WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — A widespread effort to allow amateur radio license candidates to take their exams online or remotely as a result of COVID-19 exam site shutdowns has shown that only about one out of four new licensees has used online testing.
An analysis of exit data compiled by Ham Radio Prep, one of the nation’s fastest-growing online amateur radio training programs, shows that while online and remote testing have become increasingly available since the spring, exam sessions remain difficult to schedule for many new to the hobby because of demand. Thus, many have resorted to congregate in-person test sites as amateur radio clubs reopen these sessions with social distancing guidelines in place. Some test sessions have been done outdoors or even with candidates taking the tests in their vehicles under examiner observation.
After COVID-19 began to break out in the United States earlier this year, interest in amateur radio soared to new heights. Google searches for ham radio licensing reached the highest level in more than five years. Meanwhile, the number of students in Ham Radio Prep’s online training programs for the entry-level Technician class ham license and the intermediate-level General class Federal Communications Commission permit soared more than 900 percent over the same time period in the previous year.
Online and remote testing for ham licenses involves the use of video cameras and in some cases on-site proctors to ensure the integrity of the exams conducted online. The FCC’s certified Volunteer Examiner Coordinators are allowed to establish their own guidelines to ensure test sessions are conducted properly, whether online or on site. Online testing was done on a minor basis in the past, mainly for those who live too far from regularly conducted test sites. Generally, local amateur radio clubs are responsible for in-person exam sessions.
Ham Radio Prep was established in 2017 to assist people interested in obtaining an FCC-issued amateur radio license. In addition to offering study courses for the FCC Technician and General ham courses, Ham Radio Prep will soon be releasing a study course for the top-level Amateur Extra license course.
For more information about Ham Radio Prep, go to http://www.hamradioprep.com