Saturday, March 8, 2014

I passed my test, and got my callsign. Hello from VE3WPX

My name is Warren, and I am a Canadian, who recently decided to do a self-study and get my Amateur Radio operator certificate.     I don't think I'm allowed to "go on the air" until I get the paper certificate in the mail, but I decided to create this new blog right away.

I think I will try to collect information here of interest to novice Canadian Amateur Radio operators like myself, and those who, like myself, could not find an active training class, and might like some help with self study.

Here is a quick synopsis of what I did and the time I took to do self study:

1.  I got the Canadian Amateur Radio Basic Qualification Study Guidebook from Coax Publications, I read about a chapter a day on the first go through, without taking any notes, or stopping to do exercises. My personal learning style is to gather a survey level introduction.   That took me about two weeks.

2.  I then went back and read each chapter in a detailed "study" mode. In study mode, I made some notes, particularly I drew diagrams where I felt it would help me visualize things.   There are a lot of questions on the test about what component comes before and after components X and Y in an object of type Z, where Z is something like an FM Radio Transmitter, or an FM Radio Receiver, or an SSB Radio Transmitter, or an SSB Radio Receiver.   I felt that the diagrams helped a lot.

Superheterodyne SSB/CW Receiver Block Diagram

3. I made flash-cards on 3.5" index cards, for facts like:

  • The names of bands, the start and end frequencies, and the bandwidths and modes permitted.
  • Resistor color codes (You could really learn this in the same amount of effort it takes to memorize the 10 or so possible ones that could come up in the actual test, I feel quite passionately that one should really learn something useful and not just learn enough to pass the test)
  • Formulas for things like Reactance, or Ohms Law
  • Label the various pins on components like diodes, transistors, FETs, and tube triodes, and then not only memorize the question answers, but really try to understand how diodes, transistors, fets, resistors, capacitors, etc, actually work.
4. Because I'm interested in knowing a bit more than the study materials covered, I ordered a few more books online, and got some books out of the library, which I started reading even before I wrote the test, because I wanted to know more than a book like the CARBQSG could cover.

  • I got the ARRL Amateur Radio Handbook from an online book seller.
  • I got some books on fundamental electronics out of the library.
5. When I was confused, some nice hams helped me out. I used some local club message boards, and some email contacts to ask other hams for help. They were fantastic, especially the nice people who published the book I bought.  I highly recommend this book, not only because it's a good way to prepare for the test, but also because the folks who published it really care about helping new hams out.

6. I used the practice exams on the Industry Canada site, and the practice exams on the Coax Publications site, but neither one was as handy to me as the practice exam iPhone app "Ham Basic", which I used every day on the way to work while I was on the bus, and every night on the way home. This got me through the "drilling multiple choice questions".  Before I wrote the test, I wanted to have read and answered EVERY question in the question bank correctly at least once if not more often than that, and achieved at least a 90 (out of 100) on the practice exams.  After I got to that point, I contacted someone from the IC list of accredited examiners, and took the test.  The fellow who helped me take my test took time out of his busy day to spend an hour with me, and administer the test.

I am very glad I got started and did the self-study method. As soon as my certificate arrives in the mail, I can go on the air.

I attended a local Amateur Radio club meeting, and met some other folks who were waiting for their club's new-ham-training classes to start.    There is a nice social element to having a class to go to, but if you're eager to get on the air (I know I am), and you don't want to wait until there's a class you can go to, just buy a book and get started.

I'd like to say a quick thank-you to Carl, and Geoffrey, and Prem, three wonderful experienced Radio Amateurs who have each in their own way gone out of their way to be helpful and kind to me, and have been instrumental in helping me get started.  I think I might have a bit more to say about Carl, as he really has been incredibly kind to me, but I think I'll save that for another post.


  1. Warren,

    Congratulations on passing your test, Warren. I hope to hear you on the air soon!


  2. Warren, I'm in the same situation as you before you wrote.. I want to get deep with as much as I can with the exam preps (self study), and set a high goal with the exam. I want to be able to ace every exam run I do with the industry canada practice exams before I write it officially. I won't settle for anything less than basic with honors.