HamStudy Fundraiser – SuperElastic Signal Sticks

Greetings all!

Short version:

HamStudy.org 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 HamStudy.org 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UPDATE: On Jan 22, 2016 the 2016 extra class question pool document was officially withdrawn but it was then officially re-released on Feb 6, 2016.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 HamStudy.org.


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 HamStudy.org 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 HamStudy.org 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 HamStudy.org (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 HamStudy.org

How can I best use the resources on HamStudy.org?

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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FCC will no longer charge a fee for vanity call sign!

May 21: The FCC has decided to drop the fee it currently charges for applying for (and renewing) a vanity call sign! In a recent notice the FCC explained that it is a simple question of economics: in short, it costs the FCC more to process the fees than the fees themselves bring in!

This is easier to understand when you consider that not only do they have to manage the fees, keep track of them, collect them, pay for processing, etc, they also have to refund fees for people who apply for a call sign and don’t get it.

The change will not go into effect until congressional notice is given, which will require at least 90 days.

For more information check out this in-depth coverage at arrl.org.

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Ham Radio License Exam Practice – other options

Edit: The ARRL has restored their previous page showing other study options! You can find it here: http://www.arrl.org/instruction-exam-practice-and-review

You may or may not know that HamStudy.org is more than just a website for studying; we are a small organization (official ham club with the call sign NT3ST) which is dedicated to improving and modernizing the state of Ham Radio exams and testing. We believe strongly that Ham Radio is a hobby (or sport, if you prefer) for all walks of life and all people.

We believe that all who have interest in the air waves for non-commercial interest should be welcome: HF code guys, HF voice rag chewers, 2m service buffs, preppers, RF aircraft hobbyists, appliance users, electronics hackers, and anyone else who wants to join. Ham Radio should be about cooperation, openness, and community.

This is why we were so disappointed this morning when we discovered that the ARRL has removed links to all other online systems for studying for an Amateur Radio license other than the one they released about a year ago which seems to be designed to help sell their books.

Update Nov 29, 2015: I just discovered that the ARRL does still have this information on their website, it’s just hidden on a page that not many people know about.

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“Hacking” the General and Extra exams (from N7SMI)

This was recently posted in the /amateurradio subreddit, and I thought it was worth reposting.

Thanks to N7SMI for writing it up and giving me permission to repost it here!


Here are 10 tips for hacking the amateur radio licensing exams. Now when I say ‘hacking’, I don’t mean cheating, but I am referring to strategies for passing the test while also learning the necessary material.

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Renewing or updating your license online — free!

Edit: This applies only to FCC-issued call signs, such as US call signs.  If you have information about how to do it in other countries, feel free to post in the comments!

My wife got a letter in the mail today.  I’m sure some of you have received similar letters. It informed her that her license is going to expire soon, and contained a self-addressed envelope, a 605 form, and instructions for how she can mail it in to get her license renewed, all for a low fee!


Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually have a lot of respect for the organization who sent the letter, and I don’t mean to criticize them — I am in favor of supporting them, and I appreciate the reminder letter. I do wonder how many people receive these letters and think it’s the only way to renew, though.

Edit: In response to some comments I’ve read about this post on various social media sites, let me clarify something. I have no problem with organizations helping to renew licenses, and I don’t have a problem with them doing it for a fee. In fact, some people have found the below process annoying enough that they’d prefer to do it that way. Others have indicated that they couldn’t manage to get logged in, with the same result. Also, these are great organizations who provide a valuable resource to hams without easy internet access or computers, and thus are worth supporting in their own right.

My main purpose in this blog post is not to keep people from supporting these organizations, but to make sure people are educated about the options and the fact that it can actually be done for free.

If you are having trouble with the below steps, or if you just want to support one of the great organizations who serve the Amateur Radio community, here are the ones that I am aware of that you can use to renew your license using such things as 605 forms, stamps, envelopes, etc =]

  • W5YI
  • ARRL (free for members)
  • QRZ (goes through W5YI, I think, but a great site to support)

Renewing online

In truth, it’s actually very easy to renew your license directly with the FCC — and it’s complete free!  The hardest part may be to figure out what your FRN password is, but worst case this may require a 15 minute phone call to the FCC (which I have done, and it is really painless).

So, as long as my wife’s license needed to be renewed anyway, I decided to create a walkthrough for you all, just to try to take the “mystery” out of the process.

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Posted in General ham radio | 30 Comments