So, you want to be a Radio Ham?
That’s great, read on and then follow the links under training in the menu for more information on each stage of the training
You may have been a Shortwave Listener or a CB Band user, and want to progress to longer distance communication.
Once you have been bitten by the bug, you will want to get started straight away. To get 'on the air' opens a whole new world to you, enabling you to make friends all over the world, build or repair your own equipment, install your own station in your home or mobile and fully participate in the hobby in whatever way you want. To do this it is necessary to obtain an amateur radio licence.
In the UK there are three levels of licences, each one gives increasing levels of privileges, and requires exams to be passed. The entry point for newcomers is the Foundation licence, progressing on to Intermediate, and culminating in the Advanced licence. Each licence level has to be achieved before the next can be taken.
The Foundation licence is designed to get you involved in amateur radio as quickly as possible. Before you are allowed to transmit 'live' it is important that you know a little bit about how your radio works, the dangers of interfering with other radio users, how not to upset your neighbours or your parents (if you are a young person) and a few rules and regulations of holding a licence.
How do you learn these new skills? By taking a Foundation licence training course, it’s an integral part of obtaining a licence. Most of the training is practical; there is a small amount of radio and electronics theory, enough for you to appreciate things like using the correct fuses in your equipment and how to build an antenna to get the most out of your radio station.
Don't be concerned with the thought of having to undertake a training course. They are run on a friendly informal basis by experienced radio amateurs. The course will take about 10-12 hours to complete, at the end of which you will be ready to sit an examination comprising 26 multiple choice questions. Your exam paper will be indicatively marked right after.
Courses are normally run over a number of weeks at your local amateur radio club, like this one. Once you have passed the exam you get your certificate and you are able to choose your own individual M6 series call sign and be allowed to operate without supervision with a maximum power of 10 Watts. Although this could be thought as a fairly low level of power, with experience you will quickly learn this is enough to enable you to communicate around the world!
Once you have gained experience at the Foundation level we are sure you will want to take the next step onto the Intermediate licence.
The Intermediate licence gives access to the more frequencies, and also power levels are increased to a maximum of 50 watts.
To gain the Intermediate licence, it is advisable to take a training course. This course is longer than the Foundation course and aims to teach many of the fundamentals of radio in an exciting way by actually undertaking practical tasks such as soldering, building a small project and a variety of other exercises building on the experience you have gained as a Foundation licence holder.
After completing the course candidates sit the Intermediate Licence Examination. Again this is a multiple-choice based on what was learnt on the course, covering the more advanced concepts of radio operating and the licence conditions. With both of these successfully completed an Intermediate licence can be obtained.
To gain a Full licence it is necessary to pass the Advanced Examination. This is much more advanced than the Intermediate, it covers radio theory and licence conditions. Holding a full licence enables you to use 400 Watts of power, because of this, subjects such as Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC), antenna design and safety issues are covered in some depth. The licence allows access to all the amateur allocations.
When studying for the Advanced Examination there is no requirement to take a formal training course, this is because the examination is theory based, with no practical training element in the syllabus. It is possible to study at home, however, most amateur radio clubs (this club included) run courses for the Advanced Examination. Unlike the other test's results are not given on the day, but sent to the RSGB for marking.
Before you can take your examination at the 1st and 2nd level, you need to complete your practical assessments
Your trainer will work with you through each element of the record and once completed, have these signed off by a Registered Assessor.
It’s recommended that you get a copy of the RSGB training manuals that accompany the exam, these are laid out in worksheet form for each practical assessment. Under £10 each
In all the exams, you will be given questions with multi-choice answers, these are recorded on an ‘Optical Marking Sheet’, as shown above.
To complete the sheet you will need a black ball point pen, but we recommend you mark them in pencil first – until you’re decided, so you’ll need a pencil and rubber, the last thing is a good scientific calculator.