10 Study Tips for Taking the Ham Radio License Exam

By Chuck Gysi

10 study tips for taking the ham radio license exam

By Chuck Gysi

In this article:

You’ve taken the first step to a new hobby — you’ve decided to get an amateur radio license. Now it’s time to put the pedal to the metal so you can get on the air!

1) What classes of licenses will you test for?

Most new hams will study for and take the FCC’s Technician class exam. The Technician class is the entry-level license and gets you on the air the fastest. Even if you decide to go for the General and even the highest level Amateur Extra class license, you still need to start with the Technician class license. Thus, the Tech license is your starting point. Should you decide to go for the General and even perhaps the Extra exam all in the same test session, you’ll save on exam fees for the additional tests if you take them all at the same time. That would be one advantage. But start out first with studying for the Technician exam, and if you feel confident, then consider going for one or two additional classes of licenses.

2) How will you study?

We recognize everyone has their own method of study in order to achieve success in test taking! In the old days, many would use flash cards to study test questions. Today’s world has migrated that process to online. Want to see how online study looks today? Check HamRadioPrep’s free online study and test session here: https://hamradioprep.com/free-lesson/

If it looks like you can navigate the online study system easily, then you can sign up and take the full Technician course and even the General course, at the same time, if you wish. You can sign up to study with HamRadioPrep here: https://hamradioprep.com/pricing/

We also know that for some of you, you might want to use a study book to either study from exclusively or to augment your online studies. HamRadioPrep offers a book and Kindle version of its online guide here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1797068598/

3) Set aside the necessary time to study.

When you carve out a set schedule every day or every week, you remain focused on your learning for your ham license. You might want to set aside 30 minutes every day, perhaps after dinner, when you can run through the study material or try taking the online simulated exam. Stick to your schedule and before you know it, you’ll be feeling more and more comfortable with the study material and you will feel increasingly more comfortable about being ready to take your test for your first amateur radio license.

4) Stick with it.

If you have allocated a set amount of time per day or week, it’s important to stay on that schedule. If you take a month’s break during the course of your studies, you will find that you will forget some of the material. However, if you continually challenge yourself by studying the course material every day or week, and take the simulated tests, too, you’ll be much better prepared in a shorter timeframe without having to restudy because you took off time from reviewing the material.

5) Set a test date goal.

This is the one trick that truly will get you on pace with a timeframe for getting your ham radio license! First, you will need to find a list of amateur radio exam test sessions in your area. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, you’ll have a multitude of possibilities on all days of the week in a month’s time perhaps. If you live in a rural area, you may find that the closest test session is hours away and is offered only a few times a year. This is why we say you need to pace yourself. Go here first and pick a date you can reasonably be prepared to take your exam in the future: https://hamradioprep.com/find-an-exam-near-you/

Once you select the date you plan to take your exam (it may be weeks or months away, depending on your local schedule or how much time you need to study), then you can backtrack and decide how much time you need to invest on a daily/weekly basis to ensure you are ready to go on test day!

6) There are two ways to learn the material: Absorption of any and all information, and just learning what is needed to pass the test.

Some people who go for their ham licenses want to know all the information, regulations, theory, science and more that they can get their hands on, even though they don’t need it to take the FCC test. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most study aids focus on getting to know the answers so you can pass the test. Check No. 7 below for an idea if you want to learn more than test content.

The good news about studying for the FCC ham radio exams is that approved and dedicated question pools are used by the radio clubs that administer the exams, so there is no secret about the questions you need to study. If you study all the questions and remember the correct answers, you’re well on your way to getting your ham license! The question pools in the public domain include the questions, answers to choose from, and the correct answers. It really isn’t rocket science. If you have a good memory, you might even be able to memorize all the correct answers.

7) Ham radio clubs offer ham classes.

There may be a local ham radio club in your area that offers test classes once or twice a year. Many ham club members would rather see you learn the material, rather than memorizing all the correct answers. Thus, they often have curriculum that they present in a classroom atmosphere that even offers hands-on experience with operating radio equipment, building kits, soldering, and more! If you feel the need to get more immersed in the realm of electronics and ham radio, be sure to see whether a local ham radio club (Google it) offers a class.

8) You don’t need a perfect score!

Above all, there are no bonus points for achieving a perfect score on your ham radio exam, other than perhaps bragging rights. The key to remember is that there are 35 questions on the Technician and General class license exams, with 50 questions on the Amateur Extra exam. In order to achieve a passing score of 74 percent or greater on the Technician and General exams, you need to answer at least 26 questions correctly, or 37 questions correctly on the Amateur Extra exam. That means you can get up to nine questions wrong on the Technician and General exams and 13 wrong on the Extra test — and still pass!

If you have trouble with a question during your actual exam, don’t skip the question, because then you have that answer totally wrong! TAKE A GUESS! You have a 25 percent chance of getting the answer right when you take a guess. We say this here, because when you are taking the practice test sessions, you should be doing the same thing … take a guess because you may just guess right! If you get in that frame of mind when taking practice tests, you’ll do the same when you take the actual exam on test day. When the mind goes blank, take a guess!

9) As you get closer to your test date, study more!

You’ve been studying for weeks or a few months and your test day is looming. The closer you get to your test date, the more you will want to study. If you typically spend 15 to 30 minutes a day studying, ramp it up to an hour or more per day when you get closer to the test date. Why? You’ll spend more time on the test questions, and you’ll have better retention rate for the correct answers when test day arrives. When you feel you are ready to take your test, then do what Number 10 below says!

10) Cram, cram, cram!

If your scheduled ham test session is coming up, the best thing you can do is cram until it hurts! Keep taking the simulated tests and continually try to improve your score each time. Luckily, most online test sessions give you a score each time you take the test and let you know how well you are doing. When you continually get a score of 75 or above (the FCC requires a passing score of 74 percent or above), then you are ready to bite the bullet and take your ham test! Be psyched and ready to pass that test on test day! You can do this!