The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires every Amateur Radio operator to pass at least one of its three tests to receive a license. The more licenses you pass, the more privileges you receive on the radio. Becoming a ham is not difficult, however it does require you to do some work to pass the examinations. If you are not willing to put in some time studying for the required examination(s), you may want to take up a different hobby.


There are currently three license classes: Technician, General and Amateur Extra. The higher grade the license you hold, the more privileges you will enjoy.

Some hams never progress beyond the entry level Technician license, and they are happy to just have the privileges that license conveys. With this license they are limited to fewer bands, and a majority of Technician license holders can be found working on VHF and UHF frequencies.

The General Class license is for those who want to learn more about electronics and gain more High Frequency privileges. This enables them the opportunity to talk farther and to use more bands to communicate.

The Amateur Extra license is the highest license class available. A more thorough understanding of electronics is required for this exam, but it also conveys all the privileges available to the hobbyists.

Preparing for your examination

In years past, those who aspired to attain a ham radio license had to learn the Morse code at prescribed speeds for each license class. This requirement was eliminated a few years ago. Now, you need only pass a multiple choice test to become licensed. The current Question Pools for each of the exams are also available on line at ARRl Question Pool.

If you want to purchase a basic license study guide for any of the three classes of licenses, there are two we would recommend. One is published by ARRL, and the other is authored by Gorden West. These can easily be found by a search of the Internet. Wherever you get it, just be sure to get then newest edition, as the question pools change from time to time.

Recently, our club has been recommending the free downloadable No-Nonsense license study guides by KB6NU. Our members have commented they have found them to be very useful and easier to use than the books listed above.

For the Technician Class License tests after July 1, 2010:

2010 Tech Study Guide

For General Class License tests after July 1, 2011

2011 No Nonsense General Class License Study Guide

Our club periodically offers free classes to help those who are interested in joining our hobby. We have found, however, that those who study at least an additional hour a day at home have the best chance of passing their exam on the first try. Learning what you can on your own, and then bringing your questions to the classes, is the most effective way of learning.

The passing grade on ham radio exams is 74%. We have found that on-line practice tests can be a valuable part of the learning process when studying for exams. As you progress toward your goal and are studying the license manual, supplement your study by taking at least two on-line exams a day. When you are consistently receiving scores of 90% and above, you should be ready for your exam. On-line practice tests are available at:

EHam Exams

QRZ Test

Taking the License Exam

Once you are confident that you know the material, it will be time to take your Licening Exam. To do so, find a VE Session in your area run by Volunteer Examiners (VE's). Information on when PWARC VE Sessions are held can be found under the "VE Sessions" link at the right of this page.