taking the amateur license exams . . .
Preparation: the key to success. If you ask someone how long it takes to study for the exams, you are liable to get a host of different replies. One month, two months, six months. Hey, if it took you six months to prepare for a fundamental class license exam, I hope you passed! Most would probably say one to two months. My experience: I had a week off for Christmas and nabbed a couple of introductory books; after reading both, I was ready for the exam in two weeks. I was also able to track down a copy of CQ's video Ham Radio Horizons, which was good introductory material. I passed both the Novice and Technician elements without flinching.
Suggested preparation resources:
LOCATING A TEST DATE AND LOCATION IN YOUR AREA:
The first thing you'll have to do is find out where a test is going to be given near you. You can accomplish this simply by checking out the ARRL site:
Just plug in your state/country or zip code; the query will return a number of locations, dates, times, and contacts for tests given in or near your area for the next 3-4 months. You probably won't have to drive more than 30 minutes out of your way.
BRING WITH YOU:
SITTING FOR THE EXAM:
When you get there, you will be greeted by some volunteer examiners which will instruct you on what to do next. At least three are required to be present for the exam; all are required to be at least Advanced class-licensed. Count on having to do the following:
Depending on your test-taking abilities and how well prepared you are, the Novice and Technician elements take anywhere from 15 - 45 minutes each to complete. But don't worry, you will be given as much time as you need to complete the exam.
TIPS FOR TAKING THE EXAMS:
Rule #1: Don't be nervous. That's the worst thing you could do. This isn't like taking a test at school. If you flub this one up, you can take it again with no repercussions. But you won't, so I'm not going to put that idea into your head.
Rule #2: You have paid your way for the day. You can keep taking exams until you flunk one. You'll find out on the spot which elements were passed, so if you feel froggy, take the next exam (i.e. if you just passed the Technician element, go ahead and take the General element). After passing the Tech elements, I took the General License written element. I failed it miserably, but I took it. You have nothing to lose, and who knows, you may pass a test that you haven't even studied for. At least you'll get an idea of what the next level test is like. And you will be given proof of completion for all exams passed, so even if you don't complete all criteria of the next license class, you can complete the remainder later on.
Also, visit this site - it is helpful:
By (the late) Larry R. Luchi, W7KZE
GETTING YOUR CALLSIGN:
The examiners will file your test results with the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania office in short order - they can even file electronically now. Whereas it takes a week or two for license processing now, it used to take at least 90 days or longer until you found out what your callsign was.
And as soon as you get your callsign, you can start transmitting. Just don't run anyone over getting to ham supply store to get your gear. I had my callsign within a week of taking the exam. After taking the exams, you can use one of the following sites to find out if your callsign has been generated:
You will be getting your hard copy license in the mail within 1 to 1 1/2 months (depending on amount of database backlogging by the FCC). Remember, this is a government institution, so be patient.