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Studying for the Amateur Radio Technician Exam

I’ve been vaguely interested in amateur radio for a few years. The idea of decentralized, low-infrastructure communications appeals to me, but knowing nothing about radios, I was somewhat overwhelmed by it all and didn’t know where to start. I didn’t pursue the interest until now. In case anyone else is in the same position, I thought I would outline what worked for me.

A couple weeks ago I saw that the local library had a copy of the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. The Manual is meant to teach beginners the basics of radio and help them to pass the Technician license exam: a 35-question multiple choice test. The entire question and answer pool is publicly available.

My method for using the book was to read one chapter every morning. Immediately afterwards I would quiz myself on all the relevant questions for that chapter (included in the back of the book). For the rest of the day, I wouldn’t think at all about radios, until the evening, when I would once again quiz myself on all the questions from that day’s chapter. The book consists of nine chapters. I combined chapters seven and eight into one day, and so finished the book in 8 days. Over the course of the ninth day I took a dozen or so practice tests on QRZ.com. The following day I took the real exam.

Thanks to the book, in little more than a week I went from knowing absolutely nothing about radios (and near to nothing about electronics) to being confidently able to ace the Technician exam and earn my amateur radio license.

One could just memorize the question pool and probably easily pass the test the same way. I’m not much interested in licenses. I didn’t start this venture just to be awarded a slip of paper by the FCC. I’m after the knowledge. Using a resource like the book to help me in comprehending all of the relevant topics appealed to me much more than rote memorization of the exam’s answers.

Of course all I possess now is book knowledge. That needs to be supplemented with experience. But once I buy a radio, I feel that I have a solid base from which to leap.

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