Operation of an amateur station requires an amateur operator license grant from the FCC. For individuals entering the amateur service, or upgrading their license operator class, there are three classes of license, each authorizing privileges corresponding to the qualifications required. The classes of license, from highest to lowest are: Amateur Extra Class, General Class, and Technician Class.
Before receiving a license grant, you must pass an examination administered by a team of volunteer examiners (VEs). The VEs determine the operator class for which you are qualified by testing your knowledge in operating an amateur station. Most new amateur radio operators start with the "no-code" Technician Class operator license. Some newcomers, however, begin at the General Class. A few even begin at the Amateur Extra Class.
To request examination, please contact a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC).
In the amateur radio license examination system, there are three written examination elements [Elements 2, 3, and 4]. For each operator class, you must pass the elements indicated:
|Operator Class||Required Written Elements|
|Amateur Extra||2, 3, 4|
Your VEs accommodate physical disabilities that require a special examination procedure. They may, however, require you to provide a physician's certification indicating the nature of your disability before determining which, if any, special procedure must be used. Your VE may charge you a reimbursement fee for their out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing, processing, administering or coordinating your examination.
Your written examination establishes your level of operational and technical ability in performing properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.
Each written examination consists of a set of questions:
|Element||Operation Privileges||Questions||Minimum Passing Score|
|4||Amateur Extra Class||50||37|
The Volunteer Examiner Coordinators maintain a common question pool for each written examination element. Each pool contains at least ten times the number of questions required for a single examination. Every question set administered to an examinee is prepared by a VE. The questions you are asked on your written examination are taken from the appropriate pool. These pools are revised and updated periodically to incorporate the latest rules, new technology and interests of the amateur service community. Make sure that you prepare for your examination by studying material based upon the question pools currently in use. The pools are available to you in several non-government publications. Non-government sources also offer learning opportunities in the form of audio and video tapes, manuals and books, and computer and live instructional courses.
Volunteer Examiner Responsibilities
The volunteer examiners are responsible for the proper conduct and necessary supervision of your examination, including:
- Observing you throughout your entire examination.
- Determining the correctness of your answers.
- Issuing a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) when you score a passing grade.
- Terminating your examination if you do not comply with their instructions.
Volunteer Examiners (VEs) are Amateur Extra Class radio operators who volunteer their time and talent to prepare and administer amateur radio operator license examinations. The examination for a Technician Class operator license grant is also prepared and administered by Advanced and General Class operators. Advanced Class licensees may also prepare and administer General Class license examinations. A VE is a person at least 18 years of age whose license has never been revoked or suspended. Your close relatives, however, cannot be your VEs. Each VE, moreover, has been accredited by a Volunteer-Examiner Coordinator (VEC), an organization that exists for the purpose of furthering the amateur service.
Contact a VE team in your community to make arrangements for being administered the examination elements you desire. The VE teams make public announcements stating the location and time of each examination session. If you need assistance in finding a VE team in your area, contact a VEC.
The Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) collects your Form 605 document from your VE team and, after carefully screening it, forwards the information thereon to the FCC electronically.
Authority to Operate
Your operating authority begins when your license grant information appears in the Amateur Radio Service licensing information, available by searching the Universal Licensing System (ULS). These searches allow the viewing of pending applications and granted license information. There is no requirement that you have a license grant document showing the information in ULS in your possession before you begin operating. For more information, refer to more information on Communications & Operations.