Did I read it right? I was on the ARRL site and it looks as if their manuals for the ham exams include all the questions *and answers* in the exam pool. Can this be true? I also heard that the FAA gives the answers to the questions for pilots' IFR licences.
How can standards be maintained if answers to exam questions are given? Answers to exam questions are guarded like gold dust on this side of the pond.
How I know this is they came out just AFTER I finished taking all of my tests! I would not have used them anyway (wink wink) :-)
I will say in the case of pilots having the answers to the written tests is only a small part of the battle. You still have to learn to fly the aircraft and all checkrides have a question/answer part which is usually harder than the written anyway. My question answer for my ATP was 4.5 hours long! Then I had to go fly for close to 2 hours.
Now, before the religious debate begins and community chaos ensues on the virtue or lack there of multiple choice ham testing, I want to recommend that everyone on both sides of the debate keep it civil and any criticism productive. I will close the thread in a heartbeat if this discussion goes off the rails.
@Guy - the size of the pool is pretty large, and if you study the questions you will end up studying the material a consensus-process decided were the most important for the tested level.
This style is fairly common stateside - very large pools of published material which makes a student who only uses the exam-pool for study material work pretty hard to learn a lot of questions for only a few actual exam questions.
In the context of confirming a candidate meets certain qualifications it is hard to say whether the large published pool of the USA style or the (semi-)unpublished pool style of the UK system have enough difference in results to make much of the difference.
The UK questions eventually are unofficially published somehow and as not all of the USA large pool are included in exams somehow the reduced list of what is tested becomes known.
I do have to say that I like the UK style of marking teaching material "Recall"/"Understand"/"Identify" to tell a person studying what they have to commit to memory like a phone number, what they have to be able to use the learned knowledge, like making change, and what they have to recognize & label.
Interesting observation and having grown up with both systems I hadn't appreciated the cross-cultural alarm that published large pools might bring.
It used to be that a whole class room filled with people taking a test for the same element all had the same test to take (copping from one another and cheating) now days the chance of more then 1 in several hundred tests being the same is very very high. thus cutting down on cheating and coping from another person taking the test.
Which is better at testing the applicants knowledge of the theory?
Who really know as everyone has there won opinion.
I have also noticed that lots of radio controlled planes, helicopters and quad-copters operate in the ham bands. Many of the manuals state that the operator must hold an amateur radio license. Most of those folks don't want to do anything with radio other than fly their machines. The question pool makes it very easy for them to pass the exam. Requiring them to be licensed seems silly to me. Maybe the intent is just to increase the number of licensed hams?
I was a VE when I lived up in Alaska. When they started publishing the question pool, I was surprised at how many folks memorized the answers, took the exam and aced it. Many of them didn't even know how to work the math problems but were able to memorize the answers and actually get 100%. Some hams took offense to this and thought it as going to make it way to easy to get a license and it would soon be like using the Citizen Band radio. Just listening across 80m and up on 14.313 at times makes me wonder if they weren't right. Others thought it was the right move because we were loosing numbers and people were just no longer interested in ham radio, especially after the internet and cellphone industry started taking off. Dropping the CW requirement was sort of looked at the same way.
Very few armatures - especially new ones have any intention to build or repair any equipment especially now with the surface mounted stuff. Why have everyone studying electronics theory when it they will never use it? Shoot, just look at how many folks won't even build their own dipole antenna let alone a quad, yagi or simple vertical. At one time, a large number of armature operators were electronic engineers, or communications specialists. Not so much any more! I remember when folks would ask me to fix their TV just because they knew I was a licensed ham and understood electronics. Not so much any more!
As technology advances, more and more companies are scrambling for bandwidth. Without a large number of licensed amateurs, we'll be hard pressed to retain the frequency allocations we currently have. Is publishing the question pool and increasing the number of licensed ops the way to do that, I don't know....
So I see this whole question pool issue as a double edged sword. It makes getting an amateur radio license so easy that having the license is no longer much of an achievement and it doesn't retain any sort of technological endorsement. While the present exam process presents just enough effort to discourage only a few people, it makes it possible to license enough people so we can retain the frequency allocations we've been given.
I hope I kept the train on the rails Tim!
When I took my multiengine ATP checkride the examiner said it was one of the finest checkrides he had ever given. When I got my floatplane rating in Moose Pass, Alaska in a Super Cub, the grumpy examiner said I was one of the worst pilots he had ever flown with. Sigh ... he then went on and said that every engineer, doctor, and lawyer should burn their licenses because none of us really know how to fly. He seemed proud of the fact that he dropped out of school in the 7th grade and was now a FAA flight examiner. The guy was a moron ... but surely a great pilot!
FAA: Kid, you fly like those yokels down south in Oregon who can't fly for nuthin. Where you from?
Me: Oregon, sir
It does seem a tad odd to have the exam answers available although I believe the order within the answers is mixed up. So for a particular question you can't just say B for example. The math questions should change the parameters a bit so as to mix things up for those who memorize. Extra license has a very large pool.
Having the answers was good but before taking the test the grilling by Flight Instructors was as bad as taking the test. On test day, the FAA designated examiner had his/her turn. If one does not study this well (especially IFR) you'll eventually weed yourself out. As long as you don't take an unwitting passengers of someone on the ground.
The Professional Engineers exam as open book but and all day exam. Open book sounds easy but there were few questions and they were very tricky and required showing all the derivations / equations.
Forget about it...
The ham question pool is only 400 question and they give you the answers. Anyone should be able to memorize test in less than a week
PE I grandfathered in before there was a test
PhD. Defending the thesis iwas actually hard workr as they eclaimed I have done nothing novel until I dragged them to the library to show them the books I have written that set the standards.
FAA. I'm far too blind to land the planes
While there is always room for improvement, I think the Ham Licensing Procedures do a pretty good job the way they are currently set up. My rationale is as follows:
We are part of a very broad based hobby that uses the same exam structure for everyone seeking entrance. Whether your interest is Public Sevice, Emergency Communications, Rag Chewing, Contesting, Leading Edge Technology, etc. the test structure is the same. FCC Regulations, Operating Procedures, etc. are brute memory issues. Propagation, Electronics, Etc. are a different issue and the number of questions dedicated to non-technical versus technical questions is a matter for debate.
The Extra Class question pool currently has 702 questions. The test one takes will include 50 questions from the question pool. Successful completion of the test does not certify one an expert in anything. It simply allows you more operating privileges.
To remain a viable organization we need to continually recruit new members to replace the silent keys. We should congratulate and welcome the young person referenced in the above comments rather than belittle him. As I recall, from the you tube, he is in the eigth grade and has a Yeasu FT 450D. He has built a dipole, vertical, and inverted L antenna.
I was originally licensed in the early 1970s and had to walk barefoot thru the snow from Portsmouth, RI. to Boston, Mass. to take the test at the FCC Office. I achieved Advanced Class status but never made Extra. I used the code requirement as an excuse. I let my license expire and when I rejoined the hobby I flunked the Advanced Class test and I am now a General. Since the code requirement is gone I have been toying with the idea of going for Extra. I have retired in Florida, so I will not have to walk thru the snow to take the test. However, at the tender age of 78 yrs. memorizing the answer to all 702 questions will be a bit of a challenge.
CB became very popular because it was easy. You want to a store, bought a radio, threw up an antenna and on a good day you were talking hundreds of miles. No code, no test.
We used to try to convert CBers to hams and the big hurdle for most was the 5 wpm code. Some balked at the written test.
But in my humble opinion the goal of any licensing system is two fold:
1) To provide a reasonable level of record keeping and control over the privilege you are licensing. IE you'd like to know who it was that just transmitted 1kw over the weather fax broadcast! But then again without using your call it is very difficult to be tracked. In radio our licenses and use of our privileges is mostly on the honor system. But the record keeping does provide a way to validate that we are who we are and we are operating according to law.
2) (this will be a stretch for some but...) to encourage people to make use of the think you are licensing for. Yes.. that is right... to encourage people in the case of ham radio to become radio operators, learn that skill and even how it all works.
When I taught flying, it was very surprising how hard it was for people that had never done it to use the radio and talk to ground/tower etc. Most of these people were willing to touch the controls of the airplane which if handled wrong could do lots of damage and even deal out death to themselves and people on the ground. When pressing the transmit button the mic could do very little in contrast. Still it was hard for some of these people because they didn't want to appear as idiots "over the air" to use the radio. I had to rehearse what to say and show them numerous times how to say it and what the sequence was.
So for us picking up a mic and talking is easy. But not for all. So enter ham radio... My opinion is that the "novice" test, even years ago should have attempted to suggest they learn code and teach them some guidelines for basic operation.
I think most VE's did this. Even if you couldn't quite cut the 5 wpm most of us got our novices if we just showed some basic knowledge. It is a license to learn in my opinion.
So I think to encourage people into the hobby you should make the entry level licenses pretty easy. In fact in the novice you should make it almost impossible to fail.
For higher classes, sure, ask more. As far as the questions being in a pool with answers I think like many things having a question, then an answer often spurred me to want to understand the answer so I went and read about it thus the learning occurred.
Mark, your comments on 'mic fright' among pilots, reminded me of when I was getting my PPL in the early 80s. My instructor, an old tail-dragging crop duster, and one of the best pilots I've ever known, absolutely hated using the radio. When we flew into controlled fields, he'd always have me handling the radios, because as a ham, it was second-nature to me.
BTW, if one can memorize hundreds of questions and correct answers, there is a chance that some useful information will rub off. That said, memorize and regurgitate is the least effective approach to teaching and learning.
In terms of my background, I design, create, and teach college-level online courses about music for two universities. It is difficult to design an effective course.
This is one reason why I stopped being a VEC (volunteer examiner) back in the early 1990's.
I witness an individual take all the exams, from Novice to Amateur Extra in one sitting; in less than 4 hours. I asked him how he was able to accomplish that task; his answer was "I read the question and answer for the past weeks."
You also read about kids passing their amateur extra exam (I know there are exceptions).
Some barely know how to read or write; are they though how to memorize the sequence of the question answers?
My question is who are the examiners and how are the prospective hams being feed the questions?I lost my respect for any and all recently licensed amateur since the VEC program was instituted.
This isn't a whole lot different than taking the driver's license exam in most states where there is a manual with all of the answers you need in one convenient booklet.
Making the exam more difficult to pass doesn't help the hobby. Not everyone needs to know every element of the exam in detail. A good example are first responders who take the exam just so they can use ham radio CERT equipment during drills and disasters. It's likely that those folks won't ever go beyond using a hand held radio in FM mode, so knowing things like how to calculate the inductance in a coil are not going to be of use to them.
More knowledge is gained from the "Elmering" process and from practical application that will ever be learned from studying for an exam.