The following is the way I studied for the ham test. It may not be right for everyone but I think almost anyone could pass using this method. It will work for people that do not have a good background in electronics.
Plan to spend two to three months in preparation prior to your test. You will have to commit a lot of your free time to this.
Get the following materials:
- “Now You’re Talking”, a book by the ARRL, which should come with a set of code tapes or CD. You can buy it new or used. My copy was from the 80’s and still was good enough.
- Download and print out the Ham Test Exam Pool. I would recommend studying for both the Technician and General tests.
- Download the morse code tutor “Morsecat”. Figure out how to get it to work with headphones or an earphone. I used an old computer with Windows 3.1 and connected a headphone jack to the speaker.
- Find a test date and location about two or three months in the future. Write the date, time and location on a piece of paper and tape it up on the wall somewhere where you will see it every day.
- Bookmark the following webpage for practice tests:
QRZ Ham Radio Practice Tests
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
The things you should be doing every day are learning code, and reading the exam question pools. You should try to set aside an hour or so every day. If you don’t have time for an hour, at least try to get some code tape or Morsecat listening in every day. It doesn’t hurt to spend extra time on the weekends reading the additional materials.
Start a regular schedule of listening to the CW tape for 15 to 30 minutes a day. Listen to the tape where letters, numbers and prosigns are presented. Go straight through it, even if you can’t copy it all. Then start at the beginning again. In the tape they say if you are having trouble, go back and rewind and try again. Don’t rewind, just go through the entire tape, even if you are struggling, and when you get to the end of all the characters, start over. Repeat until you have gone through the tape four or five times. You will probably have memorized a lot of the tape.
After going through the tape maybe five times, switch to MorseCat, and go through the 18 lessons. I set up MorseCat for 300 second sessions (5 minutes). I did not change the settings, so they were at 5wpm, no Farnsworth, no variation. When you get through MorseCat’s 18 lessons, and you feel pretty good about 5wpm, then go to the code tape and try to copy the example tests. If you still have some time before your exam, increase the wpm in MorseCat and try 10wpm Farnsworth 20wpm.
Learning the Exam Questions
Take your copy of the Technician Exam Questions. Go through each question, and highlight the correct answer. Do this slowly while reading both the question and answers. The first time you should read all the answers. The following times that you read the questions and answers, you should ignore the wrong answers and only read the question and correct answer. Read them slowly, aloud if you can, and think about what they mean. For some questions, it will be very difficult to remember the correct answers, for example the operating frequencies for the various bands. Don’t obsess with any single question. Read them, understand them, think about them, and move on. Repetition over time is the key. Try to spend some time every day reading exam questions, even if it is only 15 minutes a day. Every time you get through the test questions, go to the QRZ site and do a few practice tests. By the time of the exam, you should have read the questions through at least five times and done dozens of practice tests.
Go For General
I would strongly recommend that you also study the General Exam. You are going to take the Tech test anyway, so you might as well practice taking the General exam. Who knows, with a little extra study, you might pass elements 1, 2 and 3 and start out as a General license holder, as I did (with a little luck). General license holders have very broad privileges and for many people, General is all many hams will ever need in a license. You can do it!
Research Your Interests
As you study, you should also research areas of interest in ham radio. For me, this was CW procedures, maritime mobile nets, PSK digital, DX, and more. Be curious, try to learn about how the different bands are used, and who has what privileges on each band. Learn about what you think is fun. You should also read through “Now You’re Talking” and any other info you can find on the net.
Before the Test
Go through the CW tape with test examples. Know the basic information that is exchanged in a simple QSO. Read through the Tech Exam Questions one last time. Get a good night’s sleep and remember, where genius fails, persistance pays off.