Welcome to a great journey, the journey of amateur “ham” radio. Hams come from all walks of life with a common interest in communicating over the radio. Whether it is across town, to another continent or off the moon, there is always a ham out there somewhere. You will have a lot of fun learning as you advance in license class and in your ability to work new contacts on all the various modes available to you. There are 3 license classes, Technician, General and Amateur Extra – each advancement in class gives you more privileges than the previous, Amateur Extra class is the top level.
Morse code (CW) is NO longer required to earn any license class!
Many folks had trouble with learning morse code so removing CW from the requirements has been good for the hobby and allowed it to grow rapidly. After you are licensed, you can still try your hand at CW and see if you can master it, since it makes reaching distant stations easier than using voice.
Many hams start out with a small hand held UHF/VHF radio since that is what is allowed by the entry level Technician class license. You can communicate with people in your local area, directly or through relay stations called Repeaters. Hams in cities large & small have setup a network of repeaters that make their handheld radios operate over great distances.
As you progress to General class, you earn privileges on High Frequency or HF frequency bands – the bands most known for long distance communications. Many hams use a simple (and cheap do-it-yourself) wire antenna and a starter HF radio to communicate around the world. More experienced hams use directional antennas to “work DX” (rare foreign countries).
Making contacts via Ham Radio is fun because you never know who will come back to your call and you meet interesting people on the air and can learn a lot about distant lands. Most Hams are very friendly an eager to make new contacts and share their knowledge of radio, culture, language, etc.
While there are many ways to study for your exam, many hams believe that the best way to do it is to study to pass the test and then spend your time learning how to operate from doing it, talking to other hams, and by using operating manuals, etc. No study guide will provide you with everything you need to know to be a good operator. Nothing beats experience and RWK has a mentor program with experienced operators willing to assist new hams get going – we call them “Elmers”.
There are so many fun things to do in this hobby it will boggle your mind. Literally there is a facet for everyone. Our friend Jason Johnston KC5HWB has a video that describes all the things that you can do as a ham:
Have fun and good luck studying, passing your license exam, and getting on the air.
RWK is a friendly club and we are here to help you get going and get on the air!
Visitors are always welcome at our monthly meetings – come check us out!
We hope to hear you on the RWK repeater one day soon!
Feel free to email us with any questions you may have.
How to Study For Your License Exam
There are many ways to study for your exam:
- Online study – We recommend HamStudy.org. It’s free and there are several ways to use it. If you use the “study mode” it will quiz you and tutor you on the questions that you miss. If you consistently get 85-90% in the HamStudy practice tests, you will pass easily.
- Gordon West License study books – many folks prefer the more “user friendly” Gordon West series of study books. They have some good technical info in them and they help you learn the right answer so you’ll do well on your exam.
- ARRL License Manuals – these books are published by the ARRL (the national association for Ham Radio in the US)
As you study for each level, take the practice exam online for free at hamstudy.org/ If you consistently get 85-90% in the HamStudy practice tests, you will pass easily. Remember that the Test questions in the books and on the practice tests are exactly what you will see in your license exam.
How to Take Your License Exam
The license exams are administered by hams that volunteer their time, they are known as VE’s – short for volunteer examiners. Ham clubs, W5YI VEC and the ARRL organize the tests and a link below has info on where the exam is offered in your area.
You can now take your Ham License Exam Online!
The RWK Volunteer Examiner Team offers online testing (usually) weekly. Check the schedule and requirements here: https://www.k5rwk.org/ham-testing/
If you prefer to take your license exam in person, in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, RWK offers testing every month. For more info on times see https://www.k5rwk.org/ham-testing/
If you are out of town, check out this list of available sessions for either in person or online testing opportunities.
Once You Have Passed Your License
Your learning has only begun! There are so many things to learn about Ham Radio. We recommend our RWK University for a 10-part Course for new Technicians and 10-part Course for new Generals.
We also recommend that you get involved with a club in your area, you’ve already found one of the best in RWK but if you are out of town you can locate clubs via this link: http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club
Antennas (the HAM bible) http://www.arrl.org/shop/ARRL-Antenna-Book-Softcover/
Entry level operating manual http://www.arrl.org/shop/ARRL-Operating-Manual-11th-Edition/
Intro to ham radio http://www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio
Ken Hanson has some other options, written up in a new hams page.