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Amateur radio is a fun and exciting hobby, but there are many rules and principles that you must be aware of before you can legally and safely operate a radio. We hope to provide a free textbook to help you pass the amateur radio test. If you have any suggestions, feedback, or criticism on our study guide, please feel free to contact us. You can message us on Facebook or Twitter. This is the first version of our study material and we are still in the process of writing it, so it may be rough. This text is maintained by volunteers in their free time.
The Technician license is an entry-level amateur radio license. Successfully completing the test will give you full transmission privileges on frequencies above 30 MHz.
The Technician license will also give you limited privileges to experiment with high frequency radios. You will receive voice privileges between 28.3 and 28.5 MHz and full data privileges between 28.0 MHz and 28.3 MHz on the 10 meter band. You may also transmit Morse code on the 80, 40, and 15 meter bands. Technician licenses will limit you to 200 Watts of peak envelope power (PEP).
The Technician test (also known as Element 2) is composed of 35 questions. You must achieve a minimum score of 26 correctly answered questions to pass. All questions are multiple choice with four options. Only one choice is correct, although “all of the above” is an option on some questions. The test is not timed.
The FCC requires that all of the questions on the exam be drawn from a publicly maintained question pool. The examination may not ask any questions that are not in the public question pool. The FCC requires that the question pool be at least 10 times the size of the number of questions on the test, but they are typically a little larger. The question pools are typically valid for four years, although minor spelling corrections are made without reissuing the question pool. Questions are are proven to be incorrect or are rendered incorrect due to changes in rules or regulations are withdrawn from the question pool. The current Technician question pool can be found online, along with all the right and wrong answers on the NCVEC's website. Once again, by law, absolutely no variation from these questions is permitted on the test. If you can memorize every question and answer, you can pass the test with a perfect score. However, we recommend that you study and learn the material.
If you want to study on your own, are many study guides available online, including this one. Another popular one is KB6NU's No Nonsense study guides. The General and Extra Class guides are $7.99, but the Technician guide may be downloaded for free on his website. The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) publishes a set of their own study guides. These are normally around $20 in the ARRL store. You may also be able to find a copy in your public library. These books are fairly exhaustive and will serve as a good reference even after you complete your exam. If the $20 price is too much, you can find study guides written by other authors for less online.
You can take practice exams online. QRZ provides free practice tests. It requires registration on their site, but this is free and does not require an amateur license. Another good resource is HamStudy.org. HamStudy has the advantage of displaying the questions on flashcard. Flipping the flashcard over will give you an explanation of the answer, which may help you retain the information better and also provide you with important background information on amateur radio. You should continue taking practice tests until you can reliably pass tests without missing any questions.
Your local amateur radio club may have study sessions and classes available. You can find a club near you on the ARRL's website, although they only show ARRL affiliated clubs.
Show up early to the test so you have time find the place the test is being given out. Tests may be scheduled to start at a set time, and if you're late, you'll be asked to come back later. This format is more common at large licensing events or hamfests. In other situations, there may just be a set amount of time that tests are being offered, and if you show up any time during this time, you will be given a test. This is more common for situations where a club is administering the test.
Typically a testing session costs $15, although some clubs may pay the fee for you or offer free testing. This fee is usually sent to the organization providing training for the test givers, and is used to cover the expenses of producing the test. The test givers are allowed to take out a small portion of the $15 to cover transportation fees or test expenses such as pencils. The FCC does not charge a fee for licensing or testing and does not collect any portion of these fee.
You will also need to bring a government issued photo ID such as a driver's license, non-driver's photo ID, passport, or military ID. If you do not have one, you may bring two forms of another ID listed on this page on the ARRL's website. You will need to know your Social Security Number (SSN) to apply for a license. If you don't know it, bring your card. This information is required by the FCC to issue you a license. If you do not wish to use your SSN, you may apply for an FCC Federal Registration Number (FRN) ahead of time.
You should also bring a pencil and a calculator to the test. A four function calculator should be adequate for the Technician test, but later tests may require a scientific calculator. Technically you may bring any calculator to the test as long as the memory is cleared, but it is better to bring a scientific calculator. You may not store any formulas or notes in your calculator, you may not use a calculator with external communication capabilities, and you may not use your phone as a calculator.
If you fail the test, you may be permitted to retake another test. However, your test giver is not required to do this. If you pass the test, you may be given an opportunity to take another test, such as the General or Extra for free, subject to test availability. There are some people who have passed both the Technician and General test, or even all three tests, in a single sitting. This requires a lot of preparation.
This chapter will guide you through the basic theory and concepts of radio operation. This includes an introduction to electromagnetic waves, modulation, and the basic components and operation of a radio. At the conclusion of this chapter, you should understand the following concepts:
Actual test questions along with conceptual questions will be provided at the conclusion of each section so that you can test your knowledge. Study material that directly answers a question on the examination will be indicated in bold. Key words will be indicated in italics.
The two main types of waves that exist in the universe are mechanical waves and electromagnetic waves. Mechanical waves are produced by the deformation of a physical medium. For example, an acoustic or sound wave, travels through the air and is carried by tiny vibrations created in the by a speaker or a person speaking. Seismic waves generated by an earthquake travel through and along the surface of the Earth. The speed of a mechanical wave depends on type of wave and the medium it is traveling through. The speed of sound in seawater is about five times faster than the speed of sound in air.
Electromagnetic waves are created by the changes in the energy of particles. This energy change generates electrical and magnetic fields. All electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light. The speed of light is 300,000,000 meters per second or 670 million miles per hour. Examples of electromagnetic waves include visible light, x-rays, and radio waves.
Electromagnetic waves and mechanical waves are not interchangeable. When you speak, you generate a mechanical wave. This wave can be picked up by a microphone and converted into an electromagnetic wave. This electrical signal can travel along wires and then be converted back into a mechanical wave that you can hear using a speaker. Electronics can do many things with this electrical signal. For example, an electric megaphone can amplify the electrical signal and play it back much louder. You can record the electrical signal and store it computer to play later. A radio can radiate the signal out so another radio can pick it up.
[T3B03] What are the two components of a radio wave?
[T3B04] How fast does a radio wave travel through free space?
[T3B11] What is the approximate velocity of a radio wave as it travels through free space?
Frequency is the amount of time an event occurs in a specific length of time. In the context of electromagnetic waves, the frequency is the number of cycles of an electromagnetic wave that pass in a second. A cycle is the amount of electromagnetic wave needed to repeat wave. It includes one wave peak and one wave trough. We measure this using the unit Hertz. This is abbreviated as Hz and is equivalent to 1/s or s-1. Historically, the unit of cycles per second (cps) was used in place of Hz up through the 1970s.
Figure 1. One Hz Wave, showing peak, trough, and cycles measured peak-to-peak and trough-to-trough.
Figure 2. Two Hz Wave showing that in the same amount of time, a 2 Hz wave repeats itself twice as often as the 1 hz wave.
The wavelength (λ) is the actual distance traveled by a wave in a single cycle. The wavelength is inversely related to the frequency. This means that as the wavelength increases, the frequency decreases, and as the wavelength decreases, the frequency increases. Frequency and wavelength are related to each other by the speed of light, according to the following equation:
A simplification of this equation commonly used in amateur radio is:
Using this equation, you can quickly convert between a station's frequency and its wavelength.
[T3B01] What is the name for the distance a radio wave travels during one complete cycle?
[T3B05] How does the wavelength of a radio wave relate to its frequency?
[T3B07] What property of radio waves is often used to identify the different frequency bands?
[T3B08] What are the frequency limits of the VHF spectrum?
[T3B09] What are the frequency limits of the UHF spectrum?
[T3B10] What frequency range is referred to as HF?
Modulation is the process of modifying an electromagnetic wave so that it carries another signal, such as voice or data. The original signal is referred to as the carrier. Many methods of modulation are used in amateur radio.
[T8A01] Which of the following is a form of amplitude modulation?
[T8A05] Which of the following types of emission has the narrowest bandwidth?
[T8D09] What code is used when sending CW in the amateur bands?
[T1B09] Why should you not set your transmit frequency to be exactly at the edge of an amateur band or sub-band?
[T2B13] Which of the following is true of the use of SSB phone in amateur bands above 50 MHz?
[T8A11] What is the approximate maximum bandwidth required to transmit a CW signal?
[T2B05] What determines the amount of deviation of an FM (as opposed to PM) signal?
[T8A07] What is the primary advantage of single sideband over FM for voice transmissions?
[T2B06] What happens when the deviation of an FM transmitter is increased?
[T8A10] What is the typical bandwidth of analog fast-scan TV transmissions on the 70 cm band?
A radio transmitter will mix the electrical signal with a radio wave (the carrier wave) through a process called modulation. The electrical signal can generated by a microphone or by a computer. This signal is radiated out into the world through an antenna. A radio receiver can receive this signal, remove the carrier wave through demodulation, and send the original electrical signal to a speaker to play as audio or send it to a computer as data.