Advice to those upgrading: Don't Take The Easy Way Out

Discussion in 'Becoming a Ham - Q&A' started by K5GC, Jan 28, 2014.

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  1. K5GC

    K5GC Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is sort of an open letter to all of you Technicians wanting to become Generals and all you Generals wanting to become Extras.

    As soon as they removed the code requirement, I began "studying" and upgraded my license from Tech to General then a few months later got my Extra ticket. Yes, I finally made it to the pinnacle of the US Ham radio license structure. I will tell you a secret to how i did it: I memorized answers. And I will tell you another secret: It was the biggest regret ever. YES if you have a good memory, you can memorize all the answers in the question pool, like me. But you have probably heard time and time and time again that this is truly a hobby where you get out of it what you put in.

    After getting my Extra ticket, I got busy with other aspects of life and Ham Radio was sort of shelved for the better part of a decade. Now that I have come back to it, I truly see how badly I have robbed myself by simply memorizing what i could have learned. As I attempt to get deeper into ham radio, I realize just how difficult that will be. I basically have to learn EVERYTHING I faked my way through to begin with. For example:

    In polar coordinates, what is the impedance of a circuit of 100 -j100 ohms impedance?
    A. 141 ohms at an angle of -45 degrees
    B. 100 ohms at an angle of 45 degrees
    C. 100 ohms at an angle of -45 degrees
    D. 141 ohms at an angle of 45 degrees

    YES, I know the answer is "A" but I have no idea why.

    I have now dedicated myself to going back and learning everything that I missed. I have purchased books on antennas, basic electronics, radio propagation, and a handful of others. It will take me several years to learn the things i should have learned to begin with, but hopefully I will get there. Every day I tackle another chapter, learn another theory, figure another thing out AND get more excited about ham radio. If I had done this to begin with, there is no telling where i would be today. While I do regret my memorizing, I feel better now that I am fixing my mistake.

    So here is my advice in a nutshell:
    1. Don't Memorize. You only hurt yourself in the long run.
    2. When you read through a question pool and learn the correct answer, make sure you know WHY it is the correct answer before going forward.
    3. Don't Memorize. You only hurt yourself in the long run.
    4. Ask questions, get answers, ask questions about those answers and get more answers. If I have learned 1 thing it would be that hams LOVE to help out other hams.
    5. LEARN MORSE CODE! Yes, yes, its no longer "required" but I think the fact that it is no longer required cheated me out of a great experience and some great QSOs. Don't believe me? Tune to the low side of 20 or 40 meters. Yeah, you hear all those contacts you are missing? Plus, look at all the men and women in ham radio that would have a little more respect for you if you went through what they did. (And for the record, I do not know morse code. YET. but i do have a book and a CD program to teach me, so knock on wood, hopefully soon.)
    6. FIND AN ELMER! If you already have an Elmer, buy him a cup of coffee and bring him a pack of his favorite cookies. Talk his ear off.

    As you can see, I used "Don't Memorize" twice. Its because it is that important. Like I said before, Ham radio is a hobby where you get out what you put in. If you sit there and memorize a bunch of questions, then you will know how to take a standardized test. If you LEARN and put in tons of effort, you will reap tons of rewards.

    73s and good luck to all of you!
  2. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    Great post!

    I hope that your message gets through to some of those folk who you address.

    It is still much, much better if you know and understand the material before you go to take the tests. Yes it's a pain, but as you stated, you get more of of it.

    73, and Thanks for the great post...

    Gary WG7X
  3. AF6LJ

    AF6LJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is indeed a great post, we become empowered when we know what is in that box between the microphone and the antenna.
  4. K8MHZ

    K8MHZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    For some people, not all of course, passing the test any legal way they can is the first step and motivation to get deeper into and learn the material.

    The OP seems to be taking that course.

    A question to the OP. What was your score and if you just skipped the questions you memorized the answers for, would you have still passed?

    And congrats on passing.
  5. K5GC

    K5GC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Actually I memorized the entire question pool and if memory serves, I got 1 General question wrong and 2 Extra questions wrong. I can see where you would think that upgrading my way could be motivational, but in my eyes, it isn't. It is basically legal cheating. I sat and took the test on my merits, but I didn't know what I was doing. Like i say, I really feel as if I cheated myself out of a great learning experience. It is not a path I recommend.
    73 WW1F

  6. KV6O

    KV6O Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's not cheating. Getting your ticket isn't the end, it's the beginning. Plus, this is a technical hobby, not open heart surgery. There is a proper emphases on safety, and some technical questions, and that's it. Getting a drivers license (where you can really do some damage) is easier.

    Once you get your license the real learning begins. Build stuff, fix stuff, figure out why you have RF in the shack, etc. Read articles, books, etc. Know where to go to find information! That's probably the most important thing, you don't have to (and can't) know it all, but know where to find the answers. I have learned/re-learned LOTS in the 10+ years being a ham. My bench is now filled with tools and equipment I didn't have prior to becoming a ham. I know MUCH MORE now than I did when I passed my Extra. That's the goal - set your course when you get your ticket and never stop learning.

  7. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    It isn't cheating, but it's really a lot more work than actually learning the material. This stuff isn't rocket science. It isn't even brain surgery. With a little effort, most people can learn to actually design useful electronic devices, even if they wouldn't recognize a polar coordinate if it bit them.

    For those wanting to make those transitions, I've recently reviewed three really good books that I think should help to give you the basic concepts.
    ARRL's BASIC Electronics, BASIC Radio, and BASIC Antennas will take you through the theory without a lot of math. I think that even those who spent hours studying the License Manual will learn a lot from these books. The BASIC Antennas book is probably much better for a beginner than the ARRL Antenna Book.
    Then, they have more advanced books that take you through how to design stuff.
  8. NI7I

    NI7I Guest

    I would add "electronic communications" by Bill Shrader. It has a lot of tube theory but is a great text with questions and ansers after each
    chapt4er. It's what I used when I was studying for my commercial telegraph test a million uears ago.

    Technically I call it cheating. Tje ham ticket is, indeed, for manym, a beginning. However, I believe you should start with a bit of knowledge.
    the way it is now you dont. With memory as an option, I feel they should simply do away with the test and just have each aplicant
    fill out a form with a question : Do you understand the basics of electronics, the safety elements required, and regulations that govern
    the hobby... check the yes box, pay the fee and get your license. No pretense required..


  9. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    I took a different route to essentially the same place. Novice in 1974, General in 1975. I learned
    everything I could read - studied and studied, and actually understood most of it in a way that I
    could teach others. Then over the ensuing decades slowly forgot most of it due to lack of use
    and practice. Then in 1995 I got back in the hobby and studied and studied again, this time for
    my extra (still had the 20-WPM requirement as well). Again, I learned the concepts - passed the
    test based on that - and once again, over the ensuing years, forgot much of what I had learned.

    So here I am, 52 and almost 20 years since upgrading, relearning all sorts of stuff on a daily
    basis yet again... but this time for the knowledge of it, not just a license upgrade.

    But as was posted, it's just a technical hobby - not heart surgery.

  10. N0JKU

    N0JKU Ham Member QRZ Page

    As a Technician who took my test 18 or so years ago. I finally would like to move forward, and perhaps can find the time to do so. I will take the advice on; (ARRL's BASIC Electronics, BASIC Radio, and BASIC Antennas). My biggest issue has been finding friendly clubs and/or individuals in my area. Let alone finding an ELMER. I called most of them the "grumpy group", as that the welcome wagon was just not part of their program. Which could be part of why I lost interest and never kept up with the craft. Now at 47, I have slowly collected some equipment (that I can not operate, so it is not even setup) and a tower (still horizontal). I plan to pick up those books and read them. Hopefully, I can move forward again.

    This thread has been helpful, thanks for the advice.

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