As you look at the tile of this blog post, you’re probably wondering:  “Okay, his call sign is there, but why the “/AE?”  Excellent question!

Today I took the third and final amateur radio license exam and successfully upgraded my license to “Extra Class.”  Even though I don’t have the actual license in-hand showing that I earned the license upgrade, I do have the Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE), which does give me the green light to use the Extra Class portions of the amateur bands.  Until the FCC officially updates my license, I need to add the “/AE” when operating CW or digital modes, or simply saying “temporary AE on phone” when operating in the Extra portions of the bands.  This way, no one will — or should — question my operating privileges.

Upgrading to the Extra Class license has been kind of a long process for me.  It’s not that it was overly difficult for me to do, I just didn’t make the time to do it.  I purchased the Extra manual back in 2005 with the intention of upgrading before the new question pool came out in 2008.  The year 2008 came and went, and I didn’t test for the Extra.  I purchased the manual again in 2010 with the hope of upgrading that same year.  Well, certain circumstances in life kind of got in the way of me doing that.  I did, however, study about half of the material that year.

About two weeks ago, someone in the local ham radio club mentioned that there was a VE test session coming up on March 10th.  Since July 1st was just about four months away (the new question pool comes out then), and the fact that there probably wouldn’t be many test opportunities, I deeded to make it a goal to take and pass the exam on March 10th.

Studying for the test wasn’t that difficult for me.  I made a commitment to read one chapter a night in the book so that I could acquaint, or reacquaint myself with the material.  The first four or five chapters were review, since I had studied those sections in years past.  Some of the other chapters brought back memories of an electronics class I took in high school, so those chapters were, in some ways, review as well.  There was some material in the book that was quite new to me, but it was quite easy, at least for me, to follow and make sense of it.

Naturally, I was nervous when I took the test today.  It took me about 45 minutes to complete the 50 question test.  It wasn’t long after I submitted the answer sheet and test booklet that I found out that I had passed the test.  I did quite well, too!

Do I feel any different now that I’m an Extra Class operator?  No, not really.  But I imagine that will change once I operate on the Extra portions of the bands.  Just because I’ve earned my Extra Class license doesn’t mean I’ll stop learning.  There are so many facets of ham radio that are changing on a seemingly daily basis, or ones that I have yet to explore.  I can’t know it all, but I sure can have fun dabbling in all of it!

For those of you who have your Technician Class license, try upgrading to General Class.  For you Generals, try upgrading to Extra.  If you fail, it’s no big deal.  I was actually planning on taking the test twice today.  I only had to take it once, however.  If you fail the test, there’s no waiting period.  You can take it again that same day, but you’ll need to pay the $15 fee for the second exam.

Regardless of whether or not you pass or fail, you should also consider becoming a volunteer examiner (VE).  It’s just another one of the many ways you can contribute to the radio service.  I plan on taking the necessary test (open book) and filling out the required paperwork within the next week or two.  To learn how you can become a VE (yes, there are requirements, but not too many), visit this link.

73 de Andre


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