A Year in Review

With 2022 in the books, we thought it’d be nice to see the impact that ExamTools has had on the overall amateur radio community. While the ExamTools software has been around for well over a decade, its usage picked up strongly during the pandemic in 2020 with optimizations that were made to support different exam formats and, importantly, digital paperwork and signatures. In the first year of the pandemic, ExamTools was used for roughly 20% of all amateur radio licenses granted by the FCC in that time frame (see earlier blog post from 2021).

In 2022, ExamTools adoption continued to grow, with more VECs coming onboard and using the system for both in-person and fully-remote exams. Many teams that were on-hold during the pandemic are restarting in-person exam sessions and realizing how much ExamTools helps them administer exams. We now have 8 VECs using the software including W5YI, ARRL, GLAARG, Anchorage, Laurel, SANDARC, Jefferson, and W4VEC. These VECs realize the tremendous value of using ExamTools to not only streamline their exam administration, but also the submission process for their exam teams and the FCC database. Teams using ExamTools love how all the paperwork is now electronic, including application registration, notification, and signatures. Sessions that used to take hours to process can now be completed and fully submitted to the VEC in minutes. It’s truly a game changer for volunteer examiners, their VECs, and the applicants who all benefit from faster and more accurate processing of their exam sessions.

Many people don’t realize that using ExamTools doesn’t automatically mean giving exams on a computer or tablet. In fact, ExamTools supports a variety of exam formats including existing VEC’s paper exams, GradeCam paper exams, tablet/phone/laptop computer-based exams, and fully-remote exams using software like Zoom. GradeCam is a exam-grading technology that is incredibly powerful for exam teams and so easy to learn. It uses the camera in your laptop, cell phone, or tablet to quickly and accurately grade the applicants’ bubble answer sheet at your session. For many teams where using paper exams is the right choice for them, GradeCam offers a fantastic way to modernize and optimize their exam process, freeing up precious volunteer time to interact with the applicants and not waste time manually grading exams multiple times.

To celebrate the year, let’s take a look at some of the numbers from 2022 compared to 2021.

  • Total number of In-Person Exams administered using ExamTools
    • 2021: 2536 in-person exams
    • 2022: 4103 in-person exams
    • That’s a 62% increase for in-person exams!
  • Total number of Remote Exams administered using ExamTools
    • 2021: 11034 remote exams
    • 2022: 8542 remote exams
    • That’s a 23% decrease for remote exams
  • Total number of exams administered using ExamTools
    • 2021: 13570 exams
    • 2022: 12645 exams
    • That’s a 7% decrease in the total number of exams

And now for some fun VEC awards for the 2022 Honor Roll:

  • Most Overall Exams Award:
    • W5YI VEC with 3994 exams administered in 2022!
    • W5YI VEC also wins the award for Most In-Person Exams AND Most Remote Exams for 2022!
  • Biggest Overall Exam Growth Award:
    • SANDARC VEC for 169% year-over-year growth from 2021 to 2022. We’re glad to have you on the ExamTools team and look forward to more exams in 2023!
  • Biggest In-Person Exam Growth Award:
    • GLAARG VEC for 515% year-over-year growth from 2021 to 2022 for their in-person exams!

To look at the data yourself, feel free to check out the awesome Stats Page that Richard KD7BBC created!

It’s always a good time to remind folks that ExamTools is offered at no cost to VE Teams. In fact, ExamTools is funded entirely by donations and with 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 again this past year. ExamTools is also supported by a number of illustrious volunteers that are online day and night to help provide tech support, approve accounts, and answer questions for any teams using ExamTools. These Experience Support Volunteers include: Nick N1CCK, Mitch N2YIC, Grant W4KEK, Jason WX2Q, and Marcel AI6MS. Additionally, there is an online Discord server with over 1000 verified volunteer examiners from across the globe engaging in discussions and helping each other out to deliver the best examination experiences for the new and upgrading hams we support.

Thank you to all the Volunteer Examiners that make amateur radio continue to grow every year! Here’s to celebrating a successful 2022 and for an even better 2023! 73!

Graphs of the overall ExamTools usage statistics for 2022
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