To get a ham radio operator license you need to pass a test on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. But don’t worry—it’s really not hard. The test for the entry-level Technician license consists of only 35 fill-in-the-circle multiple choice questions, and you only need to answer 26 questions correctly to pass. The questions and answers are taken word-for-word from a publicly available pool of 426 questions AND there’s a lot of help and support, including easy-to-follow-and-study books and free online quizzes.
♦ TIP: When taking a multiple choice test, you don’t have to “know” the correct answer, you just need to be able to recognize it. If you’re stumped, eliminate the obviously wrong answers, then take a good guess. And with all questions and answers publicly available “word-for-word” you can just remember some key words for each question and answer to jar your memory.♦
The test is administered at various times and local sites throughout every month by Volunteer Examiners (VEs)—local hams who volunteer their time. A modest test fee (currently $15) is charged to reimburse VEs for any fees they incur. There is no fee for the actual license.
So here’s what you do to get a license . . .
Prepare for the Test
- Apply for an FRN (FCC Registration Number), required for taking the test, using the FCC’s CORES (COmmission REgistration System). This is a unique 10-digit number that the FCC will use to identify you in business transactions with the agency. For more information, click here; to register online, click here.
- Get one or more study books. These books are specifically designed and organized to help you optimally study. One of the most commonly-used book is HamRadioSchool.com Technician License Course.
♦ TIP: The entire current question pool is available in .doc, .txt, or /pdf format here. IMPORTANT: A completely new question and answer pool will be published July 2018.♦
- Take free online quizzes. Go to QRZ.com and create a login. We suggest that you take as many quizzes as needed until you’re comfortable that you can pass with less than nine incorrect answers.
- Find a test location and time that’s convenient for you. Go here and enter your search criteria in the left sidebar.
Take the Test
On the day of the test:
- Bring with you: your FRN (see previous section), a picture ID, your Social Security Number (NOT your SSN card), a pen and pencil, and the $15 fee. (If you want to use a calculator, you must clear all memory. And you must turn off your cell phone during the test.)
- Fill out FCC Form 605 (you can download it from here and fill it out ahead of time to save time and energy the day of the test).
- The VE will give you a test booklet and answer sheet. (Do NOT write in the booklet. You can write notes or do calculations on the back of the answer sheet or a blank sheet the VE may provide.)
- When you’re finished taking the test, the VE will score your answers immediately and make a pass/fall determination.
- If you pass, you’ll fill out a bit more paperwork and the VE will issue to you a CSCE (Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination).
- Your Form 605 and CSCE are submitted to and processed by the FCC.
Within about a week after your test date, your assigned call sign appears online in the FCC database (go to the FCC License Search web page). Once this happens, you can start transmitting as a licensed ham radio operator!
Your license is valid for 10 years; it’s easily renewed without taking another test. However, if you fail to renew your license in a timely fashion, you have a two-year grace period to renew without taking another test BUT you cannot transmit during that time since your license is not valid.
- Keep your current address up to date in the FCC database. If the FCC mails you something and it’s returned as “undeliverable,” your license may be suspended.
- Your ham radio operator license is a FEDERAL license and is subject to very specific rules and regulations. For more information, go to our FCC Rules and Regs web page.