License Exams

You’ve been reading, studying, and maybe taking tests on-line to prepare for your Amateur Radio exam. Now you’re serious about selecting a date and location. The South Bay Amateur Radio Association (SBARA) is happy to help you earn your call sign or upgrade your license to the next level.

For the testing schedule and updates, please visit the ARRL web page at:

To allow candidates adequate completion time, we will cease Technician and General (Elements 2 & 3) testing 30 minutes prior to session end and Extra (Element 4) testing one hour prior to session end.

Test Session FAQs

  • The exam fee as of January 2010 is $15.00. We accept cash or checks. Sorry, no credit cards.
  • Bring a legal photo ID (driver’s license or passport)
  • Or when no photo ID is available, we need two forms of identification (birth certificate, library card, social security card, utility bill, bank statement).
  • Students may bring a school ID card, minor’s work permit, school report card, or written note from a legal guardian.
  • If you are a non-US citizen, and do not have a social security number, please supply your Taxpayer ID number used for employment purposes.
  • If you have a current Amateur Radio license, bring the original and a photocopy. Also bring any Certificates of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) you may hold from previous exam sessions. The photocopy (s) will not be returned.
  • Bring your Social Security Number or your FCC issued Federal Registration Number (FRN). While you may balk at this, the FCC requires this and be assured this information goes directly from the test session to ARRL for processing.
  • If you have any special needs, please notify us before the exam session so we can make special arrangements.
  • You are not allowed to bring any written notes or calculations into the exam session.

Do I need to register anywhere before I can take the exam?

No, just walk in. No need to inform anyone. Don't come too late and please bring all required items with you (see checklist above).

Do I have to pass a Morse code test to get my ham license?

The Morse code exam is no longer required to earn a new or upgraded amateur radio license.

What will the test session be like?

The test session is comprised of 4 steps:

  1. Registration - You’ll be asked to complete forms, show your ID and provide copies of your current, unexpired license and other applicable documentation.
  2. Pre-exam Instructions - You’ll be advised to not write on the exam sheet. Marks are only made on the answer sheet or on scratch paper, which must be handed in with your exam.
  3. The Exam - The Technician and General exams each contain 35 multiple-choice questions. You must correctly answer 26 questions to pass (74.2%). The Amateur Extra exam contains 50 multiple-choice questions of which you must correctly answer 37 (74%) to pass.
  4. Grading - Once you’ve completed your exam, take it to the grading table, where three Volunteer Examiners (VEs) will review the results. If you passed, you’ll receive a Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam (CSCE) indicating which element(s) you’ve passed and, if appropriate, which license class you’ve earned. If you didn’t pass, you may take the test again for an additional $15.00 fee.

If I fail my exam, should I take it a second time?

You will be given a different exam, with a different set of questions. It’s your personal decision. If you missed by one or two questions, you might have had test jitters and want to take it again. However, if you missed passing by six or seven questions, you might want to continue studying.

I used to have a license. Do I qualify to be “Grandfathered” to General?

If you took a 50-question Technician/General written test before March 21, 1987, you can receive a “grandfather” Technician Licensee credit. You have lifetime credit for Element 3, Amateur General. You must provide proof that you held such a license by producing the original license or a letter from the FCC stating that you held such a license.

How does this work?

If you have a Technician license issued before March 21, 1987 along with a current Technician license, you will receive a credit toward taking Element 3 Amateur General exam. Note that you do not have to be continually licensed since 1987.

If you have an expired Technician license issued before March 21, 1987 and beyond the two-year grace period, you must pass Element 2 Technician before General class license can be issued.

My original license is lost. How do I get a letter from the FCC?

Write to the FCC providing anything that might help them find proof of you being licensed to claim the credit such as call sign of the license in question, a time frame when issued, your address at that time, the name under which it was issued. Their address is: FCC, 1270 Fairfield Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325-7245.

Can I take exams for more than one element during the same session?

Great idea! You should consider testing more than one Element. There is no additional charge. Be aware that while the Element 2 Technician and Element 3 General seem to go quickly, the Element 4 Amateur Extra may take you as long as an hour, so plan your time. The Tri-City VE Group test sessions are 2½ hours each.

What is an "FRN"?

The FRN (FCC Registration Number) is a number which will be assigned to you by the FCC. This number is required for any communication with the FCC. It will help you to get your ham radio license and to find it later in the ULS (Universal Licensing System) database of the FCC.

What is the ULS database?

You learned that for your license exam!

Why do I need an FRN?

It speeds up the licensing process. Although you technically can apply for a license with your Social Security Number, you should provide an FRN instead.

How can I pull an FRN?

Please visit and click onto the button "Register". This will guide you through the required process.

How soon after I pass can I start using the radio?

Before you earn your license, you can listen, but not speak unless you do so as a guest of someone else with a call sign. When you pass your exam and earn a new license, you can begin operating as soon as your license grant is shown in the FCC’s ULS license database. The website is listed on your CSCE. Usually your license will be listed in the FCC database within one to two weeks after you take your test. You will also receive a hardcopy of your license via snail mail.

When you upgrade to a higher class of license, you can begin operating with your new privileges immediately, and must identify that you are operating on temporary privileges (temporary KT, AGE or AE) pending your upgrade listing in the ULS.

How do I find out whether my application has been processed and what my callsign is?

Please visit and click the button "Licenses". This will bring you to the Licenses query page. There select "By FRN" and enter your FRN. You can also search by your name.

I’m not sure what equipment to start with. Any ideas?

The basic radio for new hams is the hand-held (known as a handi-talkie or HT) unit. Tri-City VE Group will give you a Congratulations Kit after you pass the exam. This will include a Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) catalog with many manufacturers HTs. Before you buy, you can ask anyone at the test session what equipment they like or at HRO you can describe how you anticipate using your HT so they can best recommend a unit for you. Also, the South Bay Amateur Radio Association (SBARA) and other clubs raffle HTs regularly at their meetings.

For questions regarding this, please contact Exam Coordinator, Greg Miller

Congratulations on taking the next step. We look forward to seeing you soon and Good Luck!

The Tri-City VE Group

[updated Jan 10, 2020]