Ham Test Help

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.

Learning CW

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.

Good Luck!


Healthy Recipes

I looked at cooking, meal planning and diet from three different angles and in the end all three perspectives brought me to a certain type of menu. The result of my “diet research” is a selection of recipes made from low cost ingredients, that is healthy, tastes great and can be stored without refrigeration. This healthy diet works for me. I realize that everyone has different tastes, so I hope that you can find something of value here that you can use in your own diet. No need to follow the recipes as if they were rules, look at them as a starting point.

Healthy Menu

I am always trying to lose a few pounds. While not really obese, I am roundish, and always feel that I could stand to lose 20 pounds or so. After looking at a lot of diet plans, it became clear that one needs to stay away from sugars, carbohydrates and foods that the body easily turns to sugar: processed wheat products, potatoes and white rice. Some diets claim fats are bad, others say they are not a problem, but most diet gurus recommend a low carb approach, and seem to agree that sugar and starchy foods create health problems. I tried the Atkin’s Diet for a while but it didn’t take long before I got tired of the food and I did not enjoy eating so much meat. I’m not really a steak eater, I guess. It didn’t feel right and it seemed too strange to center your diet around meats. I decided to try a different approach, to ban sugars, processed carbs and starches, and eat as much vegetables and complex carbohydrates (whole grains) as I wanted, with chicken, fish and dairy products added for flavor and protein. I also eat fruit because it tastes good, has vitamins and is good for the digestion. This diet is more in line with the Zone diet or Mediterranean diet, although it doesn’t really fit in any established diet plan. These recipes would be a good way to try vegetarian cooking, although I frequently add fish and fowl to the meal plan. I enjoy eating this food because the food tastes delicious and when I have finished, I know that I have chosen foods that are good for my health.

Low Cost Menu

It didn’t take long to realize that by eliminating a lot of meat from my diet, that my grocery bills dropped considerably. One of my life goals is to retire early and to enjoy many years without stress from employment, so I am trying to save and invest for the future. There are really two goals here, one is to reduce my current budget so I can put money away into savings, and second, to develop a low cost lifestyle that will allow me to live well on little money when I retire. So I am looking for a menu that I can use for the long term, that doesn’t involve suffering or force feeding. I need healthy food that tastes good and can be part of a long term lifestyle menu. By basing my meals on grains and rice, and then topping them with vegetables, spices, legumes, fish and fowl, I can achieve a low cost diet that is very satisfying to eat. I look forward to dinner because it TASTES GREAT and after I have finished, I have pride in how I was able to create a delicious meal out of low cost ingredients.

Liveaboard Non-Refrigerated Menu

I enjoy boating, and my favorite thing to do is to sail to a remote wilderness bay, drop the anchor, and spend time exploring the area. I do not have refrigeration on my boat, and ice only lasts a few days. I could install refrigeration, at the cost of several thousand dollars, or I could figure out how to cook foods from ingredients that do not require refrigeration. I identified a number of vegetables that keep for a week or more, such as cabbage, onions, carrots, etc., and then found ways to combine those vegetables with dried foods such as rice, whole wheat pasta and grains to create a varied menu plan. Using the same basic ingredients and a number of herbs and spices, you can make a number of meals that taste different and add variety to your diet. I originally discovered these recipes while looking for foods that do not require refrigeration for use on board my boat. After testing them at home, I realized that the recipes were delicious and were made of healthy ingredients, and could be used for everyday cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle diet.

Curious about what this diet plan looks like? Tired of the Adkins diet and still want to eat healthy food? Take a look at the low carb recipes above, and consider them a starting point to develop your own healthy diet plan.


Planning Financial Independence

Retire Early

Just about everyone dreams of early retirement and financial independence. With a little planning and determination, you too can retire early. This site is written to show one way to achieve early retirement, by maintaining a regular savings plan. Even with a moderate income, you can achieve financial independence.

Many people have questions on early retirement, and how to be financially independent.

Could I really retire early?

Most people capable of earning an income of over $50,000 (more or less) have the opportunity to retire early by saving money on a monthly basis.

How much do I need to retire?

This depends on your budget as a retiree. A minimal early retirement budget would be about $20,000 a year in today’s dollars. In order to earn $20,000 from investments, you will need roughly 25 times this amount in investments, or $500,000. This is a small retirement income, used as an example, and you may want to have more retirement income than this.

How much do I have to save each month?

A good goal to start with is roughly the amount that you would like to retire on each month, and to increase the amount that you save by 5% each year. As an example, to achieve the retirement income of $20,000 per year, adjusted for inflation, you could start with saving $1500 per month.

How long will it take to save?

Using our example of $1500 per month, increasing the savings amount 5% each year, it will take 15 years to save $500,000. This is assuming a 5% real return on your investments, and includes an adjustment for inflation.

Where should I invest the money?

If you are starting out and have 15 years to go, use a tax deferred savings program like a 401k, and invest in low fee index mutual funds, for example, a Vanguard S&P; 500 fund. As you build up your savings and approach your retirement, you will want to reassess your investments every year or two.

How do I get the money to save?

Assuming you have maximized your income potential, learn to live well on a budget, and consider lifestyle changes that may reduce your expenses.

I don’t want to sacrifice my lifestyle today!

Saving for early retirement is not for everyone. But by trying to make the right financial decisions, and learning to live well on little money, you may be able to improve the quality of your life and still reduce your household budget enough to save for early retirement.

Wouldn’t it be nice to choose what you want to do with your time?

Time goes by quickly. If you start your savings plan now, you will enjoy the rewards sooner than you might think.

Wouldn’t it be nice not to be tied to a job that you dislike?

For most people, the alternative to saving for retirement is to work until you turn 65 years old. There is another way!