My 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|
The progression and benefits are clear here and for me it become a personal objective to do all three in a year.
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.
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:
- RCF Sample Papers (issued by the examining authority)
- Advanced Mock Exam 1 (written by Steve Hartley G0FUW)
- Advanced Mock Exam 2 (written by Steve Hartley G0FUW)
- QADV Practice Papers (with answers)
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!
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.