Welcome to the CRES Amateur Radio Club Volunteer Examiner Team's web page for prospective and upgrading hams. The Volunteer Examiner program was created by the Federal Communications Commission to permit specially trained ham radio operators, who donate their time, to administer the amateur radio exams that applicants must pass in order to become a ham themselves or to upgrade their license class. The CRES Amateur Radio Club is one of several ham organizations in the Central Ohio area that sponsor a VE team. We normally give exams three times a year, in April, August, and December, usually on the first or second Saturday of the month. This site attempts to provide answers to those questions frequently asked of us about our exam sessions and the VE program. Be aware that some of the information presented here is specific to our particular program and to the Central Ohio area, and other VE teams may elect to do some things differently.
Before you can legally operate an amateur station, you must be properly licensed by the FCC. To obtain a license, you must pass one or more comprehensive written exams to ensure you are knowledgeable enough about the rules of ham radio to be a safe and competent operator.
There are currently three levels of licensing: TECHNICIAN, GENERAL, and EXTRA. Each license class has a written test associated with it. The written tests are multiple choice exams consisting of 35 or 50 questions each. To obtain a TECHNICIAN license, now the entry level license class, you must pass a single written exam. To obtain the mid-level GENERAL class, you may either upgrade from the Technician class, which requires passing a more difficult written test, or you may pass the Technician and General elements at one or more sittings. The EXTRA license class — the one with the most privileges — is obtained in a similar manner, with the Extra class written exam being the most difficult test offered.
The complete question pools from which the test questions are taken are published and are widely available. The questions cover the rules pertaining to ham radio, theory, and things like safety and good operating practice. None of these tests are trivial, and it is unlikely a person can pass them without committing to a dedicated program of study beforehand. But, don't let the need for study dissuade you: We've had 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds who have passed these tests with flying colors.
Not anymore. While communicating by Morse Code has always been a basic tenet of our hobby, a demonstrated proficiency is no longer required. Morse is still an important facet of ham radio, though, and you may find as you become more involved with the ham fraternity that mastering and using this arcane skill is something you enjoy.
If your license is less than two years expired, all you have to do is renew it. We can help with the paperwork, but like the new licensee, you can't get back on the air until your callsign is current in the FCC's database.
If you once held a higher class license, but it expired more than two years ago, you can now get your former license class back by (1) providing proof that you were licensed and (2) passing the Technician's exam (Element 2). The burden of providing proof that you once possessed a license falls on you. A listing of the acceptable forms of proof can be found at http://www.arrl.org/exam-element-credit. And, as in the case above, you are prohibited from operating until the FCC acts on your request, as you almost certainly will be issued a new call. (If your old call is still available, you may request it for a fee through the FCC's vanity program.)
Google is your friend here. There are many web sites where you can find the current question pools and sample test engines. Or you can go the ARRL web site, http://www.arrl.org, and click on the Licensing tab to get started. You can find ham radio study guides at many local bookstores. You may also wish to visit our local ham distributer, Universal Radio, http://www.universal-radio.com, in Worthington — they generally have a wealth of preparatory materials available for sale in their showroom.
There are many sites on the Internet that offer amateur radio practice exams. One we often refer candidates to is http://www.qrz.com/hamtest/, but, as indicated above, Googling "ham radio practice exam" will turn up many sample test engines. Just make sure the exam site you choose is drawing its questions from the current exam pool. It is useful to try a few practice exams prior to attending an official test session both so you can judge if you are ready for the real McCoy and so you'll know what to expect when you get to an exam session. We find that if you can reliably pass these on-line exams, you'll likely have no problem when you sit down to take the test for real.
You need to find an exam session. Perhaps the most straightforward way to do this is to check the ARRL website at http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-exam-session, to obtain a schedule for the exams they know about. You may also want to check here for a list of exams offered through the Laurel VEC. Alternately, in the Columbus area, you can try calling Universal Radio at 614-866-4267 — they are usually aware of the upcoming exam sessions which are being offered locally. Or, if it meets your needs, you can show up at the time and place mentioned at the top of this web page.
The various VE teams handle the way they register applicants differently. Our team strongly encourages pre-registration using our on-line form. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and we find having this information up front just makes things flow more smoothly. Provided you have an FRN, we'll still accommodate you if you show up without pre-registering, but expect the registration process to take a bit longer.
An FCC Registration Number or FRN is a 10-digit number (starting with a zero) which identifies you to the FCC. The FCC now requires we provide an FRN with the paperwork we submit to them for each new license or upgrade. If you do not already have one, you must obtain an FRN from the FCC prior to pre-registering for or taking an exam. To do this, you must visit the FCC Registration Web Page, https://apps.fcc.gov/cores/userLogin.do, and sign up for an account. The FCC has produced a short video on how to apply for an FRN which may be viewed at: https://www.fcc.gov/vec-colem-cores. If you already possess an FRN, you're good to go, but it would still be prudent, if you haven't done so, to create a CORES account for yourself on the above website to manage your FRN, as the old CORES system will be decommissioned at the end of February, 2019.
The FCC has always taken the position that a felony conviction constitutes the potential grounds for denying an applicant an FCC license. In August, 2017, they mandated a change to our NCVEC form 605 to bring it into conformance with their own form 605 which has for some time asked this question of other applicants.
Regardless of how you answer this question, or even if you refuse to do so, we will administer and grade your exams, and issue a CSCE if you earn one. However, if you answer in the affirmative or decline to answer, your application will be flagged by the FCC for further review and within 14 days you must provide them with (1) a statement explaining the circumstances surrounding your felony conviction(s), and (2) a statement giving the reasons you believe that a grant of your application would be in the public interest. Once this material has been received, the FCC will review it and act to confirm or deny your application. If this question affects you, we can provide you with an information sheet which walks you through this process. For more information, please see Reference 1 and Reference 2.
It is the position of our VE team that we'd rather not be involved in this aspect of amateur licensing, but we were not given that option.
First, you'll need to have some identification. A Picture ID is much preferred — something like a driver's license, passport, or student-id card. If you do not have a picture id, bring two forms of identification, which could include a birth certificate, a social security card, utility bill with your name and address on it, or a postmarked envelope addressed to you at your current address.
Second, make sure you know your FRN, if you have not already supplied it to us when you pre-registered. Pre-registration allows us to generate all the necessary paperwork for you at the exam session. However, if you have not pre-registered and do not have an FRN, the issuing of your license will be delayed until you obtain one (and please note we have no way of doing so at the test session itself).
Next, if you already have a ham license, make sure you bring an up-to-date copy of your license that we can retain. We may have to submit the copy with your paperwork for processing and we don't have the facilities to make copies at our exam site.
If you've passed an exam element within the preceding year (365 days), either at one of our sessions or at another VE team's test session, bring the paperwork you received at the time (the exact name for this document is "Certificate of Successful Completion" or CSCE), along with a copy of the same, so you will not have to be retested on the elements you've previously passed.
You might also want to ensure you have a pen and several spare pencils. Please note that our team stocks calculators which will be loaned to those who need them. Applicants may not use their own calculators, nor use a smart phone in that capacity.
When you arrive at one of our sessions, you'll be greeted by several volunteer examiners who will check your identification and any other pertinent paperwork (CSCE's, old licenses) you have brought with you. If you've pre-registered, as we strongly suggest, that's it! You will not need to fill out any additional paperwork since your NCVEC 605 form will have been automatically generated from the pre-registration data and you will already be in our database. Otherwise you will have to take the time to fill out a form 605 by hand (you did remember to acquire an FRN and bring it with you, didn't you?) and wait for us to enter the information into our database before being offered an exam.
Within reason, you can have as much time as you need to take an exam. Each element is designed to take a typical applicant 30-60 minutes to complete. The exams are strictly closed-book. All paperwork will be provided by the exam team, including the scratch paper used for working the problems. You'll receive a multi-page exam with questions semi-randomly chosen from the applicable question pool. (We say semi-randomly because there must be a certain number of questions from each of several categories on every exam.) You'll receive an answer sheet for recording your answers. We'll even provide you with a calculator if you need one. We ask that you do not mark on the exam itself as it will be reused. You will not be permitted to leave the room, take a phone call or text, or communicate with anyone other than a member of the exam team until your completed exam has been turned in, so it would be wise to visit the restroom prior to commencing the exam.
Once you have finished the exam and checked your work, you can turn in all the paperwork and are then free to leave the room. But don't go far. We'll notify you of the results after we have graded your exam. If you pass, we'll offer you the option of going on to take the next exam element. Most people choose not to take the exams beyond those they have prepared for, but the decision is entirely up to you. Once you've either taken a stab at every exam element you need, or have elected not to go on, we'll proceed to the endgame: If you've passed any element at our session, we'll congratulate you and issue you a CSCE to confirm the fact. Otherwise, we'll encourage you to study a bit more and try again at a later session.
If this is your first foray into the ham radio fraternity, you'll have to sit on your hands while you wait for the paperwork to be processed. We submit our paperwork to our VEC, and they in turn check it and submit it to the FCC. The FCC will then issue you a license. The whole process normally takes only a few days. (I know, it feels like an eternity, but it's a lot better than the 6-10 weeks it took when I was first licensed in the mid '80s!) You can't operate your own station until you are assigned a callsign. However, you can check the FCC website, http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp, and when you find your new call in their database, you can legally get on the air and make your first contact. If you already have a license and have successfully upgraded, you can begin using your new privileges immediately, but you'll have to sign your call with a special suffix until your new class appears in the FCC database. The particulars are explained on the back of the CSCE you'll receive.
You won't, unless you jump through some hoops first. On February 17, 2015, the FCC stopped automatically issuing paper licenses. Instead, your authority to operate is recorded in their Universal License System, which can be accessed online. Information about how to obtain a paper license may be found here.
We normally accept walk-in candidates at our sessions, but we strongly encourage applicants to pre-register, which you may do so here. Pre-registration allows us to handle a lot of the paperwork prior to the exam and makes the check-in process easier. Be aware that other VE teams operate differently: Some require all their applicants to pre-register while others do not offer pre-registration at all. Also, please note that if you have special needs — say perhaps you are visually impaired — you should contact us beforehand so that we can ensure we have the materials and personnel on hand to accommodate you.
We'd be happy to address it personally. You can either drop us an email at email@example.com or contact us by phone. Our team's applicant point-of-contact is Rob Stampfli/KD8WK, and he may be reached at 614-864-9377 (afternoons and evenings, please).
Our club used to be affiliated with the AT&T/Western Electric manufacturing facility (more recently, Lucent Technologies), on the far east side of Columbus. In 2002, we realized we had more retirees and friends of the club than corporate members, so we voted to open ourselves to all interested amateurs. We continue to maintain the W8ZPF repeater, on 146.67 Mhz (PL 131.8), for the benefit of club members and local hams, and offer bi-monthly presentations on a variety of ham topics. And best of all, if you obtain a new license at one of our exam sessions, you are eligible for a free year's membership in the club. Feel free to visit our website at http://w8zpf.org to learn more about us.
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