How to Study for Ham Radio License Exams

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What you will learn from this article:

  1. What is HAM Radio?
  2. Tips for getting HAM License successfully.
  3. Best Study Guide.

Once I got my FCC HAM radio license, everybody was treating me like I was an adult  😉 Before we get in how to get your own license let’s find:

What is Ham Radio?

Originally, Ham Radio (also called Amateur Radio) is all about using the radio equipment under a license and is meant for purposes like recreation, conducting experiments, self-training, putting knowledge into practice, emergency communications, or for other non-commercial reasons. In the United States the regulatory body that oversees the Amateur activities and issues licenses to all the operators is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). To get on Air!!! You need license.

This article will help you out: How to be registered for the license. Let’s talk on it.

How to get Ham Radio License 

ham radio license

All applIcants need to clear the FCC Element 2 3 or 4 that is even easier nowadays for having license. It has been possible because the Morse code requirement has been removed, there is easier access to the test material, and there are innumerable study sites that will further help you earn your license as quickly as you desire.

Here is some quick study tips that will make your success guaranteed in your test for the ham radio license. These tips will give even better results when you will adapt them to your specific needs:

  • Try to practice giving the test within tight deadlines.
  • Don’t memorize verbatim. Understand the concept and connect the other things to the main idea while memorizing.
  • Try to learn from more than one source.
  • Focus your attention more on the correct answers.
  • Keep your study specific.

1. Always work within deadlines

Make yourself used to working within strict time confines. This will help you develop your ability to learn and retain plenty of stuff in less time. Use calendar to determine the deadlines and define your preparatory goals for ham license lookup.

2. First understand, then memorize!

Ham Radio license requirements & study gets tougher as the license classes move higher. But the Technician (Element 2) exam is rather easy and beginners can do well in it. You can check ARRL manual (Education & Training that help you to understand more about ham radio. This tip is a bit tricky to understand but you will usually discover the main idea or concept given clearly on the back side of the flashcard. You will often find direct or indirect guidelines there that will make your preparation process smooth. The thorough question pools for elements 2, 3, and 4 are available in the market in the form of complete booklets having all the answers furnished. These booklets carry the exact material that will be there in your test on the test day. Never memorize the order of the questions and answers given there. Make your concepts clear first and then consider the answers side by side to verify your working.

3.  Learn from multiple study modes

For Ham radio test study guide employing different learning modes will help you remember even more. Writing the difficult questions down and learning them aloud make their memorization easy. Use the same equipment and tools during the practice that you will be using during your actual test. While doing the mathematical calculations, derive the formulas before memorizing them and put them into practice.

Read : Amateur radio operators adopt the name “HAM” Why?

4.  Keep your focus on the correct responses

The questions given in the question pool are designed such that there is only one correct answer usually and three distractors are there to confuse the readers. Put your efforts in memorizing and deriving the correct answers. The only exception to this is the choice that says “All of these choices are correct”; be careful in this case. While preparing online, you can hide the distracting answers for making the question easier to solve.

5. Keep your study span specific

Try to opt for the test dates that are in near future. Sparing one hour daily for about two weeks and giving it to your test preparation will reduce the distance between you and your license. This time can vary but do spare some time for this regularly.

The rationale behind doing this is to make your test preparation a breeze by distributing your work over many days and improving memory retention by keeping your study specific. If you have more flexible schedules you can change the amount of time you are sparing.

The tests require you to achieve anywhere between the range of 74% – 100% for being successful. This gives you some space to skip some of the topics that you find difficult to learn. By implementing on these tip will easily succeed to have your Ham Radio License.

Best Study Guide

If you love to read more about HAM Radio license, ARRL has a nice book published that can help you to achieve the license easily.

arrl ham radio license book

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual

Read More Articles : Ham Radio Guide

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10 thoughts on “How to Study for Ham Radio License Exams

  1. Ken

    Great article! I became a Technician licensed Amateur radio operator in July 2013. Like you, I initially thought that one should have a thorough understanding of the subject matter in order to justify taking the test to become a licensed operator. Of course, as you explained, this is futile and I wholeheartedly agree that HAM radio is best learned “on the job.” I am glad that I gave in to the quick study approach for my Technician’s license, and I plan to do the same thing for the General and Extra class licenses, as well.

  2. Bob

    Most test location prefer if you have your FRN from the FCC prior to taking the test. This lets toy not use your SNN and lets you look up your call sign after you pass the test and it is processed by the FCC. You can use your radio as soon as your call sign is issued (it takes the FCC more than 7 days to do that). So the first step is get an FRN, then study, then pass, then get a radio, wait for your call sign, use the radio. Get your FRN here:

  3. Chunk B

    Good post.

    I got my novice license back in 1968 when they were not renewable. You simply had to upgrade to general or, at least, tech or when it expired you were of the air until you did.

    I recently used a pay version similar to the site you mentioned to study and pass my Extra. I was really sweating it but honestly if people take your advice and run through the questions then take practice tests they really will pass easily.

    So I was licensed when I was 13 and got my Extra when I was 60… Even old dogs can do it.

  4. Hugo Ahlquist

    This is a very good article. Ham radio is a wonderful hobby with many, many facets. It’s kept my interest for the past 57 years.

    To make ham radio work well for you, you should get involved in the local ham radio community so you will know who you are talking to and can get help with using and improving your equipment and operating skills. You most likely have a local radio club in your area. They are probably the ones supplying the volunteer examiners.

    Get involved in your club’s public service events. They are good practice in communicating that will carry over into emergency situations. My involvement has led to my being part of a ham radio group that works directly with our state emergency management agency on a volunteer basis. As a result, I’ve had access to FEMA training in several areas and, as a huge bonus, have met a lot of really nice other volunteers

  5. Ken

    I recently studied for my General, having earned my Technician license years ago. My study plan was to repeatedly read the ARRL license manual until I was familiar with it’s material. Then after casually reading a chapter or two each weekend over several months I had no idea about how prepared I was (I was interested in learning the material, not focused on the test per se).

    Then I took the CD out of the book and installed the ARRL practice exam software, after a few tries I was consistently scoring a ‘C’ or better on most attempts… I started feeling good about my chances of passing, but since I was going to take my exam in front of fellow members of my club I wanted to be 100% sure I’d pass… So I kicked my efforts up a step.

    I went and downloaded the entire General question pool as a word document (from a link at ARRL.COM) and proceeded to read each question, making it bold, and the setting the correct answer to bold. This made the correct answer ‘pop out’ when I subsequently went back and re-read the question pool. I read through the ‘bold’ question pool several times (3-4) during the week before my scheduled exam.

    The day of the exam, I went to the location, gave them a copy of my current license and $15 and took the test.

    As you suggest, I went through and answered each question I was ‘sure’ of. That was well over half of the booklet. I then went back and answered questions I was not so sure on, but still had an idea what the answer was, then in a final third pass I took complete guesses on the 2 questions I had absolutely no idea what the answer was (they tended to be ‘which freq…’ Questions.

    I then went down the answer sheet, ensuring every question had an answer marked.

    I passed. Handily. 30 out of 35, IIRC.

    Then my friends suggested I attempt Extra (“it doesn’t cost anything”, “Why not, you’re already here”, and “you are all studied-up, in a test-taking frame of mind, just do it”).

    I did the same thing I did for General – first, answer the ones I knew (I knew a lot!), then the toss-ups, finally the wild guesses (5 questions I had no idea what they were talking about – ‘Smith Chart’? ‘Three-state logic’?)…

    The first VEC graded my test and said nothing, the second VEC also graded it silently… When he handed my answer sheet to the the third VEC (a good friend of mine) I couldn’t hold back and had to ask “I didn’t pass it, did I?”

    I had. I got an exact passing score, one more wrong answer and I wouldn’t have passed.

    So now I am the proud holder of an Extra license, the FCC updated my record two business days after taking the test.

    Lest anyone think the Extra is trivial, let me re-assure you – I have been reading about and involved in radio since summer camp back in the early 70’s, almost 40 years at this point, BUT I did find that many of the questions on the Extra exam were very, very similar to questions in the General pool.

    I’m passing your posting on to a friend that is just starting his journey to earn a Technician license – I agree with all your suggestions, and appreciate the links you provide, it’s nice to have them all in one place. One additional link I would add would be for the new ARRL Practice a Exams online – they are 100% free, allow you to take a practice exam wherever you are (as long as you have Internet access), and will track your progress. It is no better/no worse than any other similar resource, I would just add it for completeness.

    Thanks, great article,!

  6. Michel Brault

    An amateur radio license is good for 10 years, USA. Up here in Canada an amateur license is good for life!

  7. Mike Belanger

    Some possible practice test sites: – Ham Test Online – AA9PW Practice tests – Ham Study – QRZ practice test (you don’t have to be a member) – eHam practice tests

    These are only a few of the many out there

    Mike, W1DGL
    (Amateur Extra Class, ARRL Volunteer Examiner)

  8. Richard Bateman

    Note that taking practice exams is a *terrible* way to “study” for an exam… it’s a reasonable way to benchmark your progress, but make sure you use a site that will tell you where you’re missing questions and then use a targeted method (even if just reading the questions on a site like or from a book) to actually study. and both have flashcards; also has explanations so when you miss a question you can flip the card over and find out what you missed.

    disclaimer: I am the owner of, so I have some bias in this area. That doesn’t make me wrong, though 😉


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