Bath & District Amateur Radio Club (BADARC) offer a distance learning course for the Advanced Amateur Radio exam. I started this course back in July, just after passing my intermediate exam. I wanted to move to the final stage and get my full license, but i didn’t feel confident in revising from the book alone. For the last exam (6th December 2013) a third of the candidates had come from the distance learning course and 95% of the people who got to the end of the course in early 2013 passed it, really proving how good the course is.
If you wish to register your interest in a future course email Steve Hartley (G0FUW). Currently two courses take place a year, January to June and June to December. The course is free, but they ask for a deposit of £30 which is donated to charity if you drop out of the course. You get this back if you finish the course and can use it to pay for your exam place.
Structure of the course
The course obviously has to cover a lot of material in preparation for the final exam. It uses the Advance: The Full License Manual as the core of the course. The manual is written by Steve Hartley G0FUW (founder of the distance learning course) and Alan Betts G0HIQ (my allocated tutor on the course), so i was in very good company throughout the course!
The Advanced License Syllabus will give you an idea of the topics covered and what you’re expected to know for the exam. This will prove to be a good taster of what’s to come if you start it.
Here’s a break down of the course structure we followed:
- Week 1 – License Conditions and Operating Practices
- Week 2 – Maths Primer (driving a calculator)
- Week 3 – Amateur Radio Safety
- Week 4 – Basic Electronics (Part 1)
- Week 5 – Basic Electronics (Part 2)
- Week 6 – Basic Electronics (Part 3) + mock exam
- Week 7 – Basic Electronics (Part 4)
- Week 8 – Transmitters (Part 1)
- Week 9 – Transmitters (Part 2) + mock exam
- Week 10 – Transmitter Interference
- Week 11 – Receivers (Part 1)
- Week 12 – Receivers (Part 2) + mock exam
- Week 13 – Feeders
- Week 14 – Antennas
- Week 15 – Propogation + mock exam
- Week 16 – EMC (Part 1)
- Week 17 – EMC (Part 2)
- Week 18 – Exam Briefing + mock exam
- Week 19 – Mock Exam
- Week 20 – Two Mock Exams
- Week 21 – Real Exam!
The level of time and effort required for the course shouldn’t be underestimated. This was made clear at the start of the course and i would definitely endorse it. Each week consisted of sections of the book to read, additional summary notes, homework and sometimes a mock exam to test learning to date. I estimate this took me around 3-4 hours each week.
There were times where i didn’t do a weeks work and then had twice the amount to do the next week. I think a number of people drop out as a result of falling too far behind. That said if you can make the commitment you shouldn’t have too much of a problem and perseverance is key.
I would love to say i enjoyed the course from start to finish, but that would be a lie! At this level you need to learn things at a detailed level and in quite a lot of detail. I found the foundation and intermediate exam revision fun and enjoyable, but the advanced license was a hard struggle especially as it’s over such a long time.
I did most of my revision on the train journey to and from work which probably made it harder than it had to be, i wouldn’t recommend trying to learn electrical component theory on the Monday morning journey to work!
You get feedback throughout the course on how you’re doing in terms of marked homework and mock exams, i found this really useful for checking my progress and exam readiness. To be completely honest it wasn’t until week 19 of the course that i felt enough of the information had sunk in and felt ready to take the exam!
Sitting the Final Exam
I chose to travel down from Hertfordshire to Bath for the final exam, although you can sit the exam at a number of registered exam centres across the UK. I wanted to meet and thank some of the people who setup and ran the distance learning course and my XYL also found out that the Bath Christmas Market was on, so we went down together to make a weekend of it.
The final exam has 62 multiple choice questions covering sections on licensing, operating, electronics, transmitters, receivers, feeders, antennas, measurements and safety. The pass mark is 60% and you have 2 hours to complete the exam. I needed almost all that time to answer, check my answers and complete the optical marking sheet, so there’s not too much time to spare even though it sounds like a lot!
You get an Exam Booklet to reference for the exam, which contains the license conditions, some band plans and the formulas you need. The answers for questions on license conditions and band plans are all given to you, you just need to know where to look!
Unlike the Foundation and Intermediate exams you don’t get to find out if you passed straight after the exam. Instead the papers are sent off for optical marking. So fingers crossed for a shiny new M0 call sign!
Update: I passed and am now the proud holder of an advanced license as M0JCQ!