Advanced License: From Zero to M0 in One Year 40

Studying for the advanced licenseMy challenge was clear: to complete all three UK amateur radio exams and obtain my full license in a single year. I naively underestimated the amount of work involved!

In the UK we have a tiered amateur radio license structure (Foundation (read more), Intermediate (read more), Advanced), all new amateurs have to go through this progression, you cannot take the Advanced exam straight away.

Each license tier gives the UK amateur a different callsign:

  • M6ABC (Foundation)
  • 2E0ABC (Intermediate – using regional identifier for England)
  • M0ABC (Advanced)

Through passing all three exams i now hold three call signs (M6JCQ, 2E0JCQ and M0JCQ). I got my M6 in January, my 2E0 in March and my M0 in December 2013.

Each tier allows progressively more benefits to the licensee:

Foundation License Intermediate License Advanced License
  • 10W Transmission Power
  • Access to most HF/VHF/UHF Bands
  • All Foundation License Benefits
  • 50W Transmission Power
  • Access to all amateur radio bands
  • No restriction on construction/repair/modification of equipment (you can design your own transmitters)
  • Remote operation
  • Unattended beacon operation
  • All Foundation & Intermediate License Benefits
  • 400W Transmission Power
  • Access to all amateur bands
  • Operation in foreign countries
  • Operation at sea (maritime mobile)
  • Operation and supervision of club stations

The progression and benefits are clear here and for me it become a personal objective to do all three in a year.

Personal Experience

Everyone has different experiences with studying for these exams, some seem to find it easy and some very hard. As a technical person, but not someone with much electronics/engineering experience i found the Foundation easy, the Intermediate slightly more challenging and the Advanced very hard.

The difference between the Foundation and Intermediate isn’t huge, it’s mostly around the introduction to the basics of electronics. I found the advanced license to be a different beast and significantly harder than the previous two.

How I Studied

The first thing i noticed when looking to do my advanced test was that very few clubs offer training for it. The subject matter is complex and personal training would take a lot of time.

In light of this i also didn’t feel like i could just read the advanced book and pass, so i decided to do the Bath Distance Learning Course set up by Steve Hartley (G0FUW). This course runs for 20 weeks and each week you have parts of the book to read, backed up with excellent lecture notes, homework questions and a mock exam every 3 weeks. Based on this you should start to understand the scope and difficulty of the advanced exam!

See my Studying for the Advanced Amateur Radio License: Distance Learning post for more on this course.

I also used the QADV Program which is a question and answer program for PC covering the advanced syllabus. I found this to be a good tool for identifying gaps in my knowledge. It lets you choose the area you want to take exams from, so if you’re struggling with Semiconductors and Valves then you can try just questions from that area.

Mock Exams

You can try your hand at a number of mock exams to get a flavour for the level of difficulty. I’ve collected the following links to various sample papers:

Don’t worry if the questions don’t make much sense, i didn’t get many right until at least week 10 of the distance learning course!

The Exam

Unlike the Foundation and Intermediate licenses no practical assessments are required and the the exam is pure theory. The exam consists of 62 multiple choice questions which need to be completed in 2 hours.

I found the exam hard and used nearly the whole 2 hours to do it. The multiple choice questions sound easy in theory, but some questions will have several correct options to choose from, but one is more correct than the other two! The exam consists of applied knowledge questions, so simple memory recall won’t work here.

Would I do it Again?

The short answer is Yes… but i mostly say this because it’s all done and i have all three licenses now! The amount of work involved, especially for the advanced license, is not to be underestimated. To do all three in a year takes quite a lot of determination and towards the end of the year i really didn’t want to do it any more.

But now i can feel a sense of achievement, be safe in knowledge that i’ve learnt a lot and can go back to enjoying this great hobby of ours.

40 thoughts on “Advanced License: From Zero to M0 in One Year

  1. Reply M0GVZ Dec 18,2013 12:24

    Hi. I’ve put a link to this story on the HRD forum in the hope that it’ll motivate some of those who’ve sat on M3/M6 for years and those who have said they’ve found it impossible to get to a club for an advanced course.

    Congratulations….onwards and upwards.

    73

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 18,2013 13:05

      Thanks Conor, i agree that it can be hard to find a club doing the advanced course, but the Bath distance learning course is a great alternative so there really is no excuse if you want it enough. The key is just that.. wanting it enough!

      73s, James (M0JCQ)

  2. Reply Pete M0PSX Dec 19,2013 12:15

    Hi James, and well done on the M0!

    I managed to go from zero to M0 in 14 months (2010-11), so your story sounds very familiar. The M6 was a breeze, with Intermediate being not much of a problem. The Full exam was hard-going, especially given the emphasis on theory and electronics, not operating and RF.

    I was lucky that my local club in Chelmsford offer a 12 week Intermediate, and a 6 week Advanced crash course. 6 weeks is not enough, but with home study and a small trainer-to-candidate ratio, it’s helpful to get clarification on troublesome topics (semiconductors and formulas being my weak areas).

    I’m now helping out on local training courses, as it’s nice to be able to help those doing what I was doing just a couple of years ago.

    Enjoy the M0,

    73 from Pete

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 19,2013 13:03

      Thanks Pete, i totally echo the point about the emphasis on theory and electronics, that was tough work on my morning commute on the train to work! Semiconductors was one of my weak areas as well, but it does get easier if you can talk to someone about what your struggling with.

      Well done on helping out with the local training course, i’m only where i am because of people like you helping out and pushing the hobby forwards 🙂

      Thanks,
      James M0JCQ

  3. Reply Harry Weston Dec 19,2013 12:29

    I am a tutor on Steve’s BBADL courses. Thank you for a well written and revealing account of your studies, very useful to me especially as, of course, I have not seen the actual exam papers. Thank you very much for posting it. I would like, with your permission, to recommend this to future students — it will give them a very good idea of what to expect.

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 19,2013 12:59

      Hi Harry,

      Please by all means share this with future students, anything i can impart for the benefit of others is fine by me 🙂 Glad you liked the article and found it interesting to see things from the other side of the fence. You tutors do a great service to the amateur community, Alan Betts was my tutor and he was very patient, despite some school boy mistakes made by me through out the course!

      Thanks,
      James M0JCQ

  4. Reply Harry Weston Dec 19,2013 13:15

    Sorry, I was trying to include my congratulations in my first comment. Please discard whichever your feel is redundant — I don’t want to spoil it all.

    Thanks, now for that permission. I am sure it will be a great benefit to future student. I am taking a rest for the next course, Jan to Jun 2014, but I hope to resume again for the next one. 73, Harry M0SOP

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 19,2013 13:19

      No problem Harry, second comment hidden now.

      Enjoy the rest, i’m sure it’s well earned, there must be a lot of time that goes into it from the tutors side 🙂

      73s and Merry Christmas,
      James M0JCQ

  5. Reply Stew M0SCU Dec 19,2013 15:05

    Hi James,

    Well put together info that will hopefully encourage people to take up the hobby and progress with their knowledge and licences.

    I took 13 months (2011-2012) from M6 to M0. The M6 and 2E0 with Bolton Wireless Club and the M0 training with the great help of BBADL (and my mate who I and passed revised with). As I’ve said in my own blog “I’d really recommend buddying up with another student. I believe that it really made the difference for me”

    I wonder what percentage of M0 passes each year are with the help of BBADL ?

    73 Stew M0SCU

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 19,2013 16:07

      Hi Stew,

      That’s great advice to buddy up with another, that would have helped me when i was less than enthusiastic about revision!

      I think Steve mentioned BBADL accounted for around two thirds of candidates sitting the advanced exam. In the last exam 95% of their 60 candidates passed, so the course definitely works!

      73s, James M0JCQ

  6. Reply Rob Bryan Dec 20,2013 12:51

    Hi James congrats on the MO,
    I am also treading the same path as yourself and fellow MO responders.
    I got my M6 on 20th November and simply carried on studying at the same rate and passed the 2E 17th December. I have just enrolled on the Advanced Bath course. I now feel lost without the studying, sad I know but I need to keep up the momentum whilst things are still fresh and I`m back in the study habbit (its been a long time).
    Your success and comments have inspired me even more. What a challenge!
    73
    M6DQU (for now)

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 21,2013 11:44

      Hi Rob,

      Good luck with the distance learning course and congrats on the 2E0. I found i also got into a groove with the studying, but now i have a big hole with nothing to study for! It is nice just to read about amateur radio stuff i’m really interested in!

      73 James (M0JCQ)

  7. Reply Andrew M0TLS Dec 20,2013 21:26

    I read this with interest and I have to say going from M6 through 2E0 to M0 took me around ten months of this year (2013) so I probably had a fairly similar experience and admire your achievement. The first two exams I thought were easy enough but the advanced exam was a very different beast. I also did the Bath distance learning for the Foundation and Intermediate but I was a bit slack in signing up for the Advanced there and I was not 100% sure I could commit at the time. in the end I had some excellent tuition on a course run by G8ROG in Reading, Berks and I was able to get the full licence this month (Dec 6th). The advanced exam preparation certainly tested my grey matter and I tried to make good use of both QADV and Hamtests as well as reading the excellent books by Alan Betts and Steve Hartley. To the M3,M6,2E0 and even SWL’s that are thinking about the Advanced you have nothing to lose and lots to gain. I spent over 20 years as an SWL wishing I could get a call sign but not actually getting my act together to do anything about it and in the end it took just a few short months to be an M0.

    73

    Andrew M0TLS

    • Reply James Stevens Dec 23,2013 08:35

      Thanks Andrew, sounds like your journey was a similar one to mine and congratulations on the new M0 call! You’re right, nowadays there’s no real barrier to SWLs getting into amateur radio, book a foundation course with a club and you can be a licensed ham at the end of the weekend! I remember being a young SWL listening to the HF amateur bands longing to get on the air, but the RAE exam and Morse test put me off at the time 🙂

      73s James M0JCQ

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  9. Reply Richard G8SHE Jan 7,2015 14:11

    I think it’s a great shame that people can’t get their full licence, as I did, in one *hour*.

    I signed up for the RAE in 1975, sent off the examination fee, and forgot about it.

    You had to take a two-part test, which I think lasted about an hour, one on radio theory and the other on the terms and conditions of the licence. It was an essay-type exam. The theory part was mostly about valves, which I had no intention of using, I’m scared of HT. A 12V dc-powered transistorised wide-deviation FM transceiver on 2m was what I was after. I was studying Physics at the time, so the theory part took no time to swot up.

    I remembered I was meant to be taking the exam at University College London, just in time, and hadn’t even looked at the licencing part, I read this up on the tube between Chiswick and the nearest tube station, I think it was Russell Square. I passed both parts and got my G5 – in those pre-CEPT days you callsign went by your country of origin, and as an Irishman with a Class B I had a G5M not a G8 – in January 1986. This became a G8 when they changed the rules.

    Sooooo simple.

    I’ve never done morse.

    I’ve never done a practical.

    I’d say the multiple-choice questions for the current full licence are often ambiguous. I’d probably fail if I took them now. At least with the essay-type exam I took, the examiner could tell if you knew what you were talking about.

    We truly have a disincentive licensing scheme in the UK. I would like to contrast this with the Canadian scheme, by which you take the Basic and if you get 70% right you get a limited licence, and if you get 80% right you get more privileges.

    Now I will step off my soapbox,

    Richard G8SHE

    • Reply Roy Badami Jan 20,2016 22:03

      I always intended to do the RAE before they abolished it. I fully agree that the current system is offputting for people who already have a physics/electronics background. I will have to do foundation practicals, foundation exam, intermediate practicals and intermediate exam (in that order) before I can get to attempt the full exam. The fact that they all have to be done in the right order, coupled with the fact that many clubs aren’t geared up to offering the assessments and exams without having to to do a full course, makes scheduling the whole process rather tedious.

      The idea of having to sit through hours of training on Ohm’s law and basic circuit theory would really put me off going anywhere near the hobby – fortunately I’ve found a nearby club that’s able to schedule just the practicals and exams for me. Even bought myself a copy of the new edition of Horowitz and Hill and am quite enjoying brushing up on my electronics. So I’ll be doing my foundation this weekend and with luck I’ll be able to schedule a full license exam for May.

      • Reply James Stevens Jan 22,2016 10:17

        I’m glad you found a nearby club Roy that will let you sit just the exam and practicals. It must be frustrating if you know it all already, I however didn’t so found it useful, if not a bit time consuming.

        73 James M0JCQ

        • Reply Peter Jan 23,2016 11:37

          Hi both,

          Being in the unusual position as to having taken and passed both the old RAE in 87, and the modern progressive exams last year, plus pushing on and becoming an RSGB registered assessor, I’d say that lots of people who cone from a background and believe they should bypass the first 2 is flawed, the practicals in the foundation teach safe putting together of a station, and how to operate that station, which I think is a much better way, when I passed the RAE I had a full license (B), but never touched a ham radio! The intermediate adds to this with better health and safety, emc and a good understanding of basic electronics. I find as an assessor, chatting to the students who feel aggrieved at doing this, that they actually get lots out of it, as only a small section is electronics.

          I’m a big supporter of the new system, but would like to see less spectrum at foundation to drive those students who get an M6 and are happy to sit there. The power limit is just not enforceable in my eyes.

          Peter G0NWI

          • Reply James Stevens Jan 25,2016 09:26

            Good to hear your point of view as an assessor Peter. You are entirely right of course, the electronics part is quite small for the foundation and only slightly larger for the intermediate exam. I found the practicals from both to be useful in backing up the theory and of course helped me setup my own station after passing.

            The advanced exam was for me very heavy on the electronics & physics side of things and struggled at the time to relate it back to something tangible. Of course now It’s starting to fall into place as I have a need for the knowledge 🙂

            73, James M0JCQ

          • Reply James Stevens Jan 25,2016 09:31

            In respect to the power limit levels for each license, I do agree a band approach is much more enforceable and I believe the ARRL take this approach. Granting VHF/UHF bands to M6’s would stimulate these quiet bands, maybe alongside access to one or two WARC bands on HF. This would certainly drive more M6’s to carry on learning.

            At the moment I don’t blame some M6’s for sitting there, they have access to almost all of the bands and even limited to 10w you can have a lot of fun (I still rarely use more than that!). The only thing that drove me to do all three was for the challenge and because I wanted to operate abroad.

          • Reply Roy Badami Jan 25,2016 20:31

            Hi Peter,

            I don’t necessarily think the progressive approach is a bad thing per se. What I find unnecessarily prescriptive is the requirement to do all the five elements required to get a full license in a specified order. Combined with a lack of any central coordination or information on where and when the various elements are being scheduled, and the limited availability of standalone assessments for people who don’t need full courses, it just makes the logistics harder than it needs to be.

            The RSGB point at the fact that almost no one takes up the option of doing all three exams in a single session as evidence for the absence of demand for a fast track – I put it down more to the difficulty in scheduling the standalone assessments that would be necessary for any candidate that wanted to sit all the exams in a single session.

        • Reply Roy Badami Jan 24,2016 23:05

          I certainly don’t know it all! Advanced is going to require a fair bit of work on my part, although a fairly large portion of it is going to be brushing up on things I did know and understand 20 or 30 years ago, which is of course a huge help.

          roy

        • Reply Roy Badami Jan 24,2016 23:14

          And congratulations on doing the whole thing in a year! For someone _without_ a background in electronics and physics that’s quite an achievement.

  10. Reply Peter Feb 5,2015 14:54

    Hi James,

    I’ve just passed my M6 this week and found it quite simple once I’d read the book. I tried a 2E mock at HamTests and got 77% first try, and was then amazed to see that only 60% was required for a pass!? I’m reading the 2nd book now and will put in for my test asap, and then go for the Advanced after that.

    Just a question as I don’t have my certificate as yet to apply for my M6 number. What happens to your M6 once you get a 2E, does it go back into the pot or do you then have 2, seems silly not to go back?

    Regards

    Peter

    • Reply James Stevens Feb 5,2015 15:45

      Hi Peter,

      First of all congratulations and welcome to the hobby! You’ll have a blast, there’s so many different aspects to the hobby 🙂

      Book an exam/practicals asap and then read the Intermediate Book, it sounds like you’re ready 😉

      If you login to the Ofcom website you’ll probably find it already lets you apply for your M6, you don’t need to wait for the certificate.

      Your M6 and 2E0 callsigns will stay with you as of right now, this could change in the future, but currently I hold 3 calls (M6JCQ/2E0JCQ/M0JCQ). The funny thing is I’m still receiving QSL cards for my 2E0 call!

      Cheers,
      James M0JCQ

      • Reply Peter G0NWI Jul 10,2015 13:10

        Hi James,

        Just wanted to pop back and give you my news, after reading your blog it inspired me to push on and I completed my 2E at the end of March, and sat the Full in June. I’m now the proud owner of a G0 callsign!
        So I’m 0 to G0 in under 6 months 🙂

        • Reply James Stevens Jul 10,2015 13:22

          Fantastic news Peter! Well done that’s a huge achievement!! And all the sweeter for getting a G0 callsign, now everyone will think you’re a pro on the bands 🙂

          Now the pain is over with, you’ve reached the top license tier and can sit back and enjoy full privileges 🙂

          73 James M0JCQ

  11. Reply Andrew May 4,2015 01:24

    Congratulations, I spent 10 weeks studying for the Foundation at the Carrickfergus Amateur Group in November 2013, then worked hard for the Intermediate in May 2014 over another 10 week course.

    The intermediate is easy but its best to be aiming for at least 43 out of 45 in the mock tests when moving ahead to the Advanced.

    Luckily for me there was an Advanced exam four weeks later so I stuck my name down & after 4 weeks studying at home I passed with merit 🙂 So about 7 months from Foundation to Full. I found the Advanced exam and the reading material to be very difficult, but I had no prior experience in electronics or radio.

    It’s definitely a good idea to sit the exams close together while the information is still fresh in your head. The Hamtests website was helpful for the Foundation & Intermediate while the QADV program was a brilliant help for the Advanced.

    I also found a ‘hole’ in my life after the last exam 🙂

    Regards
    Andrew MI0OBR

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  13. Reply R.J.Smith Jan 14,2016 05:41

    As of 14/01/2016 The Advanced Mock Exam Sites give:-

    Not Found

    The requested URL /murray.g3kzb/Advanced Mock Exam 1 V6.2.pdf was not found on this server.

    Not Found

    The requested URL /murray.g3kzb/Advanced Mock Exam 2 V3.1.pdf was not found on this server.

  14. Reply R.J.Smith Jan 16,2016 02:29

    Thanks,

    Robert MOZTX

  15. Reply Roy Badami Jan 20,2016 22:54

    Although the third exam is indeed the advanced exam, AIUI the licence you get is a full licence, not an advanced licence.

    Might seem like I’m picking nits, but there’s actually a practice question in the RSGB Exam Secrets book that relies on knowing the correct name of the licence!

  16. Reply Matt May 13,2016 10:10

    Well done james on passing all three👍🏻👍🏻. I’m not so lucky , I passed my foundation on my 3rd attempt and intermiediate on my 5th. I do have some learning difficulties tho.
    But I’m still trying which is something I guess!, waiting for results of my advanced this week, at least theirs no limit on how many times you can take the exam, which works in my favour. Great website, some really good links, I didn’t realise their was a distance learning course😃. Wanting to pass all three is addictive, so fingers crossed.
    I keep returning to this site, really interesting.
    73
    Matt (2E0KIA)

    • Reply James Stevens Jun 13,2016 13:26

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your message. I hope you pass the advanced exam this time around. If not do take a look at the distance learning course, it will help the subject matter really sink in before the exam. I’m not sure I would have passed by self-study alone!

      73, James M0JCQ

  17. Reply Andy Wood Aug 29,2016 09:31

    Hi James, fascinating reading the many messages from fellow amateurs, my story is as follows, I took the foundation course over two days last October with the Mid Sussex Amateur Radio Society and passed first time, I struggle with electronics and find circuits difficult to get my head around especially working out component values and as a result i found that part of the Intermediate course a nightmare, however something must have sunk in as I passed the exam with 39/45 which included at least two silly mistakes from what my tutor told me.
    So the two exams were nearly 11 months apart and I’m now thinking of the Advanced now either via the Bath distance learning option or with my 2E0 tutor.
    Thanks for your reports of your amateur radio journey-very inspiring!
    73s
    Andy M6LSL (soon to be 2E0)

    • Reply James Stevens Aug 30,2016 09:33

      Glad it was useful for you Andy! Best of luck with the advanced license and well done on passing your Intermediate. The electronics theory really gets going for the Intermediate exam and prepares you for what is to come for the advanced license.

      Just remember, no matter how hard it may seem, once you have passed your advanced test there’s nothing more left to do except enjoy the full privileges it offers!

      73, James M0JCQ

  18. Reply Mi0ylt Nov 6,2016 09:47

    Hi
    Very interesting I did all the UK exams as well
    And am the youngest full licence ham in Northern Ireland
    But…
    Noticed though an older ham said would be great if you could pass it in an hour like I did
    Well you can
    And save ur self a lot of time
    You can do the Irish Republic exam that is like the old Rae exam these older hams are talking about and just reciprocate it for a full UK licence and callsign as its a harec
    Lots of ni hams are doing this hardly anyone is doing the advanced UK
    So if your in a rush that’s the way to go
    73’s hope to meet you on air
    MI0YLT
    Summer

  19. Reply Mi0ylt Nov 6,2016 10:03

    Congratulations Matt 2e0kia

    Excellent
    Really glad to see the 2e0 on your callsign
    Know you worked really hard to get it
    Congratulations again
    Hope to talk to you on air
    Summer

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