly (which would probably void the exam). Amusingly, many people have started using a bathroom / washroom for this — a little weird, but who are we to judge?

Finding a fully remote / online exam

To find an exam session, go to https://ham.study/sessions/online

  • Keep in mind that HamStudy.org *does not run these sessions*, so please don’t email us with questions =]
  • Please don’t register for an exam until you are ready to pass! If you aren’t sure, we know a great website where you can take practice exams for free and see how you are doing. If you aren’t passing consistently then leave a spot for others who are, keep studying, and then sign up when you are actually ready. Remember, these are volunteer examiners running these sessions for you and there are others who want to take an exam as well — let’s not take slots we aren’t ready for.
  • Please do not sign up for more than one exam session — scheduling these sessions is extremely tricky and if you register for more than one you are taking spots that others may need. There will be other slots available.
  • Make sure you register for an exam session which is marked as “online“! The listing shows both if it’s online and how many slots are available if there is a limit — if it says the session is full just find another session. At the time of this writing I see at least 50 slots open in the next few weeks, so there are slots available and there will be more coming up.
  • Always read the session notes carefully! Some sessions have special requirements or instructions for registering, usually to weed out people who don’t follow directions and reduce the impact. In short, if you don’t read the instructions there is a good chance you won’t be testing.
  • Check your spam folder; most teams will require you to pay your exam fee before the exam day and may even remove your registration if they don’t hear back from you in a timely manner.

Finally, keep in mind throughout the entire process just how much time and effort your exam team has put in to make this possible! Be patient with them if some things don’t go quite to plan =] They want you to pass and will do everything that the rules allow to help you succeed!

73 and good luck!

Posted in Licensing | 29 Comments

Fully-Remote Amateur Radio License Exam Administration

Contributing Authors: Marcel Stieber AI6MS, Sterling Mann N0SSC, Nick Booth N1CCK, Lucky225 WA6VPS, Richard Bateman KD7BBC

Note 4/23/2020: Thanks for the overwhelming response! A few points before we move onto the press release:

Can my VE team get involved doing remote exams ?

Absolutely! The primary ExamTools developer, Richard (KD7BBC), is working on software updates and does not have time to walk everyone through, so for now please join the Discord Chat Server and get help getting started there. Please don’t contact ExamTools support until you’re actually ready to get started. Note that you need approval from your VEC to administer remote exams as well.

The process we recommend is:

  1. READ THIS: This process is for Volunteer Examiners, not for people wanting to take a test!
  2. Join the discord server, introduce yourself and get approved
  3. Create a sandbox account at sandbox.hamstudy.org
  4. Ask on the discord to get access to sandbox.examtools.org
  5. Play with the sandbox system, learn how it works
  6. Read the user guides (linked below) and ask questions in the discord. Monitor some exam sessions.
  7. Once you’re ready to actually run a session, get permission from your VEC and then contact ExamTools Support to get access to the live system

I want to take an exam! How do I get started?

The good news is there are exam sessions going on most days! The bad news is they are still a little slow and there aren’t enough groups running them yet. You can look for sessions at https://hamstudy.org/sessions — make sure you read the instructions! — and contact the VE team linked on the page not HamStudy.org with any questions as HamStudy.org does not run the exam sessions!

As of yet there aren’t a lot of sessions open, but we are doing our best.

Press Release

Amateur radio license exams typically involve local, in-person sessions run by Volunteer Examiners (VEs) to provide supervision and coordination of the FCC exam with respect to the Part 97 regulations. A limited number of remote exam sessions have been done in areas like Alaska, Hawaii, and Antarctica, but all of these still relied on an in-person proctor to be on-site with the examinee. While the COVID-19 shelter in place guidelines have certainly brought this issue to the forefront, the need for testing applicants with limited mobility or access to physical exams has been a longstanding problem for making amateur radio accessible to everyone.  There are many anecdotal examples of VE teams and applicants going to great lengths, visiting applicants to provide exams in places such as nursing homes, or applicants traveling hundreds of miles to attend the nearest exam session. The need for fully-remote sessions is now stronger than ever.

Remote and fully-remote exam administration has been permitted by the FCC since the rule change in 2014 explicitly authorized remote exams per FCC Report & Order 14-74. Since that time, both Anchorage ARC VEC (Volunteer-Examiner Coordinator) and ARRL VEC have been offering remote sessions with on-site proctors for extenuating circumstances. Under this rule change, the W5YI VEC recently allowed for limited trials of fully-remote exam administration methods that do not require an on-site proctor. The fully-remote exam administration leverages popular video-communications technologies such as Skype or Zoom to allow for exam sessions to be held in full compliance with both FCC and VEC requirements while maintaining the highest exam integrity and applicant experience.

On March 26th, 2020, the first-ever fully-remote amateur radio exam was held to demonstrate the capabilities of these technologies and align with the needs of the W5YI VEC that authorized the trial. This session resulted in a former ham radio operator, Joseph Talbot, passing his technician exam. The FCC issued him his new call sign KJ7NNU within 24 hours of the exam thanks to digital paperwork and speedy processing by W5YI. This exam was performed using Zoom video conferencing and ExamTools.org, a computer-based testing platform developed in 2014 by Richard Bateman KD7BBC with sponsorship and support from Icom America. ExamTools was originally designed for testing, grading, and exam administration of traditional in-person exam sessions on computers, but lent itself very well to fully-remote testing. Richard led this fully-remote session under the supervision of the National Conference of Volunteer-Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) Chairman and W5YI-VEC President Larry Pollock, NB5X.

Since this time, several other VE Teams have begun administering fully-remote exams using ExamTools.org along with video conferencing systems. The Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group (GLAARG) VEC started administering fully remote exams the following week, led by GLAARG VEC Team Lead Norm Goodkin K6YXH with the approval of Adrienne Sherwood WA6YEO. GLAARG VEC has administered over 100 individual exams in the first half of April. ARRL VEC also has a limited number of VE Teams running fully remote sessions per Maria Somma AB1FM (ARRL VEC Manager and NCVEC Vice-Chairman).

While many VECs and VE Teams are excited and willing to offer fully-remote exams, the tools and methods are extremely cumbersome and difficult to administer consistently. Challenges include signing and managing all exam paperwork, verifying applicant identification, observing the applicant reliably throughout the exam, actual taking of the exam, exam booklet and question management, and confirming exam payments as required by the VEC. In order to streamline these processes for both fully-remote and in-person computer-based testing, Richard Bateman KD7BBC is enhancing the existing functionality of ExamTools.org to integrate many of these features into the tool and greatly improve the exam experience for all those involved. Since March 2020, a small team of amateur radio enthusiasts has been supporting Richard’s efforts to develop, test, and document the improved tool and the best practices around administering such exams. In the FAQ section of this release, several documents are provided as resources to the VECs and VE Teams for them to modify and incorporate into their own fully-remote exam procedures. The improved ExamTools.org system is currently in beta testing with several VE Teams and will be made available for wider release soon. Stay tuned for the updates on this blog.

Special thanks to the following individuals for their contributions to the fully-remote exam administration process, either those contributing directly or otherwise supporting the efforts: 

  • Richard Bateman, KD7BBC
  • Nick Booth, N1CCK
  • Marcel Stieber, AI6MS
  • Sterling Mann, N0SSC
  • Lucky225, WA6VPS
  • Norm Goodkin, K6YXH (and his whole family of VEs: Naomi, Miriam, Michael, Daniel, and Mitchell!)
  • Rick Norton, WM6M
  • Mikel Turnier, WU1B
  • Bob Phinney, K5TEC
  • Ted Reimann, W1OG

And a special thanks to W5YI-VEC and the Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group VEC for believing in the technology to enable more people to experience ham radio!

FAQ:

Why do we even offer the fully-remote exam?

Many people wishing to get their amateur radio license have expressed challenges with lack of test session availability, especially in remote areas or areas further away from major cities with regular exam sessions from local radio clubs, or the ability to provide an appropriate proctor for the exam. Additionally, there are individuals who may not be able to easily attend in-person sessions either due to disability or other personal reasons.

With the increase in social distancing requirements in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, many VE Teams have found that they are unable to hold their normal exam sessions and are therefore looking for other ways to continue providing exam sessions. Spurred by the pandemic, there has been a massive increase in both desire and demand from the amateur radio community at large for the VECs to modernize their testing capabilities and improve exam access for everyone. Additionally, General class licensees looking to upgrade to Amateur Extra before the question pool refreshes on July 1st, 2020 will greatly benefit from completing their upgrades fully-remotely.

What does ExamTools.org offer?

ExamTools is being upgraded to now support:

  • VE Administrative Portal for exam session management
  • VE to applicant assignments to facilitate documentation and exam breakout rooms
  • Built-in applicant session registration using the FCC FRN registration tool
  • Support for Form 605 completion, signatures, and distribution
  • Support for CSCE completion, signatures, distribution, and online verification
  • Automatic generation of a unique exam for each applicant and each attempt
  • VE triggered start of the exam and exam grading
  • VE ability to invalidate an exam
  • Exam session manifest is generated at the end of the session for submission to the VEC office
  • Immediate digital distribution of documents to applicant and VE team
  • All session documentation is retained per VEC and FCC retention requirements and made available for VEC downloading for their local records

ExamTools is not currently providing a turn-key video conferencing solution for fully-remote exams, so it is up to each VEC to determine their accepted video conferencing solution based on their specific needs. The fully-remote exam working group has developed standardized documentation for supporting VECs and VE Teams with these tools.

How much does this cost?

ExamTools is still being offered at no cost to the VECs, VE Teams, and Applicants but does welcome voluntary donations from users if desired. ExamTools is a sister project to HamStudy.org and shares its sponsorship from Icom America and support from Signal Stuff.

How do you maintain exam integrity?

Test integrity is one of the most important parts of any exam run by Volunteer Examiners. The fully-remote exam administration was developed in direct correlation with various existing VEC standards, with cooperation and input from many key stakeholders in the VEC community.

During the session, VEs will first examine the working area around the applicant by having the applicant show the room and working area using his or her webcam, checking that all writing materials and calculators meet the exam requirements. During the entirety of the testing process, VEs will monitor the applicant’s microphone, face, and screen (all of which must remain on throughout the session). Several additional checks and requirements are also in place – see the guidebooks linked below for more information.

The video conferencing solution should allow for VEs to be muted and have their videos turned off to prevent the applicant from getting any clues or hints from the VEs. The applicant’s video and audio will need to be on for the duration of the exam. Based on the feedback from the over 100 fully-remote exams offered so far, the VE Teams have provided extremely positive feedback and expressed their strong confidence in the exam integrity of this format. As opposed to an in-person exam, where dozens of applicants can be spread throughout a large room being loosely monitored as a group, in the fully-remote format a single applicant is being actively watched by 3 VEs individually. This means that the VEs are incredibly aware of the applicant’s activities at all times, to the extent that the VEs can observe the applicant’s eyes as they read and answer each question. This level of detailed observation is unprecedented in the existing exam formats and provides high confidence in the integrity of the fully-remote exam process.

Finally, all session audio, video, and screen-share contents for any fully-remote exam session should be recorded by the VE Team for both session integrity, training, and auditing purposes. This allows the VE teams to review any test anomalies before certifying a CSCE and also allows the VEC to audit any exam for both applicant and VE integrity.

What are the technical requirements for the applicant?

Applicants in a fully-remote exam must provide a quiet room with a clear desk, computer with webcam and microphone, and reliable internet connection for the duration of the exam. The camera must have a clear view of the applicant and the testing area throughout the exam. The applicant’s full computer screen will be shared during the entire exam. Applicants are not allowed to wear headphones or a headset or use a second monitor during the exam. A detailed Applicant Guidebook with additional recommendations has been developed by the working group and is made available to VECs and VE Teams at: https://bit.ly/3er7ozQ

What are the rules for VEs involved in the session?

All VEs for the session must also have computers with a webcam and microphone. At the start of the exam session, all videos are active to allow the VE Team Lead to verify the VEs and applicants during the exam setup. During the exam itself, the VEs will turn off their cameras and microphones to limit any inadvertent distractions or reactions to the applicant’s exam taking. A detailed VE Guidebook with additional recommendation has been developed by the working group and is made available to VECs and VE Teams at: https://bit.ly/3eB09W3

What are the exam sizes and VE ratios supported?

ExamTools supports sessions of any size. While video conferencing solutions readily available at this time support meetings with dozens of participants, they are only viable to support a single testing applicant per session due to challenges in screen sharing, separating, and observing feeds from each applicant in the video conferencing tools tested to date. It is up to each VEC and VE Team to determine the appropriate size and distribution of their VE teams and applicant ratios, depending on the exam session format and specific tools in use. Generally, this means a team of 3 VEs would be able to observe at least one applicant at a time, but possibly up to three applicants with readily-available video conferencing tools using multiple concurrent meetings. Certain VE Teams have started experimenting with Breakout Rooms and multiple sets of 3 VEs to allow concurrent examinations. In these cases, special care must be taken to ensure applicants are isolated from each other during the exam, while allowing the necessary VEs to observe, manage, and communicate with specific applicants. In the future, custom video solutions may be developed by ExamTools to support larger concurrent exam sessions natively.

How can individuals sign up to take an exam?

Check the public exam listings at https://hamstudy.org/sessions and sign up for any available sessions that work for you. Note that a very limited number of VECs and VE Teams are currently offering fully-remote exams, but any of them that are using ExamTools should be listed as a hamstudy.org session. It is very important to read the special instructions provided within the session information prior to signing up, as additional scheduling steps may be required by the VE Team administering that specific session.

How can I sign up to be a VE for these types of sessions?

Please contact your VEC of choice to become a VE. A list of FCC certified VECs is available on the FCC website. If you are already a VE, please have your VE Team Lead work with your VEC to determine the next steps for your group. If your VEC is not currently set up to administer fully-remote exams but would like to be, please have your VEC contact person email Richard Bateman, KD7BBC at support@examtools.org. If you are a VE and would like to join the Discord channel for information and discussion around fully-remote exams, please visit: https://discord.gg/CsKrBmA or click connect below:

As of when this release was published, the following VECs have offered official support for using ExamTools for administering in-person and remote exams:

  • W5YI-VEC – W5YI has a long history of allowing VE teams to use ExamTools
  • GLAARG – GLAARG has been utilizing ExamTools to print the paper exams for their VE teams since 2013 and has been the most active thus far in administering remote exams
  • ARRL VEC – Though they have not yet publicly expressed specific support for ExamTools.org there are several ARRL VE teams who are using ExamTools for administering remote exams, with the leading club being the New England Amateur Radio group

Additional Reference and Resources:

Previous Remote Exam References:

Other references for the fully-remote exam process:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 40 Comments

2019 Black Friday – Cyber Monday sale!

Happy thanksgiving and good studies to all! This year the HamStudy.org mobile app will be on sale for $1.99 (50% off) on the iOS, Mac, and Android app stores from midnight GMT Nov 29, 2019 through midnight GMT Dec 2, 2019. Try it out today!

Also our parent company Signal Stuff is having a 20% off sale on all Super-Elastic Signal Sticks. All sales support hamstudy.org, so check it out!

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

2019 HamVention General Upgrade Course!

(Guest post by Mitch Stern, W1SJ)

Are you going to be at 2019 Dayton HamVention? Do you have a Tech license and looking to upgrade?

Hamvention will feature a General Upgrade Course right on site! The class 
will run on Saturday, May 18th, 9AM-4PM, with exams at the conclusion of 
the class. Spend Friday buying new stuff, Saturday upgrading and Sunday 
celebrating!

Students MUST pre-enroll prior to class. No walk-ins will be permitted. As 
part of the course, students will get login information to access the 
On-Line General Course, which they will use to prepare for the full day 
class. This preparation is essential. We will also offer a video pre-class 
session the week before Hamvention.

Everything has been put in place to assure your success in this course. But 
you need to sign up early. Go to:
http://www.hamclass.net/hamvgen.html
for course details and enrollment information, or call instructor Mitch 
W1SJ at 800-639-1766.

Worldwide communications on all of the HF bands awaits you!

HamStudy.org supports all efforts to help users get licensed! If you will be going to Dayton HamVention there is also a One-Day Technician class by Dan, KB6NU.

While you’re there, stop by and say hello to the HamStudy.org team at booth 1901 in building 1!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Black Friday sale on the app and Signal Sticks!

From Black Friday, Nov 23 through Cyber Monday, Nov 27, 2018 HamStudy.org will be holding its first official sale! (That’s largely because previously we haven’t had anything to sell, but let’s not talk about that!)

Along with some major updates to the app — including google and facebook login support, study sessions (which let you “start over” without losing all your data), a new “dark mode” for night-time studying, and configurable font size — we will be selling the mobile app for 50% off! That’s $1.99 — guaranteed you won’t find a better deal for ham radio study materials on the net than that.

Get it on the Mac App Store Get it on the App Store Get it on Google Play

In addition, our sponsor Signal Stuff will be holding its annual sale (on the same days) with 25% off of all Super-Elastic Signal Stick antennas! All antenna sales support development and advertising of HamStudy.org. Order one here.

More information:

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

SignalStuff SMA-F Clearance

This just in — Signal Stuff has released improved Signal Sticks which are 36% thicker and less floppy! The old ones work great, though, and they are clearing out the old stock of SMA-F antennas for $15 each. Get ’em now! (choose “dual band”, “SMA-F”, and “1st Gen” to get the $15 clearance version).

All orders going forward will get the new and improved thicker wire antennas!

Thanks, Signal Stuff!

Signal Stuff is the owner and operator of HamStudy.org. All antenna sales support HamStudy.org

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

New HamStudy.org mobile apps are here!

It’s been a long road, but after almost two and a half long years of work, the next generation of HamStudy.org is finally here! That’s right, we just released the new mobile apps that so many people have been asking for — and they don’t require an internet connection!

Now, first the bad news: some of you will be disappointed to hear that these apps are not free.  They are, in fact, $3.99.  That’s a one-time cost — it’s not a subscription, you don’t have to pay that for each question pool, and yes you can let your whole family use it if you all share a mobile store account, but it does have a cost.

Taking it down to brass tacks

Let’s put it simply: If you want to study without being connected to the internet then you will need to buy the $3.99 mobile app.  If you *don’t* need that, and you don’t want to buy the mobile app, then you will always be able to use https://hamstudy.org for free — and yes, it works just fine in your mobile web browser.

One more time: The mobile app costs, but using the mobile website (still on mobile, but with an internet connection!) will always be free.

Why the change?

This was a hard decision, but it comes down to needing to justify spending the time on this project that it deserves — we all have wives and children who put up with our little crusade.  At the same time, both HamStudy.org and our parent company Signal Stuff were founded on the obsession goal of changing and improving the way that people in the US study for and take amateur radio license exams; we don’t accomplish that by gouging all of our customers.

Thus, a compromise was born; what we have always offered for free we will continue to offer for free! The only thing you have to pay for is if you want to use it offline — and believe us, that was a lot more work than you might think =]

The best part for all of us (users and developers) is that more funding for the project means more flexibility in what we can do! We have a ton of exciting ideas and this will make it possible for us to get them in.  Look for exciting things coming up!

Get the apps

For now we have iOS and Android apps; eventually we will be releasing desktop versions as well, but we might have to catch up on some chores around home first.  We will also be updating the website with all of the features (for free!) that we have in the apps. You can always find the latest versions at https://hamstudy.org/appstore.

Get it on Google Play

Get it on the App Store

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Add your exam session to the schedule on HamStudy.org

(for US exam sessions only!)

We’ve long had the capability, but we haven’t made a big deal about it: Did you know that you can list your ham radio license exam session on hamstudy.org?

Find the list here: https://hamstudy.org/sessions

You can search by zip code or “find near me”. With more VE teams asking us about it recently, I thought I’d answer a few questions here.

How do I get access?

If you want to list your exam session, first you need a hamstudy.org login — register for an account and make sure that the call sign on your user account is the one you want your exam session listed under.

Then, once you have a username, submit a request on our ExamTools support portal. Make sure you provide your username, we’ll try to get you access within 24 hours.

Edit: Please do not send us a list of sessions to add; we don’t have time to maintain the list ourselves. Instead, follow the instructions above and we’ll give you access so you can keep your schedule up to date yourself!

What do I do then?

Simply put, you log into examtools.org, go to the “sessions” tab, and add your session! Once you have the first one entered you can duplicate it for the next ones to save yourself time; make sure that the address autocompletes correctly and displays the map.

Since it’s easier to show than to explain, I made a short youtube video explaining the process:

Where is this going?

Keeping track of exam schedules is a difficult thing, and it’s a problem that has been solved on a local level over and over again; we are hoping to provide an online database that can replace all of those. To that end, this is not intended to be only usable on our website. Assuming there is interest, we intend to create both AJAX endpoints and embeddable widgets that you can use to query for upcoming exam sessions in your area and embed it into your existing website.

What pays for all of this?

For those who don’t know, HamStudy.org is owned and funded by Signal Stuff. We would also be remiss if we did not acknowledge the support and sponsorship of Icom America.

Specifically, most of our funding comes from the sales of the Signal Stuff Super-Elastic Signal Sticks (believe it or not). If you like what we’re doing, consider trying one out the next time you need a good whip antenna for your handheld transceiver!

We hope to hear from you!

The more of you list your exam sessions on HamStudy.org the more helpful and successful this will be!

Tell us what you think in the comments!

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

First look at the 2018 Element 2 (Technician class) question pool


It’s that time again! The new Element 2 question pool has been released by the NCVEC as of Jan 8 and the first errata was posted this morning, Jan 12, 2018. From past experience it’s likely that there will be additional revisions, but it’s uncommon to have major changes at this point.

So, let’s take a quick look at some of the high points of what has changed! For those who want to follow along at home, HamStudy.org has a full graphical diff that you can look at!

How much has changed in the pool

  • Removed questions: 62
  • New questions: 60
  • Updated questions: 62
  • Total questions in the old pool: 426
  • Total questions in the new pool: 424

As you can see, the pool size hasn’t changed much; there are two fewer questions in the new pool compared to the old.  One thing that the numbers don’t show is that a number of the “removed” and “new” questions are direct replacements which served to check the same knowledge as the previous question but were just different enough to not be considered the same question (for example the old T1D11 and new T1D06; nonetheless, there are some definite updates intended to help “modernize” the questions in the pool.

Notable changes by subelement

Most of the shape of the pool has stayed pretty consistent, but there are a few notable changes.  Let’s look at them by subelement:

Subelement T1: FCC Rules, descriptions, and definitions for the Amateur Radio Service, operator and station license responsibilities

Subelement T1 in the new pool is a bit smaller; 27 questions were removed with only 13 added. Here are some of the changes:

  • Several general definitions were removed, including the definitions of telemetry, telecommand, an amateur station, harmful interference, and the purpose of amateur radio.
  • We get some new definition questions for: a “beacon”, a “space station”,
  • The new T1A04 makes me wonder what prompted it: it clarifies that an individual can only have one license.
  • We have a clarifying question about “third party communications” now
  • The question about APRS digipeaters being automatically controlled that was added in the last pool has now been removed again
  • The armed forces day communication test question is gone =]
  • The RACES question was moved from T2C into T1A

Subelement T2Operating Procedures

Subelement T2 stayed pretty much the same size; 10 questions were removed and 11 added.

  • The 70cm calling frequency question was replaced with a 2m calling frequency question. Yay!
  • Most of the changes were in T2B; 5 questions were removed (relating to squelch, deviation, andmodulation) and replaced with 8 new questions which seem a bit more directly relevant to things a Technician license holder might be doing, such as “reverse split”, IRLP control, linked repeaters, bandplans, and — interestingly — use of digital repeaters.
    • Most interestingly, the digital repeaters look to me to be mostly aimed at DMR — one question specifically mentions it and another refers to “talk groups”.

Subelement T3 Radio wave characteristics: properties of radio waves; propagation modes

Subelement T3 stayed almost the same.  3 questions were removed and 4 added, all of them related to how specific frequencies are used.

Subelement T4 Amateur radio practices and station set-up

Subelement T4 changed only slightly more than T3 with 5 questions removed and 6 added.

  • All of the removed questions were in T4A and related to PTT wiring, regulated power supply use, harmonic emissions, TNC, and alternator whine.
  • The four new questions in T4A relate to effective power supply use and digital operation
  • T4B got two new questions about removing ignition noise and the purpose of the “scan” function on an FM transceiver

Subelement T5 Electrical principles: math for electronics; electronic principles; Ohm’s Law

Subelement T5 received a bit more love this time around; only 1 question was removed (and it was really replaced with a differently worded question) and 8 were added.

  • New questions were added about current and voltage division and the differences between parallel and series circuits
  • The one question which was “removed” (T5C07) was replaced with a new T5C07 which is simply worded differently with the same meaning.
  • Question T5C14 is now my new favorite “ridiculous” question, relating as it does to the proper capitalization of “MHz”. This is particularly amusing since one of the first typos corrected in this pool after the initial release was “T5B13-Distractor A; Typo change GHZ to GHz”

Subelement T6: Electrical components; circuit diagrams; component functions

Subelement T6 was nearly untouched with 3 questions removed and 2 added.

  • The questions about the electrodes of PNP, NPN, and FETs were removed
  • We got a new question about how transistors can produce gain in a PA
  • The question about schematics changed just enough to not consider it the same question, but it still serves the same purpose.  (see the old T6C01 and the new T6C01)

Subelement T7: Station equipment: common transmitter and receiver problems; antenna measurements; troubleshooting; basic repair and testing

Subelement T7 had 4 questions removed, 3 questions added.

  • The new T7C05 finally lets aspiring hams know that most modern (solid state) transceivers will automatically reduce power to protect against a high SWR
  • Nothing particularly stuck out to me about the changes here. Just incremental changes.

Subelement T8Modulation modes: amateur satellite operation; operating activities; non-voice and digital communications

Subelement T8 shows some concerted efforts focused on acknowledging the ongoing changes to digital modes. 8 questions have been removed, the subelement summary now has “and digital” tacked on, and all but one of the 11 new questions are directly related to some type of digital mode — and that one is about electronic keyers.

  • The inclusion of FT8 seems almost like they are trying too hard to show that it’s “current”.
  • There are some interestingly specific mentions in some of the new questions, such as Broadband-Hamnet(TM), DMR, FT8, WSJT, and Echolink. Granted, JT65 and IRLP have been in previous pools, though JT65 only as a distractor.

Subelement T9: Antennas and feed lines

Subelement T9 has the distinction of being the only subelement with no new questions added — though granted in the previous pool there were only 25 questions in T9.  The old T9A02 and T9A13 questions were removed.

Subelement T0: Electrical safety: AC and DC power circuits; antenna installation; RF hazards

Subelement T0 contains the only change in the pool which I really question the wisdom of; it has only a single question removed (and two added), but that question was T0A09: What kind of hazard is presented by a conventional 12-volt storage battery?

Given the way I’ve seen some 12V systems — particularly with solar installs — put in place, I’d have preferred to see this question either stay or updated with a better but similarly-themed question. It does make me wonder why the question was removed — the question which replaced it does not seem to be all that different nor is the section already overloaded (there are only 11 questions in the section, which is about average for the pool).

The other new question in T0 relates to tension guy line tunbuckle safety.

There you have it!

So there you have it! We may still see some changes, but this is probably about what we’ll be going with starting July 1, 2018. On the whole, I like the changes — they seem aimed at being more relevant, more current, and in some cases more geared towards helping new hams be aware of what is possible with the higher license classes.

Tell us in the comments what you think of the changes!

Edit: also, while we won’t put a link on the main hamstudy.org page to the new pool until May 1, you can start studying it now if you really want =]

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