Overview Of The Ham Radio License Exam
In the United States, Amature Radio transmissions are regulated by the Federal Communications Commision. All amature radio operators must be licensed, and licenses are available in 3 different classes (Technician, General, and Extra), which determine which frequencies you’re allowed to transmit on.
Each class requires completion of a progressively harder exam, which is administered by a volunteer group of Amature Radio Operators.
We’ll cover the Ham Radio Exam(s) in detail, and give you our picks for the best Ham Radio study guides, review guides, and practice tests to ensure your test prep success! The details are below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:
Ham Radio Exam Details
The Ham Radio License Exams are available for each of the 3 classes of Amature Radio Operator License. All exams are between 35 and 50 questions, and get progressively harder for each class. On successful completion of the exam, the volunteer organization administering the exam will report the results to the FCC who issue the license. They’re good for 10 years from the date of issue.
The Technician Class License Exam
Technician amature radio licenses are the entry level class most new HAMs will obtain to get started. It’s a 35 question exam on radio operation, theory, and regulation. Once completed, you’ll have permission to operate on all 30MHz+ VHF/UHF Amateur bands, as well as a few high frequency bands.
The General Class License Exam
Once you’ve passed the technician class, you might want to move on to the next level, the General class. This one grants permissions that will let you operate on all amature bands below 30MHz, as well as the majority of HF bands. This one is also comprised of 35 questions, and you must pass the Technician before you’re eligible for the General.
The Amateur Extra Class License Exam
The final, and most difficult licensing exam is the Amateur Extra class. Once obtained, you’ll have privileges to use all Amateur frequencies and operating modes in the U.S. It’s a 50 question test, and you must have passed both of the other class exams. This one covers advanced topics and more obscure regulations than the others.
Each question on the 3 class of exam is 4 question multiple choice, with a single correct answer. No partial credit is available. For the Technician and General, a passing score is 26 (74% of the 35 questions) correct, and for the Extra it’s 37 (74% of the 50 questions) correct.
Best Ham Radio Study Guides
We’ve rounded up what we believe to be the best study guides for each license class. If you’ve used and enjoyed a particular guide on a lower class exam, we recommend you stick with it for the higher classes. Most of the top tier guides out there are excellent, so the fact that it doesn’t appear on our list doesn’t mean it won’t be a great resource.
Amateur Radio Technician Class - The Easy Way
Pros: Fast and simple way to prepare for the exam.
Cons: Not as deep on theory for people looking to truly understand the material.
Our Rating: 4.8 / 5
The Amateur Radio Technician Class - The Easy Way is our highest recommended guide for the Technician license class. It provides an easy and effective method of studying for and passing the exam in the quickest amount of time possible. If you’re main focus is getting the license, and already have a good background in radio theory and operation then this is a great choice.
The full list of features include:
- Condensed coverage of all exam topics.
- Simple method for reviewing and preparing for the test.
- Focuses narrowly on the correct answers to the answer bank questions.
There’s little doubt that this is one of the quickest routes to getting your license. We recommend this book if that’s your goal. If you’d like to dive deeper into the background theory and other concepts then you might be better served with a guide from another publisher.
The ARRL General Class License Manual
Pros: Comprehensive review of all test topics from the top amature radio organization.
Cons: Some example question explanations are difficult to follow.
Our Rating: 4.7 / 5
The ARRL General Class License Manual is our top pick for General class license HAM study guides. The ARRL study guides are great resources for all 3 license classes, and that’s especially true for this one.
The full list of features include:
- Contains all Questions from the practice bank with Answer Key.
- Use with ARRL’s online Exam Review for Ham Radio.
- Detailed explanations for all questions, including FCC rules.
If you’re studying for the second HAM radio test, you’ll do well with this guide book. It’s got a great set of material that’s well organized and contains everything you need to pass on your first attempt!
The ARRL Extra Class License Manual
Pros: Everything needed to pass the exam on your first try.
Cons: No major negatives.
Our Rating: 4.8 / 5
Our favorite study guide for the final HAM Radio exam is the The ARRL Extra Class License Manual. As the most difficult of the 3, we strongly recommend this or another guide book to help you focus your study efforts.
- Online Review and Practice Exams.
- Expert instruction will lead you through all of the knowledge you need to pass.
- Great organization and easily consumable sections.
This is a fantastic resource that contains everything needed to succeed on your first attempt. Whether you go with this or a different option, we strongly recommend going into the test well prepared!
Ham Radio License Manual
Pros: Comprehensive set of practice questions for all 3 exams.
Cons: Not a proper study guide so use this in addition to the other exam specific guides.
Our Rating: 4.9 / 5
The Ham Radio License Manual is different from the other options on this list. It includes full length practice tests for each of the exams. The questions are high quality and a great representation of what you’ll see on the actual tests.
- Includes 1500 practice questions.
- Covers all license classes.
- The practice tests help identify areas where you need to work.
Having a good idea of what to expect on the test is always a great thing. This book is a perfect compliment to any of the HAM radio study guides on our list, and we strongly recommend picking one up.
For aspiring amature radio operators, it all starts with the licensing exam. Running afoul of the FCC isn’t something anyone should want to do, so take the time to do it right and sit for the tests.
Study manuals, flashcards, and practice tests are a huge help to many people, and if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of them.
We’ve rounded up the top Ham Radio study guides and presented them above.
The one you should go with depends on the license class you’re going for, but we’ve presented our favorite for each. In addition, we strongly recommend grabbing the practice question book that’s mentioned last on our list for any or all of the classes.
Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success. We’ve listed some of the best books available. Good luck, and study hard!