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Anyone else studying for the Extra Class exam?


KM4FAI
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I studied hard last fall but wasn’t passing my practice exams by the week of the exam so didn’t go.  Then the holidays came around.  Now, I’m wanting to get back into studying and hoping I didn’t forget what I had learn so I can take the exam in March.

 I have no background in electronics so this is a challenge for me, for sure.  I’m using an extra class app on my phone, the arrl extra class book, and the study book by Gordon West.

Anyone else out there hoping to upgrade this year?  And any words of advice?

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ELMER

Hi Angela,

I'm already an extra, so perhaps not the best one to give advice. This said, I'll try. I think that there are more than one ways to prepare. Much depends on each person's 'style' of study. Some are memorizers, others like to take practice tests over and over. And others still, like the idea of taking the test more than once. They are OK with failing one or two times and getting the feel for the content before ultimately passing it. Also, I am not an instructor, so please take any of my advice with a grain of salt. I have elmered a few amateur radio operators in my day. 

I'm sure that others will disagree with my suggestion, but here goes.

  1. Read the entire guide, in your case the Gordon West study book, cover to cover, once.
  2. Read the pool of questions, from first to last, once.
  3. Take one to three practice tests in a row.
  4. Do all this in under one month, if you take longer you will forget what you studied.

If you do steps 1 to 4 above, you will have covered all your bases. You will have read through the three main types of knowledge delivery.

Next:

  1. Go through those practice tests and pick out the areas where you were weakest and reread the study book chapters; re-read them once.
  2. Go take the test.

If you fail, you will, again, know why you failed allowing you to go back and fill those gaps.

The above is the drastic, full on procedure for someone who, as you said, seems a little apprehensive.

As for your fear of taking the exam for fear of failing it. As I said above, take the test!!!! Take the test!!! Countless hams, if not most then a high count, fail the Extra test once or twice before passing it. I'm not saying you will, but if you do, that's absolutely fine.

Last point. All my advice assumes that you want to 'learn' the stuff. Some, and I don't like it when they do, simply memorize the pool questions. Bad karma. We want extras who 'understand' what they're doing.

Feel totally free to either disagree or reach out for more suggestions!!!!

Glad you're so serious about going to the Extra level.

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ELMER

Hi Angie,

I took a look at the bio you posted on qrz and you have a variety of interests and you appear to be the type of motivated new ham licensee that we like to see entering the hobby.  I can echo what Jim/K3MRI said in his previous post and agree with his advice.  I too am already an extra so as Jim said, maybe not the best to be giving advice to someone just taking steps to pass the extra exam.  Plus, my ham story is fairly typical today..... started in ham radio as a teenager by joining a high school radio club back in the day when everyone started as a novice and morse code was required.  I upgraded to General about a year after my novice (that license expired after one year with no renewal option at the time) -- in those days, we had to go to the FCC office to take exams (the VE system didn't exist yet) and first pass a 13wpm code test before we were allowed to attempt the General theory exam.  Becoming an extra back in those days almost seemed out of reach.  Besides the 20wpm code test, there was a requirement for a certain number of years of experience as a General, plus the very theoretical written exam (and there was no question pool to use back then -- you had to study the manuals and guides and learn the material). 

At any rate, after becoming a General I operated for about 3 years, graduated from high school to a college with no radio club and, of course, college life took over followed by the normal distractions of the after-college life and my license expired.  I was unlicensed for about 15 years then retested as a novice... although inactive for another 30 years.  Then upon my retirement from work, I decided to re-enter the ham ranks and take the tests again.  Of course, everything had changed -- VE system, question pools with answers, and no morse code, and no going to the FCC office to take the exams.  Now, I have mentioned all of this to give you a frame of reference.... because, now I'm going to tell you how I studied for my exams.  I had to pass all three exams again since I didn't have the documentation to be grandfathered into any class.  So, first I took and passed the Tech exam one month, then studied for one month and took both the General and Extra exams in one session.  I believe my method worked for me because I already had some background in ham radio theory from my previous licenses.  But there was a lot of new material, especially in the extra exam.  To me, the step from Tech to General had more overlap in knowledge and was a smaller step then going from General to Extra. 

In addition to the advice of K3MRI and what you are already doing in your study, there's one other tool I would recommend that you take a look at to see if it works for you.  Its an online tool that does a combination of teaching the subject material for the exam questions and also drills on the question pool.  However, its also a software "system" that tracks your progress in the background and learns your weak areas and reviews those areas more often then ones you already know.  However, it is not free like some of the online tools but they do give you a guarantee that you will pass the exam or they refund the cost.  You don't need to install any software, everything is done through a browser so you can login and study from any computer with internet access.  You can go to the following link to read about this tool (hamradiolicenseexam.com) and they also have a free 50 question demo/trial.  From that information, you should be able to determine whether their method is right for you.  It would supplement what you are already doing and should give you the confidence you need to go and take the exam.  I would say that for those that need a human instructor providing the information and available for feedback, this online method may not be ideal since it requires you to read and study the material on your own -- on the other hand, that's an advantage since its available 24/7 and you go at your own pace. 

As Jim said, in an ideal world we want extras that understand the material and can apply the concepts but on the other hand, the learning and skill development does not stop with the exam but most of it occurs after you have the license and keep learning more and apply it to your actual operating experiences.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Extra was a challenge, especially since it made me reach back to my old electronics schools days ;-)

I found 2 things that helped me - hamstudy.org (tracks progress to include weakness and strengths) and a book by Michael Burnette/AF7KB called "The Fast Track to your Extra Class Ham Radio License". He attacks the exam by area and even skips around to keep topics paired up.  And a great sense of humor too.  My wife has enjoyed the book and she has no desire to became a ham. Also set a date and study towards the date, like a runner training for a race.  Good luck!

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