Studying for the Amateur Extra Exam

I found myself floundering a bit after passing the General exam. I had been in “study” mode for a few weeks and not having anything to study left me feeling… odder than usual. So I decided to start studying for the Amateur Extra exam, why not?

So far I have read the ARRL Extra Class License Manual cover to cover. I found it much harder to read than the Technician or General manuals, not because the content is more complicated or detailed, but because the writing and editing are not up to the same quality as those other manuals. There are many errors and many passages that are written in ways that confused me.

Now I am on to reading and listening to the The Fast Track to Your Extra Class Ham Radio License by Michael and Kerry Burnette. You may recognize the title and authors from the book I used to study for the General exam, but this is for the Extra. I really enjoyed the General book, both on the Kindle and on Audible so decided to stick with them for the Extra.

This time I have also purchased The Fast Track to Mastering Extra Class Ham Radio Math  along with the recommended Texas Instruments TI-30XS. Statistically, memorizing all of the formulas and being able to do all of the calculations is not necessary to pass the test, but I have decided it is something I would like to learn. There was a time in my life that I really enjoyed math, let’s see if I can rekindle that flame.

The Fast Track Ham website is also a great help with a handful of videos to help explain some more of the math and practice exams for each chapter of the books. I really like the way the “by chapter” practice exams build upon the previous chapters. That works well for me.

And to round out my studies I am also using website by SignalStuff to do even more practice exams. I really appreciate how HamStudy allows you to work through all of the exam pool and use flash cards to find your weaknesses and concentrate study time on them.

My plan is to take it slowly and learn the material well and hopefully take the test sometime in November. Wish me luck.

General License Exam

As I said in a previous post, I got my Technician License to fly drones (quadcopters) and didn’t really learn much in the process, I just memorized the answers. But once I decided to get a General License I decided I really wanted to learn something.

I started with the ARRL General Class License Manual and read it cover-to-cover. While doing that I attended the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo where I met Michael Burnette, AF7KB in a chat room who wrote The Fastrack to Your General Class Ham Radio License and he recommended his book to me which I immediately bought on Audible!

Yes! A technical book in audio book format! Michael is a great author and a great narrator. The audio book is fantastic and I highly recommend it to hams that listen to audio books. I was able to listen to it at 2 times speed to speed up the process, it takes more concentration to follow at that speed, but I think I actually learned more because I had to concentrate to follow him. I also bought the Kindle version of the book so I could see the figures, photos, and illustrations as they were being described in the audiobook. I ended up also reading the Kindle version cover-to-cover.

I also bought the Patrick Maloney LLC Ham Study app for iOS and used that to take many practice tests.

Between the practice tests in the Ham Study app and on the Fast Track to Your Ham Radio License website I got my average score up to 80% or so and completed around 20 tests without failing (I failed plenty before I got to that point.)

I used the Find an Amateur Radio License Exam Session search to find a local test in my area, right now there are many “in-person” testing sites listed that are not actually open, but I found one about 45 minutes from my house in Dallas Georgia hosted by the Silver Comet Amateur Radio Society.

We tested on Tuesday night in a picnic pavilion at the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. It was a great location, with COVID I really like that we did the testing outside. John, W4TXA, the president of the society and his team, did a great job of overseeing the testing and kept everything on track.

I passed the General Exam and then took a shot at the Extra Exam which I did not pass, but that’s OK, I am very excited to now be able to talk on the HF bands.

Ham Radio

In 2015 I earned my technician ham radio license so that I could legally fly my drones via a First-Person View (FPV) camera that used the ham radio bands to transmit. I bought a study aid for my iPhone and spent a week or two doing practice tests until I was passing them pretty easy. I didn’t read any books, go to a class, or even talk to anyone else about it at the time.

I took the test locally and passed. I spent a couple of years drone racing and goofing off in parks and a couple of flying fields, but I spent a lot more time fixing than I did flying, so I don’t really fly anymore. I bought a Baofeng UV-5R and upgraded its antenna, but did not make any contacts with it, so it just sat on a bookshelf collecting dust.

Now, 5 years later, I have decided I want to really dive into ham radio, get my general license and maybe even an extra license. But this time I am actually going to learn something!

I have bought the ARRL General Class License Manual, the Ham Test Prep: General appThe Fast Track to Your General Class Ham Radio License audio and Kindle books, joined ARRL, and am listening to a lot of podcasts and watching a lot of YouTube videos. More importantly I am taking my time and digesting the information and learning more than just the test answers.

It has been a lot of fun so far, there is so much to learn and it brings together a lot of geeky things that I really like. I am spending a lot of time on local VHF repeaters listening to advice and rag chewing, I have even taken part in a handful of local Nets where ham radio clubs meet to check-in and discuss various topics.

My plan is to take the General test in late September or early October, I won’t have the money to buy an HF radio and antenna until then, so no need to rush.