Canadian Exams and Licenses 


Canadian Amateur Radio Examinations and Licenses


Why Do I need to be licensed?

In short, it's because radio waves travel internationally.  

As a result, there needs to be some international control and coordination of the radio spectrum or else absolute mayhem on the worldwide airwaves would prevail. Administrations (countries) have now created an organization (called the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) an arm of the United Nations) to decide, by member votes and mutually agreed upon treaties, "what goes where" in the international radio spectrum. 

The ITU has created an International Amateur Radio Service that is (by their definition) "a radiocommunication service in which radio apparatus are used for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation by individuals who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest."

While the ITU leaves it up to each administration (country) as to how users in the Amateur Radio Service are to be both examined and/or licensed, ALL current ITU member countries in the world require some form of both in order for persons to use the international spectrum allotted to the Amateur Radio Service. 

ISED Canada's Role

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) (Formerly "Industry Canada) is the Canadian government department responsible for all Amateur Radio licensing, certification and examiner accreditation in Canada. 

Specifically, ISED Canada's Amateur Radio Service Center  is the official focal point for Amateur Radio regulatory and license matters.  Their Web site offers clickable downloads of the governing documents for Amateur Radio activities in Canada (along with other radio services called Radio Information Circulars (RICs and Regulation by References (RBRs) as well as examination question banks and exam generation software.  

USA-Canada Reciprocal Agreement

For those who already have a USA or Canadian-issued Ham license and call sign, the ISED Canada Web site also contains a wealth of useful information regarding a special Amateur Radio Reciprocal Operating Agreement between the USA and Canada.  The agreement specifies a few (very simple!) procedures for currently-licensed Hams from the USA or Canada to follow when visiting each other's country.  

However, for those persons who may wish to obtain a definitive Amateur Radio License and Canadian call sign may do so by following the procedures outlined below.

The Canadian Amateur Radio Operator Certificate

Briefly, authority to operate radio apparatus in the Amateur Radio Service in Canada (using a Canadian call sign issued by ISED Canada) is given to holders of an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with Basic Qualification.  Other qualifications available with the Basic Amateur Radio Operator Certificate are the Morse Code and Advanced Qualifications.  

Also, because the actual licensing documents are called "Certificates of Proficiency in Amateur Radio", once applicants achieve these various qualifications, they are then "certified" to operate in the Amateur Radio Service in Canada, rather than simply being "licensed".  This subtle difference in semantics sets Canadian Amateurs apart from the rest of their "licensed" brethren elsewhere in the world.

Traditionally, Amateur Radio Operators in Canada were issued two separate authorizations; an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and a radio station license. The Amateur Radio Operator Certificate was issued for life and had no fee associated with it, while the radio station license was issued on a yearly basis and a license renewal fee was charged.  However, on April 1, 2000, Industry Canada (as it was known back then) combined these documents into one authorization, the Amateur Radio Operator Certificate with its various qualifications. 

The "new" Amateur Radio Operator Certificate is issued for life and has no fee associated with it.  And although it's no longer necessary for Amateurs to renew their Certificates of Proficiency annually, they are still required to inform ISED Canada within 30 days of any change in their postal mailing address.

The Qualifications

  • Basic Qualification:  Obtaining a minimum passing score (70%) on this examination gives you most operating privileges above 30 MHz with a 250 watt power limit.  This includes the 144 MHz (2 meter) Very High Frequency (VHF) Amateur Radio band which is one of the most popular for local communication using handheld, mobile or base transceivers.  This closed book, written examination is usually taken first, as it must be successfully completed in order to obtain a Canadian call sign.  The test covers mostly rules and regulations and some (very) basic electronic and radio theory.  

    In July, 2005, operating privileges in the HF bands (below 30 MHz) with a 250 watt power limit were also granted with this qualification alone if it was obtained prior to 2 April 2002 or, if the exam was taken after 2 April 2002, by achieving (or having proof of) an "Honours" score (80% or greater) on the exam.  

    Amateurs who meet the latter criteria will be granted the same operator privileges as the holder of an Amateur Radio Operator Certificate With Basic Honors Qualification if they can demonstrate that they attained a mark of 80% or above on their Basic examination.  See our
    section on Recent Changes to Examinations and Licensing (below) for more detailed information on how to go about doing this.

  • 5 WPM Morse Code: Although it has been around for a very long time, Radio Amateurs have found Morse Code is still very effective for long distance communication with very simple equipment. This sending and receiving exam can be taken after passing the Basic exam.  Having the Basic plus the Morse Code qualification gives you additional privileges below 30 MHz with a 250 watt power limit.  It includes access to the High Frequency (HF) Amateur Radio bands that allow you to communicate around the world!  
  • Advanced Qualification: This closed book, written theory exam is more technical than the Basic exam and can also be taken once you pass the Basic test. Having the Basic plus Advanced qualification gives all operating privileges currently authorized to Radio Amateurs in Canada, including the authority to build and operate a "home brew" transmitter, use more transmitting power, give Amateur Radio examinations to others (you must also have the 5 WPM Morse Certification to give exams), control stations remotely or sponsor an in-band repeater or club station.

Essentially, this means that, unlike in years past when successful completion of a Morse examination was absolutely required for access to those coveted High Frequency (HF) radio bands, ISED Canada has now provided applicants with a couple of different ways for them to achieve those same operating privileges while still offering a Morse endorsement as an option.

For example, one can garner (slightly limited) HF operating privileges simply by achieving a higher passing mark (80%) on just the Basic exam alone. Or, one can obtain a minimum (70%) passing mark on that same (Basic) exam PLUS successfully completing the Morse exam to obtain those same privileges. Additionally, one can obtain (full) Amateur privileges by achieving at least a 70% mark on BOTH the Basic written AND Advanced written exams...once again...all without successfully completing the Morse exam. 

The bottom line here is that if learning the Morse code isn't your "thing" at the moment, you can still get in on the fun of worldwide HF communication via Amateur Radio in Canada simply by doing a bit more up-front, "book learning" for the Basic and/or Advanced written exams.  


Examination Preparation

The Basic qualification examination is composed of questions drawn from the official ISED Canada Basic Question Bank which you can download in its entirety from the ISED Canada Web site. The actual examination that you write consists of 100, multiple choice-type questions drawn in a stratified, random fashion from (and are written exactly as they appear in) the official question bank.  The minimum passing mark is 70%, and although it does take a bit of studying, people young and old from all backgrounds (not just those who are technically inclined) have successfully passed this exam.  You can too! 

The Advanced qualification examination is based on a similar (but more technical) official ISED Canada Advanced Question Bank which you can also download in its entirety from the ISED Canada Web site. The actual examination that you write consists of 50, multiple choice-type questions drawn from the official question bank in the same stratified, random fashion as the Basic exam.  The pass mark for this exam is also 70%. 

Examination Preparation Courses

As of late, there has not been enough interest shown in the Sarnia, Ontario area to warrant a formal classroom course to prepare candidates for Canadian Amateur Radio Certificate examinations.  

However, the London Amateur Radio Club (London, Ontario) often conducts such preparation courses, usually during the Spring and Fall months.  Click on the "Education" icon on the right side of their home page for the latest information.

What's more the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) are now conducting periodic online courses for both the Canadian Basic and Advanced Qualifications.  Check out their Web site ( for more information or for announcements of upcoming online courses.

Another excellent source for online training is a complete Canadian examination preparation course for the Canadian Basic Qualification at

Examination Self-Preparation

While formal examination preparation is certainly desirable, completion of a formal course of study is absolutely not necessity for someone to obtain their Basic or Advanced Canadian Amateur Radio Certificate.  In fact, many people prefer to study on their own time (and in their own way) to prepare for these exams, and have very successfully done so over the years.  And there's lots of help available (both online and in book form) to assist you.

For example, a large section of the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Web site contains detailed information regarding all aspects of Canadian Amateur Radio...including the examination and license process.  Click on the "How to Start" tab off their main page.  Their site also includes links to other sources that offer printed self-study guides and commercial (computer-based) examination preparation materials. 

The Radio Amateurs of Canada also publish a printed study guide to help you prepare for the Basic Examination.  The book is readily available from or directly from for a small fee. 

The book contains the entire Basic examination question bank, with easy to understand explanations (on the opposite page) of the concepts outlined in the various questions in the question bank that are related to that particular topic.  

What's more, the correct answers to each question are highlighted in italics so as to make your studying far more meaningful. This approach helps insure you are studying only the correct answers, to the questions and not the distracters.  

However, if "book learning" or formal online courses are not your forte' the Web site also offers a 30 or 90 day online subscription to the same Basic (and also to their Advanced) Certificate study guides. These online guides are a great way to study while you are "on the go".

In addition, the Toronto Emergency Communications Group has assembled an excellent online (downloadable) Basic Amateur Radio Course that is freely available in multiple .PDF format lessons.  The course (albeit now a bit dated) can be used as a stand-alone document for exam preparation, or as an additional, quick-study guide to supplement more detailed printed works.


There is a long-held tradition within Amateur Radio of mentoring newcomers.  These mentors (affectionately called "Elmers") are currently licensed Hams who enjoy freely helping newcomers study for and then pass their first examinations, as well as helping them set up their first Ham Radio stations.  Several LCRC members have expressed a willingness to help new people prepare for their exams.  

Fortunately, you, too, can partake of this long-held tradition...again, totally free of charge...simply by showing up and introducing yourself at one of our upcoming LCRC Sunday morning breakfasts or Wednesday Luncheons.  Someone there will almost certainly be glad to help you get started.  

So...don't be shy....we're a friendly group who heartily welcome newcomers...and their many questions!

Getting Ready to Take Your Exam

Once you believe you are ready to take your exam, its a good idea to download multiple sample tests from ISED's Amateur Radio Exam Generator to help gauge your readiness. This is the same online test generator that your examiner will use to prepare your actual exam.  

Most examiners suggest that, for example, if you are interested in obtaining just the Basic Certificate (70% passing score) you should be scoring these sample exams in the 75-80 percent range so as to compensate for "exam jitters" when you sit for your actual exam.  

Likewise, if you are interested in obtaining a "Basic With Honours" Certificate (80% passing score) you should be routinely obtaining practice scores in the 85 to 90 percent range on these Basic Certificate sample tests...again, this will help offset any "exam jitters" when you take your actual test. 

And, if you are studying for the Advanced Certificate (70% passing score) you should be regularly scoring in the 75-80 percent range on the sample tests for the Advanced Certificate as well.

The Application Form

Applicants wishing to be tested for one (or all) of the Canadian qualifications should first download and print out a few copies of this application form (ISED Canada Form IC-2381, Application and Report for Amateur Radio Operator Certificate and Call Sign) from the ISED Canada Web site.  Bring these blank copies with you to the examination session.  During the examination session, you'll be asked to legibly print the requested personal information (and call sign choices (see below)) in the appropriate blocks on the top of the form.  

If you're unsure about what to put in a particular block on the form (such as what to put in the "Type of Station" and/or "Amateur Radio Certificate Qualifications" blocks) don't worry.  Your examiner will make sure your application form is complete and correct prior to submitting that information to ISED Canada following the successful completion your exam.

Also, most applications for a Canadian Certificate of Proficiency in Amateur Radio are now being submitted electronically to ISED Canada by Accredited Examiners.  So you will also need to bring along your current e-mail address to share with your examiner. They, in turn, will send that information along to ISED Canada as well once you successfully complete your exam.  

ISED Canada, in turn, will contact you directly via the e-mail address you listed on your application so as to ascertain your choices for an initial call sign prior to issuing one to you.

Requesting a Call Sign

Canada is one of the few industrialized countries in the world that still encourages applicants for an initial Amateur Radio License to request their choice of call sign without additional charge. Candidate call signs can be selected from a list of those available as shown in the Canadian Amateur Radio Available Call Sign Search Engine.  At some point, applicants will be asked to indicate their first, second and third choice(s) of call signs to ISED Canada.  However, before finally deciding on which call sign(s) to request, applicants should read the entire contents of RIC-9 to insure they are eligible for the call sign(s) they select.  

It is also important to remember that just because a requested call sign is shown in the database as being available, there's still no guarantee it will be assigned to you by ISED Canada.  Likewise, if no choices are indicated, and a Canadian call sign is not already assigned to the applicant, ISED Canada will simply assign an appropriate call sign from those currently available.

Taking the Examinations

Once the application form is in hand, applicants then need to decide how and where they wish to take their examination. This can be done in one of two ways.  

  • ISED Canada Regional Office:  Applicants can visit an ISED Canada regional office to be examined by a staff examiner.  A complete list of addresses and telephone numbers for ISED Canada's regional offices is contained in RIC-66.  It's probably a good idea to call ahead to see if an appointment will be required. 
  • ISED Canada Accredited Volunteer Examiners:  You can also take your exam from one of ISED Canada's many accredited volunteer examiners.  These people are currently licensed Ham operators who volunteer their services to ISED Canada by conducting examinations for applicants who reside in their local area.  In fact, this is the method most preferred by ISED Canada so the "regional office route" (above) should only be pursued as a last resort!  

    Currently, there are four accredited examiners serving the Sarnia-Lambton, Ontario geographical area.  Their names, addresses and telephone numbers are listed (in alphabetical order) below.  Feel free to contact any one of them directly once you are ready to take your examination.  


Name Call Sign Address


Province Post Code Telephone
Keith Baker  VA3KSF 377   Bentinck Street Corunna ON N0N 1G0 519-481-0153
Chet Latawiec  VE3CFK 315   London Road Sarnia ON N7T 4W2 519-337-6209
Larry Parker  VE3EDY 1741 Lakeshore Road Sarnia ON  N7X 1G1 519-542-5944
Ian Sparling  VE3ZIS 1074 Thompson Street Sarnia ON N7S 1A5 519-282-7449


2005 Changes to Examinations and Licensing

As a result of changes to the Amateur Radio Service made by the World Administrative Radio Conference in 2003, Amateur Radio licensing in Canada underwent some major changes back in 2005.  These changes included the removal of the Morse Code as the sole requirement for High Frequency (HF) operation and increasing the required pass mark(s) on written examinations.  

On July 30, 2005, Industry Canada (as they called themselves back then) released their Gazette Notice DGRB-003-05, which adopted a number of proposals made by the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) regarding the Morse Code and related matters.

Specifically, HF operation by Radio Amateurs on the bands below 30 MHz was then authorized by Industry Canada for:

  • Amateurs who were certified with only the Basic Qualification prior to 2 April 2002 or...

  • Amateurs who have been certified with both Basic and Advanced Qualifications at any time or...

  • Amateurs with only the Basic Qualification who were certified after 1 April 2002, and who also achieved a pass mark of 80% or greater on the Basic exam.

Those Amateurs with only the Basic Qualification who were certified after 1 April 2002, but who achieved less than an 80% pass mark, will now either have to qualify in Morse, write (and successfully pass) the Advanced Qualification with a score of 70% or higher, OR re-write the Basic Qualification exam and get a pass mark of 80% or higher in order to now obtain their HF privileges.  

Those Amateurs who achieved an 80% score or greater on their Basic Qualification exam and who are not yet coded in ISED Canada's database as having achieved the "Honours" designation will need to manually inform ISED Canada of their Basic Qualification examination marks.  Amateurs who need to do so should first contact their Accredited Examiner for a copy of the documentation showing their Basic Qualification examination score and then contact the Amateur Radio Service Center for further guidance.  Accredited Examiners are required to retain examination paperwork (including test scores) for at least three years.  Most retain this information indefinitely.

Raising the passing score on both the Basic and Advanced exams from 60% to 70% was related to another decision by Industry Canada (in the same Gazette Notice) to help insure candidates are proficient in all areas of each syllabus.  Likewise, adding the so-called "Honours" qualification score (80%) to the Basic exam was done to help insure newcomers have a thorough working knowledge of proper HF operation before being allowed access to frequencies capable of world-wide communication. 



Lambton County Radio Club
 382 Devine Street, Sarnia, Ontario N7T 1V4