Online Remote Exams Available

If you’ve been waiting to take a license exam but couldn’t because in-person exams have all shut down, here’s an option for you through I’ve helped with a few of these as an examiner, and they work pretty well. For the applicant, it’s barely any different than the online practice tests you’ve already been banging through, since the question pool is exactly the same. For examiners, it’s super easy, because all the paperwork is generated automatically by the ExamTools system. This is here, now, and available for you to get your license super quickly. Since there’s no physical paperwork involved we’re seeing new callsigns appear in the FCC database literally the day after the test.

Justin, KJ1H, has been learning the ropes of this system from an examiner point of view under the Columbia University Amateur Radio Club and Alan, N2YGK, who heads them up. Justin is one of his regular online VEs now. Alan has also become a liaison between the ExamTools product and the ARRL VEC, who ultimately grants the individual groups permission to test online. (It’s on a case-by-case basis right now.) Ultimately we’d love to have enough VEs among our group that we can run our very own W1RLY exam sessions. That would require three or more other VEs of General class or higher. Since a Technician license is all you need to do rally, we’d be perfectly happy accepting General VEs and not offering the General or Extra tests, at least unless/until we have enough Extra class VEs among us.

(CANCELED) Tech License Exam At CTTC 2020

(With CTTC getting postponed until 2021, this license exam session will not be taking place this year. Tune in next year for information about an exam session then.)

The W1RLY Group in conjunction with the Woodmont Amateur Radio Association is sponsoring an Amateur Radio exam session at this year’s Climb to the Clouds event at Mount Washington.  This is your opportunity to get your Technician license and help out your fellow pro rally teams or help at events like the Boston Marathon by providing essential communications.

What’s needed to achieve this?   Pass a simple 35 question exam and score a 74 or better (26 out of 35).  Simple knowledge of FCC rules and some radio theory.

When are Where: The Exam session will be conducted at the Great Glens building on Saturday, July 11. Doors will open at 2:00pm and the exam session will begin at 2:30 pm (no one will be admitted after the exam starts).

What do I need to bring?

  1. One legal photo ID (identification):
    • State Driver’s License
    • Government issued Passport
    • Military or Law Enforcement Officer Photo ID card
    • Student School Photo ID card
    • State Photo ID card
  2. Two number two pencils with erasers and a pen.
  3. A calculator with the memory erased and formulas cleared is allowed. You may not bring any written notes or calculations into the exam session. Slide rules and logarithmic tables are acceptable, as long as they’re free of notes and formulas. Cell phone must be silenced or turned off during the exam session and the phones’ calculator function may not be used. In addition, iPhones, iPads, Androids, smartphones, Blackberry devices and all similar electronic devices with a calculator capability, may NOT be used.
  1. $15 dollars cash / check

Ok, how do I sign up? Simple, send the group an email at with the subject line of “VE Exam.”  That’s it!

The Technician Question Pool Is Changing!

If you’ve been studying for your Technician license, make sure you take your test by June 30, 2018. Why? Because a new question pool just came out that will be used from July 1 through 2022.

From time to time the question pool gets updated to reflect changes in rules and regs or new communication modes. The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators has just released the new Element 2 question pool into the public domain. This means that publishers and developers have time to incorporate the new question pool into books, websites, apps, and other training materials before the change takes effect July 1. That way, you can study for whichever version of the question pool will be in effect at the time you take your exam.

Realistically, question pools don’t change much over time. It’s likely you could pass a test with the new question pool if you only studied the old one. So don’t stress out over this — you won’t have to start from scratch if you fail the Tech exam in June and have to take it again in July. It’s just something worth knowing about so that the questions on the exam will look as familiar as possible to you.

How Do I Find a Ham Radio License Exam?

You’ve studied hard, using any number of methods available. You’re scoring well on the practice tests, so it’s time to take the license exam for real. But how, and where?

Go to the ARRL website to search for exam sessions using a number of different criteria — city/state, zip code, exam date, etc. For example:

Exam search results

Click on any listing for more information.

Exam session details

If walk-ins are allowed you can just show up, but it’s always appreciated if you pre-register. The $15 exam fee is collected at the exam itself, so you can always cancel at no charge if you have to. Bring the exam fee and photo ID, show up at the proper time and place, and take the exam. The Volunteer Examiners will walk you through the paperwork and the entire process.

How Do I Get an Amateur Radio License?

For rally communications, you will need a Technician class license. This involves taking a 35-question multiple choice test on a variety of subjects — FCC rules and regs, simple electronics, basic theory on how radio waves work and propagate through the atmosphere, etc. There is a standard question pool, and the questions and answers are public. A passing grade is 74%, so you don’t have to be an expert on the material to pass. And unlike the old days, you do NOT need to know Morse code for any modern ham radio license class.

There are many ways to learn the material, depending on what works best for you. The classic method is to read a book, such as The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. Another popular book is The Gordon West Technician Manual. Other options include’s Technician License Study Guide and The No-Nonsense Technician-Class Study Guide, which is also available as a free PDF file.

If online methods appeal to you more, you can take free practice tests using the same question pool as the actual license test until you know the questions and answers. Many web sites offer them, including the ARRL,, and Some sites, such as, will help teach you the material at the same time as drilling you on it, which some find more helpful than just taking practice tests over and over.

For some, there’s just no substitute for a classroom setting. You can look up available license classes in your area on the ARRL web site. Some classes run one evening a week for several weeks. Others run over a single weekend or even a single day.

However you learn the material, you will need to take an official license exam in person. These are usually included at the end of license classes. There are also groups of volunteer examiners who hold exam sessions regularly across the country. Once again, the ARRL web site can help you find an exam session near you. You will need to bring identification, and $15.00 cash, check, or money order for the cost of the exam. You will also need to provide your Social Security number, or your FCC issued Federal Registration Number if you already have one. (You probably don’t, unless you already hold a different type of FCC license.) You are allowed to bring a calculator with no formulas in memory, but you probably won’t need this for the Technician license test.

The examiners will give you an exam booklet and a separate answer sheet to mark your answers. There is no time limit, so don’t rush. Be sure to mark your answers clearly, as the examiners use an answer key to score each test. When you’re done, an examiner will take your answer sheet. It will be graded immediately, and you’ll soon know whether you passed or failed. If you failed, many groups will allow you to “register” a second time, with another $15, and take the test again immediately (with different questions, of course). If you passed,

If you passed, congratulations! You now have the option of taking the General license test at no extra charge. You are welcome to do so, or not, as you wish. The Technician license grants you access to all of the frequencies you need for rally communications, but having access to more frequencies never hurts. If you pass the General test you can take the Extra, again at no extra charge. Though it’s rare for people to go from zero to Extra in one session, it does happen!

After passing, the examiners will do some paperwork. You will get a Certificate of Successful Completion of Element 2, which is the Technician written test, signed by three of your examiners. They will also submit your information to the FCC to have them issue you a license. Typically your callsign will appear in the FCC database within a week or so. As soon as your callsign is assigned, you are officially a ham radio operator and may go on the air immediately.

Once your license is issued, you simply need to keep your current address up to date in the FCC database if you move and renew it for free every ten years. You never need to take the test again unless you let your license expire for more than two years.

What Amateur Radio License Class Do I Need?

To use amateur radio, you must be licensed by the FCC. (How to get this license is a subject for another post.) There are three license classes: Technician, General, and Extra. The entry-level license, Technician, grants you all amateur radio privileges above 50 MHz. Since rally communications take place on the 144 MHz band, this is the only license you need for rally communications.

Update 2/21/2020: There is some serious talk about using 80-meter NVIS single sideband for the South Arm / Icicle Brook stage at the 2020 New England Forest Rally, which has always been problematic for 2-meter communication due to the hilly terrain. A General or Extra class license will be required for these communications. Operators for this stage will be hand-picked by the Chief of Communications out of qualified individuals. All other stages will operate on 2 meters as usual.