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, 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 page to the new pool until May 1, you can start studying it now if you really want =]

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25% off Signal Stick antennas

From Friday, Nov 24 through Monday, Nov 27, 2017 our parent company Signal Stuff will be running a Black Friday sale with all antennas 25% off!

All antenna sales support development and advertising of Order one here.

More information:

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Happy World Amateur Radio day! (Apr 18, 2017)

In honor of this day our sponsor, Signal Stuff, is offering free shipping on all orders to anywhere from today (April 18) through Friday, April 21, 2017.

This free shipping is valid for both T-Shirts and Antennas.

73 to all and good studies!

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SignalStuff 20% off sale (Black friday through cyber monday) is funded by sells excellent superelastic flexible handheld antennas for $20 each with lifetime warranty. From Thursday, Nov 24 2016 through Monday, Nov 28 2016 those antennas will be 20% off.

All antenna sales support development and advertising of Support our site! Buy antennas! You know you want to!

Okay, okay. But seriously, they are great antennas and hand made by the team and friends.

More information:

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HamStudy Fundraiser – SuperElastic Signal Sticks

Greetings all!

Short version: takes money to develop and run. Buy an awesomely lightweight and unbelievably durable (not to mention flexible) Signal Stuff SuperElastic Signal Stick and support yourselves and us!  Signal Sticks are dual band 2m/70cm antennas for handheld transceivers which come with a lifetime guarantee and can be coiled up and stuck in your pocket.

From now until June 8, 2016 use the coupon code “2016fund” for 10% off and free shipping! (and did we mention the coupon applies to t-shirts too?)

Click here for the deal

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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


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!

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Taking a Practice Exam isn’t studying

Every day hundreds of people come to and take practice tests. Others go to other websites and take practice tests. There are differences in the user experience between those two groups of people, but they both have one thing in common — they aren’t actually studying for their exam.

I’m going to repeat that.  Taking a practice exam is not studying for an exam.

I’ll pause here while you think of ways to flame me on the comments section and I decide if I should turn it off or not.

tl;dr: For those too lazy to read the article, the conclusions are simple: Practice Exams are fabulous for benchmarking yourself to see how close you are, but when used to study result in a lot of wasted time and/or questions on your exam which you have never seen before. Reading through the questions and intelligent directed flash cards are by far the most effective study methods we have found. Whether you use our tools or not (and did you know works in mobile Chrome and Safari?) make sure you are using something more than just practice exams for studying.

Read on for charts, justifications, pretense at math, and how we arrived at these conclusions.

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HamStudy now shuffles answer order on exams and flashcards

Many of you have emailed us requesting that the answer order be randomized while studying; we’d just like to let you all know that your feedback has been heard and that feature has now been implemented =]

As of July 12, 2015 all practice exams and flashcards will randomize the order of answers.

Carry on!

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Icom ID-5100 in my GMC Yukon

This post is a bit different; honestly, I should do more like it. Prove I actually do the radio part itself, not just write study software, eh? =] Anyway, I recently aquired a 2005 GMC Yukon XL; I’ve been working on a camp / communications trailer and I needed something to pull it with.

Anyway, about a year back I got an Icom ID-5100.  Now, though Icom does sponsor (which we sure appreciate!) I don’t actually have any direct incentive to advertise for their radios; in many cases they are actually a bit pricier than I’d like. That said:

The Icom ID-5100 is hands-down the most intuitive and slickest mobile radio I have ever owned.

2015-05-28 20.57.06speaker and mic

Update 1/22/2018: About 2 1/2 years later, this install is still working great. I did have to get a different windshield mount for the control head, but otherwise it’s been great. Continue reading

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Pro tips: Getting the most out of

How can I best use the resources on

There are easy answers to this and hard answers to this =] The main thing is to find what works for you and do it! Here are some overall suggestions, though:

  • Use practice tests as a progress gauge, not as a study tool.  When you finish the test you can see where you missed the most questions, so focus on that subelement for awhile. Rinse and repeat.
  • Don’t underestimate how useful reading the questions can be! That’s why we have the section there, and you can click “Hide Distractors” in the top right corner to hide all but the correct answer.
  • Flash cards can get tedious after awhile; break the monotony by reading questions and taking a practice exam now and again.  It can also help to select a specific subelement to study.

Whatever method you choose, the most important thing is to not get discouraged and keep going!

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