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Techniques for Passing Amateur Radio Exams


I received my amateur radio Technician license in 2013, my General in 2014, and my Extra in 2015. Along the way I discovered a few techniques that helped me understand the material, and of course pass the exams. This article will share some techniques I found especially useful.

The first technique is to take many randomized practice exams. Use online resources, such as http://www.eham.net and many others. This will not only shuffle questions around like they will be shown on the real exam, but give you exposure to all of the question pool in an unbiased manner. What do I mean by that? I mean that when you study using other methods, you are in charge of what questions are being shown to you. You may consciously or subconsciously (I hope not unconsciously!) be studying questions you want to see and avoiding the "hard stuff", and you do not want to do that. Using other methods, you may also be studying the questions in the same order every time, something else you do not want to do. I believe that randomized practice exams should be your primary resource. One could accomplish this with flash cards, however, the questions would only be randomized, not the possible answers.

The second technique is to take the real exam only when you are consistently passing the randomized practice exams by a good margin. For example, if passing is say 74%, don't take the real exam until you are consistently passing the practice exams at say 85%+. This is because on the actual exam day you may be nervous, tired, excited, make dumb mistakes, and so on. You need to have this built-in margin of error or safety net.

The third technique is to not throw away the wrong answers and only study the correct answers. People are always advising to only study the correct answers, the logic being to not fill up your brain with the wrong answers. However, the majority of the time, I found that the wrong answers can give you hints on what the correct answer is. The wrong answers are also very helpful if you employ memorization techniques. That is, the wrong answers are just as important to pay attention to as the correct answer.

The fourth technique is to make the mathematics problems the "gimme" questions. These are ones that you should always get correct. Change your mindset to make these the easy problems. This applies especially to the General and Extra exams where the mathematics questions are more numerous.

The fifth technique is to not use any outdated study materials. This should go without saying, but sometimes I read people saying that the previous version is so similar to the current version, so save a couple of bucks and use the old material as a supplement. Do not fall for this. Avoid using outdated study materials at all costs.

The sixth technique is to employ memorization, but not at the cost of understanding. That is, memorization techniques are legitimate to use, but don't memorize without understanding. Put another way, you can only use memorization techniques after you've proven to yourself you understand what you are memorizing. After that, memorize away! Some memorization techniques I use are the correct answer, the length of the correct answer, words from the question that have the same letters or sound like ones in the correct answer, specific numbers, and mnemonics. I repeat, however, do not make memorization your fist line of defense.

The seventh technique is to study the mathematics problems without using a calculator. This may be difficult at first, but in the end will give you more confidence and you will not only really learn the mathematics, but you will learn to not use the calculator as a crutch.

I hope these techniques and tips help you. Obtaining the Technician, General, and Extra license is within the skill-set of anyone who can study and get excited about learning some science, mathematics, electronics, and related topics.

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