One year ago, on March 26th, 2020, the first-ever fully-remote amateur radio exam was held to demonstrate the capabilities of online exam methods (1). Just two months later, on May 26th, a new version of the ExamTools software was released, enabling dozens of Volunteer Examiner teams to come on board and expand both their online and in-person amateur radio exams. By the end of 2020, fully-remote amateur radio exams were the new norm, with teams throughout the US running exams every single day. In 2020 alone, over 10,000 exam elements have been administered through the ExamTools platform, which included 7,163 newly licensed operators! This means that fully-remote exams accounted for over 20% of the total number amateur radio licenses granted last year.
In the twelve months since that first exam was demonstrated to the W5YI Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC), over 1,300 Volunteer Examiners (VEs) have been on-boarded to the ExamTools system. Together, these dedicated volunteers help run daily exams all around the United States, including Puerto Rico and Alaska! ExamTools is now used regularly by teams from W5YI, ARRL, Anchorage, Laurel, and GLAARG VECs.
Not everyone knows this, but ExamTools is offered at no cost to VE Teams. In fact, ExamTools is funded entirely by donations and by proceeds from HamStudy.org and SignalStuff.com. Signal Stuff makes the Super Elastic Signal Stick antenna that is a popular high-gain antenna for handheld radios and has been breaking sales records throughout the past year.
While online exams in the US are not a new thing, many hams and prospective operators aren’t aware how easy it is to get tested online. Please help to spread the news to your local club mailing list, online group, chat rooms, or on your local net (2). Simply send people to https://hamstudy.org/sessions/online to find exams being offered daily!