Obtaining Your FCC License
There are three classes of FCC Amateur Radio Licenses: Technician, General, And Extra. Each brings with it additional frequencies that you are allowed to utilize. For emergency communications a Technician Class License will meet your needs. You can always upgrade later if you desire to become more involved in long distance communications or other aspects of the hobby.
The Exam for the Technician License consists of 35 multiple choice questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. You must get at least 26 correct (74%), you may miss 9 questions and still pass. These questions are selected from a question pool of at least 350 questions. There is no longer a requirement to pass a Morse Code exam to earn your license.
One-Day HAM Cram
This is NOT a class. It is guided study where the pool of test questions is divided into six segments. The time is divided into six 45 minute test pool-reading sessions with breaks and lunch. After the study session they give you the test as soon as you are finished. Pass rates are typically above 85% of those who attend.
Bay Area Educational Amateur Radio Society (BAEARS) - offers a one-day Ham Cram followed by the test once each quarter at rotating locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
License Manuals/Study Guides
Make sure you get the most current manual with the Technician Class question pool effective July 2014. The questions pools are revised every four years.
On-Line Practice Tests
If you can consistently get a 85% or better on these you are ready to take the actual exam.
These are test only locations. Always verify the location and testing date with the sponsoring organization. Last minute changes do occur.
The ARRL provides a list of upcoming Exam Sessions sponsored by the ARRL - this list is searchable by city, state, and zip code.
Silicon Valley Volunteer Examiner (VE) Group - Conducts testing in Saratoga two times each month on the First and Third Saturdays.
Sunnyvale VEC - Conducts testing in Redwood City and Sunnyvale monthly.
South Bay Amateur Radio Association (SBARA) Fremont - Conducts testing in the Warm Springs area of Fremont monthly alternating between Saturday mornings and Tuesday Evenings.
Your Exam Session
Your exam will be graded as soon as you complete it and you will be given the results. You will not be told which questions you missed or your score, only that you have passed or failed.
If you pass the exam your FCC License will show up in the FCC ULS database in about 7-10 days. Once your call sign is in the FCC database you can get on the air (transmit) with your new call sign.
The FCC used to automatically send out paper licenses, but they no longer do so automatically. While you don't need a paper license, having one can be useful. The FCC's ULS license Manager (https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsEntry/licManager/login.jsp) gives you three ways to obtain a paper license:
- Download an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version of your license that you can print out yourself by clicking on "Download Electronic Authorizations"
- Request that the FCC send you a paper license by clicking on "Request Duplicate"
- Request that the FCC send you a new paper license when ever the license is updated (renewal, upgrade, address change, etc.) by clicking on "Set Paper Authorization Preferences"
Last Updated: December 23, 2016