Home - Learning Material - Clubs - Posters

Amateur Radio Info & Exams - Exams

Under International Telecommunications Union (ITU) regulations, national governments are required to have those who wish to take part in Amateur Radio demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to operate safely, and without causing interference to other users of the radio spectrum. Typically, licences are graded, with entry level options, and options which provide access to a wider range of frequencies and/or "modes", and sometimes more power. Thankfully, these tests are typically multiple choice, with the exception of the practical test it the Australian system.

Exams are run by either the government department responsible for radio communications; or by delegation to bodies such as the national association for Amateur Radio in that country, or other groups. Fees vary from country to country.


There are three grades of licence, Foundation, Standard, and Advanced. Each has access to at least some HF bands, and to increasing numbers of VHF and UHF bands. Power levels increase with the licence grade.

As of early 2024 the exam system is undergoing change for the second time in the decade. The big upside is that volunteer invigilators (termed "assessors") will work with the ACMA, with no fee charged. A fees will apply for a certificate and for a callsign, but licence fees are being abolished.

The person, once granted a callsign operates under a "Class Licence". This was the alternative to ACMA requesting a new lifetime, fee-free licence type for recreational purposes to be legislated (say also covering small boats, where an authority holding contact details is useful in an emergency). Whether it meets ITU regulations requiring a licence issued by a government is a bit "yes, no, maybe" to me.

The date of effect is 19 February 2024. You can read more on the ACMA and WIA sites, especially once these arrangements kick in.


In the US system the current levels are Technician, General, and Extra, sometimes called Amateur Extra. Each paper combines the theory, practice, and regulations relating to operation permitted by the licence. As knowledge is cumulative in this system, it is necessary to pass each paper up to the level desired. On the upside, the one fee covers one attempt at each paper, (generally) provided the previous paper is passed.

It is possible to pass at Technician or General, then come back weeks, months or years later to upgrade.

There are 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinators in the US. Some appear to have been founded around a few local clubs oin a single city. Others are national organisations with be the largest, a department within the ARRL. They are listed here: NCVEC

While no new VECs are being registered by the FCC, a group of VEs have coalessed around the HamStudy and ExamTools sites, offering remote exams, initiated during COVID.

Several sites list exams, such as: ARRL - Find an Exam Session and HamStudy - Find and Exam Session. Both include links to online exams.

Fees vary, and are capped at US$16, although US$15 is the maximum charged. Laurel VEC charges no fee.

US Volunteer Examiners in Australia

Those in eastern Australia have access to exams in the US system, and if they wish, to reciprocal licensing.

This was set up when Australian exams were incredibly expensive, but this service has multiple uses, mentioned below.

The US system has three levels of licence, and through reciprocal licence arrangements, they allow candidates to apply for the "equivalent" Australian licence level, of which there are also three,

The benefit of the US (ARRL/VEC) system is that the session fee is only US$15, or around A$23 as of January 2024.

US exams are also useful for existing Amateurs who are travelling to the US, and want to remove power limits from reciprocal arrangements; hold US citizenship; or who do not have a passport and licence which match (required under US rules); want to be a Volunteer Examiner; want an extra qualification for the CV; or who just want a challenge. This exam may also enable an Australian to obtain a licence for Thailand.

To find the next session, select Australia on this search tool: ARRL - Find an Exam Session

Should they resume, Volunteer Examiners will attempt to be at "Mayham" or similar events held at Wyong, NSW.

You will need a US address, whether a friend's, a business contact, or a forwarding service (Shopmate has closed). Obtaining an FRN (FCC Registration Number) online for this address is now compulsory, using this online form, ahead of the exam. It is quite simple, with guidance availabe here.

You MUST select a contact address within the US, or its territories, that is, where the US Postal Service is the mail delivery organisation. While this system allows one outside the US, but this can only be used for business radio, etc, NOT amateur. If you have a friend in Guam, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, (US) Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Alaska, then the system should give you a more interesting callsign, or allow you to select one via the "vanity" system.

On the day, you need two HB or No. 2 pencils, an eraser (rubber), a ballpoint pen for multipart (self-carboned) and licence forms, a non-programmable calculator (optional, but it must NOT be part of a 'phone, tablet, or computer); there is no fixed time for completing each paper. ID is required, and if upgrading from another US licence, a printout of this.

Payment is required, and if outside the US, depending on the examiner, US$15 cash, local cash as indicated by them, or potentially, a cheque from a US bank for US$15 made out to "ARRL/VEC" can be used. GLAARG exams may have lower fees.

The exam process includes completing the application for a licence. Once it is processed by the VEC, you will be emailed with an invoice for US$35. This can be paid using a credit or debit card, or for those with a US bank account, from that account. The licence can be renewed online after 10 years.

Once your licence is in the FCC Universal Licence System, it is ready for use.

This licence includes a callsign from the Sequential Call Sign System, and will be licence type: HA

Vanity Callsigns

You can obtain a personalised "Vanity Callsign", using the FCC online form here. Notes from the ARRL. Info, especially on 1x2 and 2x1 callsigns, can be found on AE7Q's page.

Note that a non-refundable fee applies. If you are going for an in-demand short call it may be wise to apply for several callsigns, ranked by choice order.

Some VKs apply for a call which removes the V, getting something like K7ABC, others swap letters to form one like KV3TV, or go for the format AK8NT or NK1CA. W is the first letter option.

Your old callsign will be cancelled, and the new licence type will be: HV

Using this licence to obtain and Australian licence

From 19 February 2024 an application for a callsign and licence can be made at: ACMA - Amateur Radio

For US licences issued before 15 April 2000 a Novice license is good for a VK Standard, and all others for a Advanced. For specific later date ranges other equivalences apply:ACMA Equivalences

You may be able to request a callsign containing your intitials. Depending on your state or territory, a callsign with a 2 letter suffix may be available if you are applying for an Advanced licence (they are very desirable, and only 676 can exist, versus north of 16,000 general-use 3 letter calls per areas). Some may prefer a callsign with fewer elements in Morse, to make sending it shorter, such as ET, just "dit dah" vs "dah-di-dah-dah di-dah-dah-dah di-di-dit" for my own call - I certainly wasn't thinking about Morse when I selected YJS. Avoiding repeated letters may help reduce confusion during contests, or when working a rare DX station during a pileup, or "dog-pile".

Prior to this date an application can be made via the Maritime College in Tasmania, a business unit of UTAS, for a callsign recommendations which is forwarded to ACMA, with all manner of fees applying.

Due to a number of individuals who had originally conned the above organisation into applying for the franchise, and the loss of profits an alternative rigorous, affordable, all-Amateur exam process posed, it is possible that rules made to protect said profits mean that exams applied for using this process may be limited to one year, unless a fee is paid for "Recognition of Prior Learning". This is partly due to a the US licences not being HAREC licences, unlike some CEPT member ones. There is however an "Exchange of Notes constituting an Agreement" numbered "Australian Treaty Series Number: [1965] ATS 8", and by the US "UNTS 541 p. 155; TIAS 5836". See: Text on AUSTLII

Becoming a VE

Once you have either the General, Advanced, or Extra licence you can become a Volunteer Examiner, and help others become licensed.

For the ARRL-VEC the manual and forms can be found on the Become an ARRL VE page.

You can also apply to GLAARG (Greater Los Angeles Amateur Radio Group) VEC.

Further comments

No group has any form of exclusivity over ARRL-VEC exams in Australia, or US exams in general in this country. If others can convince another VEC to accredit them, they could provide these services at a lower fee, or free. Other VECs are listed on the NCVEC, and can choose to list their exams in the ARRL list above.

If you are a VE, or want to form a group to serve your area, you aer most welcome to say G'day.

VEs are empowered to make appropriate adjustments to the exam process, such as reading the questions and answers to those unable to read them for any reason, and can conduct exams in homes or residential care facilities, when needed.

If you are an existing Australian (or other) Amateur going for the Extra straight up, don't take the General paper for granted, as different knowledge, including of regulations, is required.


Find OZ VE on Facebook: USA Amateur Radio Licence Exams in Australia

VEA, Volunteer Examiners Australia is at vea.org.au.

This domain was once held by a quasi-religious group, so if your library or school blocks (censors) it, you need to insist that they get it unblocked, going to management of necessary, or the department of education, or state library, etc, complaining of unlawful and unethical censorship of the new, education related site. You can also complain to the company running the web filtering, as I had to do for my local library's Internet.

But I'm not in SE Oz!

For other countries see the IARU Member Societies List, or google: Amateur Radio your country

US Exams are available in a number of additional countries, with frequent or on-demand sessions in UK, Germany, Italy, and Japan, among others. They are listed on the ARRL page.

Another group is the Laurel VEC: Info, Sessions, & Teams.

Written by Julian Sortland, VK2YJS & AG6LE, January 2024.

Tip? US$2, A$3, NZ$4, GB£2, or other. Thanks!

You can also buy me a non-coffee beverage: ko-fi.com/ag6le