How I Passed My Amateur Extra Exam


I don't have a background in electronic circuitry or radio theory. I'm horrible at math. Yet with three weeks of study I passed the Element 4 Amateur Extra exam, the highest class ham radio license the FCC offers. Let me explain how.

My ham radio hobby began in the 90's. I earned my "no code" Technician, Technician Plus and General class licenses along with passing the 5 and 13wpm cw ("continuous wave" or Morse Code) tests. Most of my communication was on 2 meters (VHF) with a Kenwood TH-22AT handheld. I also had a Yaesu FT-5100 dual band mobile rig so I used 70cm (UHF) but very little. I've had less than a handful of HF contacts on my dad's rig. I've never had a cw or digital contact.

I unwisely let my General class license expire over the years. I finally decided to regain my privledges so I retook the Technician exam and I was a General once again. (I noticed how everthing seemed to turn digital since I had first become a ham. I was an analog operator in a digital amateur radio world.)

Since the FCC no longer required a 20wpm cw test I purchased one of many Extra books found on Amazon; this one was titled, "Pass Your Amateur Radio Extra Class Test" by Craig "Buck" K4IA.  It remained unused for a year. When I decided to dip my toe in the Extra waters I realized just how daunting the task was. The book has a section with just the questions and right answers but reading them wasn't going to do it for me; I was reading too slowly for too much information. There are 622 questions in the pool from which 50 would be drawn, one from each section! I needed help.

I decided to add some audio. (The greater the number of senses you use while learning something the better the retention of the material.) I purchased the kindle book of the same title mentioned above for around $9. Then I began my study. I would use either Alexa or my kindle to read the question and answer as I listened and read along. Often I listened at 1.5x speed. For around three weeks I listened and read the entire question pool once a day, as well as other study.

I grew sick of this intense study so I went to the RCARA Laurel VE testing session in Ashland, KY and took my test. I didn't bother to bring a calculator because I didn't memorize one formula. To my amazement, I only missed one question! Remember, I am not a tech guy. Much of it was gobbledygook. However, I had beaten the answers in my head through listening and reading so thoroughly that I could recognize most of it.

I used little tricks to help with the answers. This isn't a scientific observation but I noticed that if an answer included the word "discreet" or "desired" the answer seemed to be right. 

Anytime you can draw a mental image in your mind helps. For example, the digital mode Pactor doesn't use a keyboard. Well, I don't know what Pactor is but I imagined a pastor in front of his keyboard and waving his hands and shaking his head, "No!" (No, I didn't get that question on the test!)

Remember, you don't have to understand the answers, just recognize them. You can learn later. Pass your test to begin. 

Use any little tricks to help you recognize the answers and they will serve you well. It doesn't have to make sense; it just has to make sense to you!

73 ("Best Regards")

How I Passed My Amateur Extra Exam

  I don't have a background in electronic circuitry or radio theory. I'm horrible at math. Yet with three weeks of study I passed th...