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 Questions are are proven to be incorrect or are rendered incorrect due to changes in rules or regulations are withdrawn from the question pool.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.