Studying for the tests
Those wishing to obtain their amateur licence can prepare for the exams in several ways.
Novice courses are normally run by radio clubs or WIA central organisations. Classes are normally weekly for 1-2 hours. A course length of around six months is typical. Courses may include regulations, Morse and a practical component. Not all clubs run licence classes.
Another way to study is via the Internet course run by Ron Bertrand VK2DQ's Radio and Elecronics School. This is particularly attractive for those unable to attend club courses due to distance or time constraints. Students can also subscribe to a mailing list and have any questions answered.
Books, videos and internet resources are available for those who wish to study by themselves.
Radio Theory Exam Preparation
With the introduction of the Foundation Licence in October 2005, courses are offered by various radio clubs and State associations aimed at providing students with the introductory level of radio knowledge required by the Foundation licence.
Refer to the WIA website for current details of clubs and the how and where of exams for all licence grades. Look under the heading Your Amateur Radio Licence for details of licence classes and clubs offering training. There is a sample Foundation Licence examination paper available for download, as well as a list of Learning Organisers who can give you information about your options for learning what you need to know to pass exams.
For the Amateur Standard licence, theory texts and courses for the former Novice licence should be considered.
- Graeme Scott's Novice Operators Theory Handbook is very popular. It comes with a Morse tape and is available from supplier such as Dick Smith Electronics (Cat D 7112). Other books include Questions and Answers for the Novice Licence (now out of print) and Fred Swainston's Radio Amateurs Theory Handbook, which is suitable for both Novice and Full theory.
- The AR NSW publishes a Novice Study kit, which is highly recommended.
- The Gladesville Amateur Radio Club produces amateur radio licence study videotapes. Students can test their progress by doing a self-test exam as contained in books such as
- 1000 Questions for NAOCP Candidates or on the AR Victoria website. Excellent background reading appears on websites by VK2DQ and VK2TIP.
- You can also learn from text books published by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) or the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB). Books are available for purchase direct from those sources, or you can buy from Amazon or other online book sources. In the Magazines and Periodicals section of the Clubs and Info section of this FAQ, there are links to suggested books on radio theory suitable for Amateur Radio students.
For the Amateur Advanced Licence, students can choose from classes run by clubs, where available, or using text books and other material. The WIA website has lists of Learning Organisers who can help you by providing information about the learning methods available to you.
Study material for the Regulations exam can be downloaded from the ACMA website. Alternatively, try contacting your local ACMA Office for an amateur information pamphlet. Access to this material is absolutely critical if you are to pass the Regulations exam. The Regulations part of the licence tests is like the road rules - you must know them or you run the risk of interfering with other radio users, even if you don't realise it at the time.
Another useful resource is the WIA Callbook - this contains much material pertinent to the student, including amateur regulations, frequency allocations, list of examiners (though possibly out of date), ACMA offices, club mailing addresses, WIA news broadcast, Morse practice broadcasts and more.
It is no longer necessary to pass an exam in morse code for an Amateur Radio licence in Australia. However morse is still used by amateurs and there are nightly Morse Practice Broadcasts (normally transmitted on 80 and/or 2 metres) transmitted especially for those learning the code. In addition, some cities have 24 hour continuous Morse practice beacons that you can tune into at any time. Listen on 3.699 MHz to hear VK2WI transmitting practice morse at a range of speeds. Also see the KA7NOC website under the CW link.
Read more about morse tests.
Read more about using morse as a transmitting mode and why it is still an important mode.
Arranging the exam
A list of radio clubs providing Foundation licence tuition and examination services can be found on the WIA website - under the main heading "Become a Radio Amateur" choose the Assessment Resources link. At this page there is information about Learning Organisers, your first point of contact if you wish to become licenced. There are also lists of Assessors, who are authorised to conduct examinations.
For many students a two day Foundation licence course conducted over a weekend concludes with an examination and a result. The success rate is high on the first attempt so if you are interested, you have a very good chance of getting your Foundation licence.
Amateur exams are conducted by accredited individuals, clubs and former WIA Divisions operating under the auspices of the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA). If attending a course you will be offered the opportunity to sit an exam when the course ends. Those studying independently need to find an examiner themselves. One starting point is your local radio club (or former WIA Division) - most clubs have accredited examiners but not all of them run training courses. Alternatively, contact details for examiners are given in the WIA Callbook, which is sold directly by the WIA. Note that this list is not necessarily up to date and some of those listed may no longer be active examiners. These services are mostly provided by volunteers whose time and availability can change.
Waiting for the results
The examiner will send your paper away to be marked, and you will await the results. The highlight of your days will be checking the mail box to check for the magic envelope from the WIA. Don't fret if it takes a while - waits of four to six weeks are fairly normal. At this time, you will no doubt be planning to acquire some transmitting equipment, looking at catalogs and websites, scanning the magazines and asking people their opinion on particular pieces of equipment. There is a section on equipment in VKFAQ to give you some help here.
You might also use this time to think about your preferred callsign. Callsigns are a personal issue for many. Some like being able to choose a callsign including their initials or some other combination meaningful to them. There are several requirements for this to be possible. Firstly it must be within the callsign block for the particular licence grade. Secondly, it must not be already allocated. Thirdly, the callsign must not have belonged to a recently deceased amateur. Amateurs serious about getting a 'good callsign' firstly develop a short-list (based on initials, likely confusion with other callsigns, pronuncibility, brevity on CW etc).
Having considered what callsign letters you might want, you can search the ACMA's online database to see which of your preferred options may be available. When the time comes for ACMA to allocate a callsign, you will have the opportunity to state your preferred options. Don't expect to get your number one preference though - keep an open mind.
For a while the ACMA suspended issuing callsigns with two letter suffixes, as they were in high demand and numbers were limited (676 per call area - 26 * 26). A ballot for allocating 2 letter suffixes to applicants was conducted in 2008. However there is always a turnover in callsigns as unfortunately we can't take them with us. The ACMA is sympathetic to requests to retain a callsign in a family, and to freeze a callsign so it cannot be reallocated within a reasonable time after the death of the previous holder. It is also possible to make requests to the ACMA for your callsign to be made available to a specific friend or relative. If you make such requests, make sure your intended next holder of your callsign is aware of your wish.
Certificate of proficiency, callsign and licence
Once you have details of your pass, you can now obtain a certificate of proficiency. Most people do this over-the-counter at their nearest ACMA office. It should be emphasised that a Certificate of Proficiency is not a license to operate. However, the Certificate qualifies the holder to obtain the category of amateur licence commensurate with the certificate.
On payment of a licence fee, the Authority will issue your station licence. Your callsign will be printed on the licence. If you don't already have one, request a Radiocommunicatons Licence Conditions (Amateur Licence) Determination document for your licence grade as well. The LCD is the document that states the conditions under which you must use your licence.
Obtaining and renewing an amateur licence requires payment of an issue or renewal fee. A small discount applies for multi-year licenses, which are available for up to 5 years. Details on the ACMA website.
After getting a licence, then what?
Once you've passed the exams for your chosen class of licence, then the real fun begins. Amateur radio has so many different facets to enjoy. Many are outlined on this website.