The 10 Hardest Questions on the FCC Ham Radio Technician License Test

By Ham Radio Prep

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10 study tips for taking the ham radio license exam

By Ham Radio Prep

If you’re studying for the FCC’s ham radio Technician class license, you’ll notice that some questions are easy, while others seem much harder. Some answers seem logical, while others seem tricky! While you get to study with the correct answers, the trick is to either memorize all the correct answers or to at least understand the subject matter well enough so it’s easy to answer when you take the test.

What are the top 10 questions you should study the hardest for on the FCC’s Technician class amateur license exam?

After a complete analysis of thousands of practice test results, Ham Radio Prep has come up with a list of the top 10 questions that prospective hams have the most difficulty with while studying for their Technician ham test. We’ve provided study materials for thousands of new hams and we have been keeping track of all the answers given during practice tests on our website while our students study. Because we have the ability to keep track of how well our students answer questions — from their first time online until the time they feel confident to go take the Technician test — we’ve assembled a list of the 10 hardest questions on the test.

If you pay particular attention to these 10 questions, it may make the difference of whether or not you pass your exam. On most of these top 10 questions, there is at least a 10-point difference between the overall mean score when the question is answered correctly and when it is answered wrong. On toughest question number 9 below, the difference between answering it right (87 percent mean score) and wrong (73 percent mean score) is the difference between passing your Technician test and failing with a score below 74 percent!

So, pay particular close attention to these 10 questions because they truly are the hardest! After the discussion on each, we have included the question and answers with the correct answer indicated in bold.

10th hardest question:

Which of the following is an appropriate receive filter bandwidth for minimizing noise and interference for SSB reception?

A. 500 Hz
B. 1000 Hz
C. 2400 Hz
D. 5000 Hz
The main reason people might get this question wrong is they a re confusing the answers for two similar questions. This question asks about the receive filter bandwidth for SSB. The correct answer is C. 2400 Hz. The majority of people who answer this question wrong guess A. 500 Hz. There is a similar question about the receive filter bandwidth for CW reception, and only in that case would 500 Hz be correct. Keep in mind that SSB signals are wider than CW signals, so go with the bigger number for SSB. Even if you remember the correct answers for these two similar questions is 500 Hz and 2400 Hz, you’ll get it right by remembering narrow and wide for CW vs SSB.

9th hardest question:

Which of the following is a common repeater frequency offset in the 2-meter band?

A. Plus or minus 5 MHz
B. Plus or minus 600 kHz
C. Plus or minus 500 kHz
D. Plus or minus 1 Mhz

Here’s another example where two similar questions can prove confusing. The correct answer for this question is B. Plus or minus 600 kHz. However, almost half the number who get it right get the answer wrong by answering A. Plus or minus 5 MHz. That would be the correct answer to the question that asks about the offset for the 70-cm band. The 70-cm band runs from 420-450 MHz and the 2-meter band runs from 144-148 MHz. The 70-cm band has 30 MHz of space, while the 2-meter band has only 4 MHz. To help you remember this, know that 600 kHz is smaller than 5 MHz, and that the 2-meter band has less frequency space, thus, the offset is less. Also, think of the equivalent of 600 kHz, which is 0.6 MHz, thus the offset for a repeater retransmitting on 146.625 MHz would be 600 kHz, or 0.6 MHz lower, which is 146.025 MHz for the repeater input frequency.

8th hardest question:

What property of a radio wave is used to describe its polarization?

A. The orientation of the electric field
B. The orientation of the magnetic field
C. The ratio of the energy in the magnetic field to the energy in the electric field
D. The ratio of the velocity to the wavelength

Again, almost half the number who get this question right get the answer wrong. The correct answer is A. The orientation of the electric field. Two of the incorrect answers include the word “magnetic” in them. Don’t let that confuse you thinking that one of those must be right. That’s because the answers were designed to do just that! Almost all the wrong answers on this question were to the two “magnetic” answers. Look the other way. You can do this!

7th hardest question:

What is the advantage of having multiple receive bandwidth choices on a multimode transceiver?

A. Permits monitoring several modes at once
B. Permits noise or interference reduction by selecting a bandwidth matching the mode
C. Increases the number of frequencies that can be stored in memory
D. Increases the amount of offset between receive and transmit frequencies

The correct answer here is B. Permits noise or interference reduction by selecting a bandwidth matching the mode. Most of those who get this question wrong answer A. Permits monitoring several modes at once. What’s wrong about that answer is it talks about “modes.” We’re talking about bandwidth here. By narrowing your bandwidth, you tighten up the frequency range that you might receive other stations using.

6th hardest question:

What is another way to specify a radio signal frequency of 1,500,000 hertz?

A. 1500 kHz
B. 1500 MHz
C. 15 GHz
D. 150 kHz

The correct answer to this question is A. 1500 kHz. You might just want to learn how to move from Hertz to kiloHertz to megaHertz because it’s a regular ham radio thing. 1,000 Hertz = 1 kiloHertz; and 1,000 kiloHertz = 1 megaHertz. They’re all in multiples of thousands. To figure out 1,500,000 Hertz, divide by 1,000 first. That’s easy by lopping off the last three zeroes. That gives you 1,500 kiloHertz. End of story. Simple math — by the thousands!

5th hardest question:

What is the approximate bandwidth of a single sideband (SSB) voice signal?

A. 1 kHz
B. 3 kHz
C. 6 kHz
D. 15 kHz

Remember what we said about answering B? Yes, the correct answer is B. 3 kHz. A majority of those who guess wrong answer C. 6 kHz, but that’s just wrong. You’ll either have to memorize this one, or keep in mind the “B” answer prerogative!

4th hardest question:

What is the function of the SSB/CW-FM switch on a VHF power amplifier?

A. Change the mode of the transmitted signal
B. Set the amplifier for proper operation in the selected mode
C. Change the frequency range of the amplifier to operate in the proper portion of the band
D. Reduce the received signal noise

Another “B” answer! The correct answer: B. Set the amplifier for proper operation in the selected mode. Answer A talks about changing the mode of the transmitted signal. But the transmitter will be doing that, not the amplifier. The amplifier needs to be told what mode it will be transmitting, which is why B is the correct answer. And the other wrong answer that often is guessed is about changing the frequency range of the amplifier. Again, wrong because the transmitter is changing the frequency and a VHF amplifier is only going to work on the 6- or 2-meter bands or the 222-MHz band. You won’t find an amplifier covering more than one VHF band. See why B is right?

3rd hardest question:

What is the approximate bandwidth of a VHF repeater FM phone signal?

A. Less than 500 Hz
B. About 150 kHz
C. Between 10 and 15 kHz
D. Between 50 and 125 kHz

We’re getting into the top 3 toughest ham Technician class questions now. The correct answer here is C. Between 10 and 15 kHz. Most of those who answered this wrong guessed B. About 150 kHz. That’s like 10 times the bandwidth of the correct answer. If you remember that CW signals are about 150 Hz (that’s Hertz, not kilohertz) and that SSB signals are narrower than FM signals, you can see that 10 to 15 kHz makes sense.

2nd hardest question:

What happens to current at the junction of two components in series?

A. It divides equally between them
B. It is unchanged
C. It divides based on the on the value of the components
D. The current in the second component is zero

Remember the rule of Bs. Yes, this is another B answer: B. It is unchanged. Most who get the answer wrong guess C. It divides based on the value of the components. Remember how some of the questions are similar to others? This is the same situation where another question on the test asks: What happens to current at the junction of two components in parallel? Those guessing the wrong answer to the second hardest question are getting confused with the parallel answer. Just remember “unchanged” for series, and “divides” for parallel. Otherwise, just go with B!

THE hardest question:

Which of the following is an example of remote control as defined in Part 97?

A. Repeater operation
B. Operating the station over the internet
C. Controlling a model aircraft, boat, or car by amateur radio
D. All of these choices are correct

It’s a B answer, but more importantly, it’s kind of a trick question. The correct answer is B. Operating the station over the internet. It’s easy to guess C. Controlling a model aircraft, boat or car by amateur radio as the correct answer, because you’re thinking “remote control.” But you’re actually in control because the transmitter is right in your hand in this situation. Answer A. Repeater operation also seems like a right answer, but it’s not. And then the confusing part is where D says all the above answers are correct. The FCC wants you to know that operating a ham station over the internet, which is gaining in popularity every day, is true remote control of an amateur station. You might be at home in Virginia, but you may have a station at a relative’s home in California that you can operate via computer software on the web, You can’t see the station and all you can do is monitor it via the software or a web interface. And, of course, it’s a B answer. Go with the Bs.


We hope this analysis of the toughest Technician amateur radio exam questions helps you pass your test with flying colors! Remember that Ham Radio Prep is here to help you study with our unique online study system and free unlimited use of online test questions to help you get ready for your test day.