Displayable (Better Looking) Ham License

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a better, more displayable FCC license to show off? Something worth actually hanging on your wall?

The FCC no longer mails out physical license cards, so you are likely printing out a very plain looking license on your generic white printer paper just to have on hand in your shack. You know, just in case someday day the FCC comes knocking on the door to check your papers. Sure, you can do that, I’m not going to stop you. But the problem is that “official” card, well it is just plain ugly.

Luckily for us a ham named Michael offers a solution on his website (wt9v.net/license) that generates something that you might actually enjoy framing and putting up as wall decor in your ham shack. Check out the link above to learn more and create your own displayable license.

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Upgraded Ticket – Amateur Extra Class License

So shortly after getting my General ticket, I realized that it wasn’t going to be enough. I didn’t want to be subject to so many restrictions both in the US, and thru reciprocity, in Germany. So began my journey towards Amateur Extra. Unfortunately, this post isn’t going to be very different from my prior posts in regard to how I studied and the resources I used.

My main study tool was HamStudy.org. They have the entire exam bank of questions populated and their practice tests are fantastic, regardless of which exam you are sitting. I used them for all three of my exams. In fact, their sister-site is the website which most of the online VECs used to administer their online & remote testing. So, if you get comfortable with using the HamStudy resources, when you sit your exam, it will basically feel the same as doing all of the practice tests you’ve done in preparation.

The other resource I used, and have for all three of my exams, was FastTrackHam.com. I enjoy audio books, which is what this resource offers. So, if you can’t handle audio books, well then, this resource isn’t for you. For my Extra exam prep, I think that I must have listened to the book close to 10 times. I have time during my commute to listen to the audio books and soak in their wisdom. Or at least the author’s commentary as he reads though all the exam questions and tries to explain them. For as much content that is covered in the audio book, I feel like he does a great job of explaining why answers are either right or wrong, as well as suggesting helpful ways on how to remember the information where he can.

Hopefully these resources help you as much as they have helped me. Hope you earn your ticket soon and perhaps we’ll get to make a QSO.

Upgraded Ticket – General Class License

Soon after moving to the EU, I realized that my technician class license would not grant me much in the way of privileges here. The solution, I quickly determined, was to get off my butt and study in order to earn my General license. This solution would grant me more operating privileges in the US, but more specifically it would grant me a reciprocal license so I could at least get back on the air.

Fast forward to now… Well, I managed to successfully upgrade my license. *Congratulatory cheers all around!* I am now officially a General class operator. How did I study you ask? What sources did I use for study materials? Don’t worry just like I did for my technician license, I will tell you what I used and what worked for me. Spoiler alert: Because they worked for me on the Technician exam, I used some of the same resources I listed in that post.

The first resource I used was HamStudy.org. Their site is honestly the easy button for studying. If you’re like me, you probably found them and used them to practice for your technician exam. If you haven’t yet heard of them, well today is your lucky day! You can study the entire question bank for the exam, a group of questions if you’re struggling with a topic, or take an “actual” practice test. It will help you track the questions you have seen and your aptitude against those seen questions. As long as you aren’t in test mode, it’ll even provide you with information regarding the correct answer and why it is correct. To me, that is priceless. I kept studying and doing the practice exams until I was routinely reaching a score over 80%.

The second resource is also one I used while studying for my Technician class exam. It is Michael Burnette’s Fast Track Ham series, specifically his Audible.com audiobook for the current General exam. His books are an excellent resource for studying. He covers every question in the entire exam pool and goes over all of the correct and incorrect choices. While he does have a unique almost “Pavlov-ian” method of ringing a bell for the correct answers as he covers the questions, I have to say that it works. It has worked for me twice, for both exams I’ve sat so far, and for many other hams (including his wife) as well. I like his style of presentation and his scope of coverage on each question and topic. By the end of the book you almost feel as if you are long-time friends just sitting and conversing about the exam. He is full of helpful hints for determining the correct answer to questions. From ways to rule out the obvious, and sometimes not-so-obvious bad choices, to plenty of bad puns and metaphors. My favorite part about his book was that I could listen to it while I commute. With roughly 30 minutes of travel time each way every day, I was able to get through the entire book quickly and easily. The way I use his books is that I listen to the entire book end-to-end, and then I go back and listen to it a second time. On the second pass, I make sure I’m paying closer attention to the questions and answering them in my head if I know them. I will often repeat segments if I am having trouble answering them correctly, to listen and review the how/why behind getting the correct answer.

Using those two resources together I was able to pass my exam in about three weeks of studying and practice exams. If I can do it… So can you! Find some time like I did on your commute to work, or in the evening after the kid is in bed. You only need to spend a few minutes a day and you too can have your upgraded ticket in under a month.

Just for the record, I do plan on eventually upgrading my ticket again to the Extra class so I can have full access to all allowed bands. But that will be its own post once it happens. 🙂 For now, I’m just going to sit back and await the issuance of my reciprocal amateur radio license, so I can operate legally here.

GMRS License

So while I have my HAM license, I decided to go ahead and get a GMRS license too. My reasoning for getting it was twofold. The first reason was that I often spend time with family and friends that are not HAM radio operators. Since they aren’t HAMs, I can’t exactly hand them one of my handheld radios and then chat with them over the air when we are out someplace camping, traveling, hiking, or doing any other activity. Having the GMRS license will basically allow me to do just that, to stay connected and communicate with my friends and family when we are out somewhere having fun.

The second the FCC recently reduced the cost of the license. They cut the licensing fee from $70 down to $35. This fee reduction makes getting the license much more affordable, especially since it lasts for 10 years – just like a HAM license. With the FCC fee so low, getting it really has now become a non-issue. So ultimately, getting this license is only going to enrich the experiences that I have with friends and family. While some HAMs might consider GMRS a just ‘kiddie’ radio, that really makes no difference to me. It’s really more of a way to supplement my HAM hobby, and who knows, maybe it’ll even act as a gateway to convert a friend into a future HAM. Ha ha ha.

US Amateur Radio Bands

The ARRL has created a very nice infographic that shows a breakdown of the various bands and the permissions that each license class has on that band.

US Amateur Radio Bands - ARRL infographic

Source Link: ARRL Band Chart

The ARRL also has another really nice graphic that just displays all of the Technician privileges.


Source Link: ARRL Tech Bands

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Ham Radio Technician License

One of my 2022 goals was to get my amateur radio license. It’s been on my “to-do later” list for quite some time. This year, the excuses finally stopped and I put up at the top of my “priority” list. Truth be told, I actually found getting my license to be easier than I was expecting it to be.

The FCC has removed mandatory CW (that’s morse code) requirements from all of the classes of its Ham radio licenses, which makes it even easier to get your license today than ever before. The FCC wants you to earn your license. They just also want you to understand what your license allows you to do and not do. In order to pass you just need to score at least a 74% on a 35 question exam. The exam is all multiple-choice, and they provide you with the entire question pool and answers ahead of time to study. They are not trying to pull a fast one with surprise or trick questions. Simply by studying either the ARRL’s official manual or some other material [likely based on the official manual] you really shouldn’t have any problem preparing for the exam and passing it.

To study for my Technician exam, I took a look at quite a few different resources. But I really only used the three different sources listed below – a YouTube collection, an Audible audiobook, and a website with practice questions/tests.

  1. YouTube Series – ARRL’s Learning Center; Dave Casler (KE0OG) Technician Course
    • I found a link to this collection on the ARRL’s website. Dave brakes down all the information required for the Technician License into digestable segments as works his way down thru all of exam content. He has been in this hobby for some time and is quite knowledgeable about the subject matter – and it shows in with his stories he ties to the topics. He follows the ARRL official manual chapter by chapter, so if you have their book, it’ll be easy for you to follow along. Even if you don’t have the book though, it is still easy to follow along with him. The course collection is a series of 37 videos, and while it sounds like a lot, you can power thru this content pretty quickly.
  2. Audible audio book – The Fast Track to Your Technician Class Ham Radio License, By: Michael Brunette AF7KB
    • I want to start off by saying that I love audio books! If you are studying for your Technician, I feel like this book should be a must for you. Michael does an awesome job of presenting both all of the exam topics and reviewing all of the questions in the question pool. The one caveat to his book is that his content does not follow linearly thru the exam module or question pool. He groups similar topics together so he’ll cover all “like” material together. I found it really helpful. I waited to listen to this book until after I watched Dave’s YouTube series that I listed about. I found it easier to retain the content in the audio book in my head when it wasn’t the first time I was learning about it, hence why I turned to it second. To be honest, I actaully listened to this book twice. It was really easy to turn on and listen to while I drove to/from work or did errands. The author had a clear voice – almost like he was used to doing radio – and it was enjoyable to listen and learn to. I really look forward to using his book to study when I start working towards my General class license.
  3. Practice tests and question pool – HamStudy.org
    • This resource was Huge! This is a website that, in my honest opinion, really is the quinensenstial amateur radio study site. It’s a collection of the entire question & answer pool for your exam. It has a study mode, and a quiz mode. You can work thru the entire pool of questions and see all four hundred and something of them. I really liked that it had explainations for each question. It made it really easy to review questions I was having difficulty with. I also was a fan of the mobile app. The app made it super easy and conveninent to study and test and assess myself no matter where I was. The other thing about this using this site, is that it’s basically the same test engine that most the volunteer examiners use when you take your exam, so you’ll already be familiarized with the layout.

I did not use the ARRL’s official manual in my study materials, even though it is a good resource. I simply gave myself about a month to study for it and learn the content. I figured that a month would be more than enough time to study, especially if I was able to commit an hour or two each day.

After putting in the hours of studying, I booked an online exam session. The online sessions are administrated and proctored by at least three volunteer examiners thru the use of Zoom, webcams, and screen sharing so they can make sure that there is no cheating. If you use HamStudy.org to study then you are already ahead of the game as they provide the testing solution that the majority of clubs use to test folks. So you will already be used to the user interface and everything will look and feel very familar to you. Thankfully, my study materials did serve me well, and I was able to pass the Technician exam missing only a single question.

So, to wrap it all up… If you’ve ever thought about getting into Ham Radio, there is no better time than now! If you are interested in the hobby, please feel free to reach out to me and ask me any questions you might have. If you are already a licensed ham radio operator, then hopefully I will get to hear you on the air sometime! 73

Update: I’ve upgraded to my General class license. Here is the LINK regarding info on the resources I used.