2016 US Amateur Extra Question pool released

The new 2016 US Amateur Extra class license pool has been released and we’ve been working over the last week on processing it to link new questions with old so we know exactly what was added, removed, updated, or moved.  This question pool will be used for all US Amateur Extra exams taken from July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2020.

UPDATE: On Jan 22, 2016 the 2016 extra class question pool document was officially withdrawn but it was then officially re-released on Feb 6, 2016.  The changes between the two were relatively minor and the withdrawal seems to have been more to reduce the email volume for things they already knew about.  This article is still valid, and the new pool has been updated on HamStudy.org.

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From my analysis, I expect most people will consider the new pool to be more difficult than the previous ones, so if you’re on the fence trying to finish up getting ready I’d recommend testing before the pool changes in July.

If you want to see exactly what has changed, check out the full graphical diff. If you just want the summary, read on!

This is a much more significant change than the last extra class pool change; the 2012 pool introduced only 63 new questions and decreased the total questions in the pool from 736 to 700, whereas this (2016) pool change adds 143 new questions (126% more than the previous) and increases the pool size up to 713.

The pool is actually available on HamStudy.org but you’ll need to use the Direct Link until April 1 (not a joke) when it will start appearing in the main list.

Here are the numbers:

  • Total questions in the (old) 2012-2016 pool: 700
  • Total questions in the (new) 2016-2020 pool: 713
  • Questions removed from the pool: 132
  • New questions added to the pool: 143
  • Questions which have been updated: 60

As usual, we’ve had some questions reorganized but left in the pool; E1B07 from the old pool is word for word the same as E1A06 in the new pool, for example.  Most of the wording changes are simple clarification of previous language or improvement to grammar or punctuation, sometimes dropping out confusing terms (e.g. the superfluous word “DX” being removed from E1A03) and other times updating to be less likely to become obsolete as rules change (e.g. “What is the only amateur band where…” became “Which amateur band requires…”). Some may also be updated to reflect minor changes to those rules.  We spotted at least one spelling correction as well (E1F06 moved to E1B05 and a distractor corrected the spelling of “Aricebo” to “Arecibo”)

There have been a lot of technically challenging new questions added as well. The topics which have received the most attention are solar weather/propagation, digital operation, and SDR operation (and related), but there are enough other technically complex little tidbits floating around to keep you on your toes.

Here are the topics which have been expanded on:

  • International operation: 3 questions added
  • Space Station rules – 1 question added
  • VE rules (including remote proctoring) – 1 question added
  • APRS operation – 1 question added
  • Mesh networks – 2 questions added
  • US QSL bureau system – 1 question added
  • Remote control operation – 1 question added
  • Digital operation – 12 questions added
  • Automatic control – 1 question added
  • Solar weather and propagation – 23 questions added
    • These cover advanced topics such as ordinary/extraordinary waves, chordal hop propagation, microwave-specific propagation, the effects of solar events such as flares (including different types of flares), geomagnetic storms, temperature fronts, the effects of both ground and air water on signal propagation, ray tracing, A or K indexes, VOACAP, etc
  • Digital/Computer Instruments (digital oscilloscopes, etc) – 7 questions added
  • S parameters – 3 questions added
  • Instrument calibration – 1 question added
  • SDR/DSP function and operation – 21 questions added
  • Cable line loss, shielding, etc – 2 questions added
  • Susceptance and admittance – 5 questions added
  • Rectangular vs Polar Coordinates for reactance (and related) – 7 questions added
  • Electrical length of conductors as related to higher frequencies – 4 questions added
  • PN-junction diode – 1 question added
  • TTL / Logic gates – 8 questions added
  • Inductors and winding – 6 questions added
  • Snubber capacitor – 1 question added
  • Integrated Circuits / packages – 5 questions added
  • Power supplies / voltage regulation – 5 questions added
  • Oscillation and accuracy – 3 questions added
  • CW operation – 2 question added
  • Antenna types and radiation patterns – 8 questions added
  • Q of antennas – 6 questions added
  • Misc – 2 questions added
    • LCD displays, ground rods

Uneven weight of questions:

There are some interesting things to note in this pool. The common methodology for generating exams is to take one question at random from each section in the pool.  This isn’t actually what any of the rules say to do, but it’s a valid subset and it’s how everyone does it, so we (reluctantly) do the same thing.

The reason this is important to note is that it means not all sections are equal in the Extra pool; the largest section in the pool, section E2B, has 19 questions in it. That means the chance of seeing any single question in that section is about 5.3%.  The smallest sections in the pool (E8B, E8C, E9G, E9H, and E0A) each have 11 questions, which means each of those questions has a 9% chance of appearing on your exam.

Moral of this story? All other things being equal, the value of learning the 11 questions in one of the smallest sections will improve your test score just as much as learning all 19 questions in E2B.  Weird, eh?

Actually, though, the question pool committee (and note that it isn’t the ARRL that builds the tests) is visibly working to even out those numbers; the previous pool had a spread of 10 questions in the smallest to 23 questions in the largest and the efforts to even that out are very visible.  This also means they are narrowing a loophole of sorts you could use in the current pool to hedge your bets, which is another reason you might try to get in before it changes =].

A few final stats for the interested

For those of you who, like me, are information junkies, I present this list.  Note that where a section fits multiple criteria it is only displayed with the first (most specific) group:

  • Sections which were untouched:
  • Sections which had no new or removed questions (only wording or punctuation updates):
  • Sections which have new questions and no removed questions:
  • Sections which had questions removed and no new questions added:
  • Sections which had questions replaced (removed and added counts are the same):
    • E5A (5 replaced)
    • E5B (5 replaced)
    • E5D (4 replaced)
  • Sections with the biggest change:
    • E3A with 3 removed, 6 added, 2 updated
    • E3B with 3 removed, 6 added
    • E3C with 5 removed, 11 added, 1 updated
    • E4A with 7 removed, 7 added, 2 updated
    • E5C with 13 removed, 7 added, 1 updated
    • E6C with 4 removed, 5 added, 3 updated
    • E6D with 6 removed, 7 added, 4 updated
    • E7F with 7 removed, 13 added, 2 updated
    • E7H with 8 removed, 3 added
    • E8A with 7 removed, 5 added, 1 update
    • E8C with 4 removed, 5 added
    • E8D with 13 removed, 6 added
    • E9C with 2 removed, 5 added
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