What kind of calculator?

Discussion in 'Becoming a Ham - Q&A' started by K6JK, Apr 28, 2010.

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  1. KC5JIM

    KC5JIM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Each of the three tests that I took had calculators provided by the VE's. That may have just been a particular nicety of the Radio Society of Tucson VE team, but I would hope that it would be a widespread occurance.

    As for the actual NEED for a calculator, we all have different capabilites regarding math. I can do advanced calculus and trig in my head. Some people need help to balance a checkbook. If someone feels better having
    a calculator along for ANY test, then I say take a calculator.
  2. K6JK

    K6JK Ham Member QRZ Page

    There's a difference between mathematics and arithmetic. When doing math and physics in college almost all problems involved mathematics and not arithmetic, and for the arithmetic they let you use a calculator.

    I'm interested ham amateur radio, but not enough to bother with doing long division. I learned how to make ALUs so that I wouldn't have to do arithmetic.

    I'll get a cheapie calculator at the grocery store in case I need it.
  3. K6JK

    K6JK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, that was annoying. After all that studying about RMS calculations, transistor ratios, etc....none of it was on the test I got. *sigh*

    But out of all 70 questions (technician + general)...I got one wrong on the general. They won't tell me what it was, though. :(
  4. N0IU

    N0IU Ham Member QRZ Page


    As far as your test score, try not to worry too much about it. I think everyone is curious about what question(s) they missed, but the bottom line is that your test grade does not show up on your license!
  5. N7AIG

    N7AIG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Depends on how you approach the problems...

    If you learned to "plug-and-chug" formulas, then a calculator is the first thing you reach for. But I just took the Extra (Part 4) this morning, and what you find in the technical (math) questions is a selection of possible answers, where all but the correct one can be almost immediately dismissed as incorrect.

    You can plug numbers into the calculator and you'll find a small discrepancy between the value you arrive at, and the correct answer presented on the choices.

    The tests are worded mostly so that if you just think about what they are asking you can arrive at the "most reasonable" answer without ever doing any arithmetic.

    Example: 2 220 microfarad caps in parallel, joined in series with two 1 megohm resistors in parallel. What is the resulting time constant?

    Well, you know that the two parallel caps double the capacitance, but the two parallel resistors halve their resistance. So this is the same problem as just one 220 microfarad in series with a 1 megohm resistor. Answer = 220 seconds. Other choices in the test might have been 22 seconds, 440 seconds, and 44 seconds.

    So even if you can't multiply 220 by 1, you can see that the other answers are so far from correct that it is easy to pick out the most likely answer. But you have to resist the urge to "plug and chug" formulas. You'll get the right answer if you do, but it will take you longer to get there, compared with just simple reasoning.

    Also... I strongly recommend against ever attempting to just memorize formulas. I remember doing just that in my first college physics course, then when the exam came, I couldn't quite remember the correct formulas. I blew that test big time...

    But I learned to "learn the material" and then you can derive the equations as needed, whenever you need them. After that first exam, I went on to ace every remaining physics exam, go on to get a PhD in Astrophysics, and I never looked back.

    After all... all of Einstein's Special Relativity Theory can be reduced to just one simple statement -- that the speed of light in any inertial reference frame is a fundamental constant value.

    From that simple statement all else follows -- Electrodynamics, the Twin-Paradox, and so forth.

    So simple reasoning is always preferable to "plug-and-chug" -- what if your formula is misremembered?

    73 de N7AIG/AE
    Last edited: May 16, 2010
  6. W0VYE

    W0VYE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've taken and passed a few ham exams over the years, including the old Advanced test and the current Tech and General exams. I've never failed a test. I don't think it makes any difference at all what you take. You don't have to demonstrate mastery, only pass the test. I think that on most exams you can actually get all (or at least most) of the math questions wrong and still pass. Don't worry about it, and save your money. 73
  7. K5RCD

    K5RCD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    At our VE sessions we simply have the applicant demonstrate that their calculator memory is clear.

    We have a couple calculators, one simple math calculator and one scientific calculator to furnish anyone if necessary.

    I must say though that a good scientific calculator is quite valuable for the Extra Class exams. It is also very helpful for better understanding of radio theory - it simplifies things and keeps the math from getting in the way.

    A really GREAT scientific calculator, the TI 30Xa, is available at Wally World for less than 10 bucks. I highly recommend it.

    [​IMG] :cool:
  8. KD8DEY

    KD8DEY Ham Member QRZ Page


    I Should have gone to Wally World!

    Just paid $16bux for one at Wallgreens after leaving my "regular" calculator in my other "Skool" bag )_($(*(_^$&( :mad:
  9. AC0FP

    AC0FP Ham Member QRZ Page

    I took a RPN calculator in to take my Extra, I was the only one in the room that brought a calculator to take the test. The VE's didn't say anything about it. I needed the calculator because I didn't use the study guide ahead of time. I probably used it on maybe five problems, the other problems were based on common formulas regularly used in electronics so the answers were obvious.

  10. KF5FEI

    KF5FEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    H-P calculators have no equal!

    I had to laugh -- when I went in to take my test all I had was an HP-48, which is programmable, and likely not allowed. Realizing that, I decided to use the calculator on my iPhone. Took a look at it, and it was only a basic calculator. Only later did I realize that if you rotate the phone horizontal it switches to a scientific calculator. Big DUH! moment.
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