HamRadioNow: That ARRL Entry Level License Survey

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KN4AQ, Mar 2, 2017.

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  1. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes. Question pool "bloat" is only a problem if you are trying to memorize the question pool.

    Regardless of the number of questions in the pool, it all comes from the same knowledge base. For example, the frequency/mode priviledges for any given license class. There's not really very much information involved, but there's probably a hundred different ways to ask questions about it.

    Question pool "bloat" is for the most part mandated by the FCC.

    The MINIMUM number of questions in the pool for Technician is mandated at ten times the number of questions on a test, which is 35, so the pool must be at least 350.

    First question is whather a pool of 350 is "bloated". Because if you want fewer than 350 questions in Technician, the only option is to petition for a change to FCC regulations: 97.503 to reduce the number of test questions from 35 to some lower number, or 97.523 to reduce the multiplier from 10 to some smaller number.

    The actual pool is about 20% oversize (426) which at first glance seems excessive but there is a reason for it. So the most that could be done with changing Part 97 is to reduce the over-size substantially, but you still have to have at least 350 plus enough "extra" questions for those instances when one of the pool questions turns out to be problematic for some reason and has to be deleted.

    There are 35 subject categories in the pool with about 12 questions each. i.e. 10 each (to make the 350 total required by FCC) plus 2 spares. 2 spare questions per category seems reasonable. But that adds up to 70 excess questions.

    One could reduce the question pool by 35 questions by reducing the number of "spares" to only 1. That's not very much. So one has to look at possibly eliminating some of the subject categories.

    The FCC did not mandate 35 subject categories. They only require that it " ... be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee. .... 35 questions concerning the privileges of a Technician Class operator license". For example, if instead of 35 subject categories with 12 questions each (420) would it be more palatable to have, say 25 subject categories with 15 questions each (total 375 questions)?

    Well, you might wonder, if 426 questions is "bloated" then why isn't 375 "bloated". The difference is fewer independent subject categories to study, which makes it "easier".

    So ... which 10 subject categories could be deleted? Here's the list of subject categories (from the QRZ.com resources page)- which ten could be eliminated?

    Even if all that is done, you're still stuck with minimum 350 questions in the pool.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
    N5IPA and AB4D like this.
  2. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    So what I'm saying is that, IF (not everyone agrees) one considers the Technician question pool to be "bloated", there's not much can be done about it.

    - Petition for change of Part 97 to reduce question pool requirements (which FCC will likely not agree to).
    - Whine about it on the internet but don't propose any viable solutions.
    - Reminisce about the good old days of the Novice license but do not propose any viable solutions for today.
    - Do what we can to change the NCVEC approach to testing, within the existing rules.
    - Teach the knowledge base, not how to memorize the question pool.
    N5IPA and AB4D like this.
  3. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Actually, you are wrong. Take for example the abbreviations used for mail--MO for Missouri, CA for California, NV for Nevada, AZ for Arizona, and so on.
  4. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    As for creating a whole new license class for "entry level". That would require substantial changes to Part 97. I don't see it happening, especially given that FCC has in the past declined to do so.

    And if you create an "entry level" license that's "below" Technician, would people who get that license then have to go through Technician anyway to get to General or Extra? Seems like that would be even more of a turn-off than just going straight to Technician. Would people be required to start at "Entry" or could they skip to Technician?

    So the only approach to changing Part 97 that in my opinion has any non-negligible change to succeed would be to request minor tweaks to the existing Technician license.

    I'd suggest:

    1. Add some limited HF data privileges in existing Technician CW allowances.
    2. Reduce the number of test questions to 25 from 35
    3. Reduce the multiplier from 10 to 8.
    4. Elminate the Element 2 requirement for General. i.e. let people just skip Technician and go right for General.

    Although my own feeling is that this won't change much in the end.

    In my opinion, "young people" aren't becoming hams because they consider it lame, not because they think it's too hard.
    AB4D likes this.
  5. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just FYI, I would eliminate the following subject categories from the Technician test pool

    T5B Math for electronics: conversion of electrical units; decibels; the metric system
    T5C Electronic principles: capacitance; inductance; current flow in circuits; alternating current; definition of RF; DC power calculations; impedance
    T5D Ohm's Law: formulas and usage
    T6A Electrical components: fixed and variable resistors; capacitors and inductors; fuses; switches; batteries
    T6B Semiconductors: basic principles and applications of solid state devices; diodes and transistors
    T6C Circuit diagrams; schematic symbols
    T6D Component functions: rectification; switches; indicators; power supply components; resonant circuit; shielding; power transformers; integrated circuits
    T7D Basic repair and testing: soldering; using basic test instruments; connecting a voltmeter, ammeter, or ohmmeter
    T8B Amateur satellite operation; Doppler shift, basic orbits, operating protocols; control operator, transmitter power considerations; satellite tracking; digital modes
    T8C Operating activities: radio direction finding; radio control; contests; linking over the Internet; grid locators

    This is all stuff that is easily picked up once you're licensed, and these days, unlike "back in the day" when a lot of hams built their own equipment, there's not much need to know it going in.

    What would remain in the question pool is all the regulatory and safety related categories and enough operating practices categories to allow new hams to get on the air without making asses of themselves.
  6. AB4D

    AB4D Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I somewhat agree. I believe Chip W1YW, is correct when he stated, "Not hard---BORING. If it looks like school work they will avoid it like the plague." IMO, young people find that ham radio is neither interesting enough, nor offers a high enough rate of return, in exchange for the amount of effort that is required to learn the extensive subject matter for the Technician class. That attitude seem prevalent when considering an upgrade as well.

    As previously noted, sadly some will just memorize the Q and A to circumvent the task of learning something new. N5IPA is correct, when he said, they are cheating themselves.

    Nevertheless, those that value a system of merit, people that we really need to recruit, choose not to pursue a license. I've found the discussion to be interesting and lively. Many of us are very passionate about amateur radio, and that is good. There have been a significant number of suggestions, but as you note, some of the suggestions may be constrained by current regulations.

    73, Jim AB4D
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  7. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    "recruit" is something you do to fill a job or to staff an army

    I think we want to engage or invite or ... well there's got to be a lot of other words better than recruit
  8. WB0MPB

    WB0MPB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I am not saying you are wrong I just wonder why that is and why it has changed since I got my license? When I got mine it was part of school work. It was part of the curricular in our high school electronics class. And it was not boring. The teacher made it fun to learn it (the theory and the code) and having a Heathkit complete station sitting in the room waiting for me to get my hands on it was a motivating factor. And those trips to the Kansas City FCC were a fun outing for us.
    Just curious your thoughts why now making it school work boring and today's kids avoid it "like the plague".
    My grandson at 8 already has it in his school work and we like to play with his electronic building kit together and he already knows a lot about electronics. I have even thought about getting me a really hi tech electronic kit myself to play with. Something like this. I am sure a lot of hams would laugh at me for playing with one of these but I think it would be fun and keep more of the electronics stuff I learned in my head. Build something and then study the circuit to remember why it works. I know this would be way below many of you and I would be ridiculed but it would keep the wheels going in my head and keep what I use to know from continuing to leave my head. And maybe add this book to study deeper.
    Just my crazy thinking.
    John, WB0MPB
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2017
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  9. AB4D

    AB4D Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Perhaps, there are other words that may be more appropriate. However, I note that is the official ARRL language they use to describe the effort to attract new hams. Quoting from the ARRL's website..."Spread the word! ARRL has the tools to help you recruit new hams and ARRL members: display materials, handouts, tips and more..." http://www.arrl.org/get-involved

    Maybe you are on to something. It's not the testing and all that silliness about making the subject matter less voluminous. They've just been using the wrong words to attract new hams. ;)

    I agree John. Those were the best classes in high school. The extra curriculum courses, that taught useful hands on subjects, analog electronics, small engine repair, auto mechanics, industrial arts, etc. I took them all. I had the same teacher for both electronics and industrial arts. I was able to build simple electronic projects and wood cabinets to house my projects, and received credits for both subjects. It was a great time.

    I believe it's marvelous that you are spending time with your grandson, and teaching him electronics. Sounds like you both are having a good time, with an educational bonus. I can't even conceive how anyone can construe anything negative about that, so enjoy the time.

    I tend to side with Chip's point of view, regarding why young people have a disdain for the entry level test. The voluminous subject matter, resembles home work. What young person wants more homework? That has not changed too much over the years. Additionally, looking at today's curriculum. It's very different than it was decades ago. I've monitored conversations on our local repeater, where we have several teachers that routinely talk. Much of what they once taught is no more. One teacher has changed school systems several times in the last few years, because they eliminated the industrial arts program each time. The teaching of industrial arts and analog electronics in the mainstream curriculum, has been supplanted by the teaching of digital related subjects. such as Computer Aided Design, Digital Graphics, Digital Photography, and Computer Labs. They are not really teaching anything analog anymore.

    Analog is old and boring, digital is new and exciting. It's just a perception, but one I've seen first hand, when talking to young people, mainly teens, about amateur radio. They just don't seem all that interested. Nevertheless, I still am not sold on the idea, that ham radio is dying. Listening to the bands this weekend, surely does not seem consistent with that idea.
  10. NN4RH

    NN4RH Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    That's actually why I think the ARRL approach is doomed to fail. You don't "recruit" people into a hobby. Especially if you expect them to stay for long. If it were interesting and appealing, they'll come without having to be pursued and dragged in.

    It's the mind-set. We have to get past the mind-set that it's all about what the ARRL wants, and accept that it really is what the "young people" want that matters. Until "we" understand that, nothing useful will come of this.
    N5IPA likes this.

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