Only a week ago, I really didn't know much about ham radio. That's why you should read this blog if you're looking into getting your amateur ham radio license. In this blog I'll be explaining the basics of using a simple handheld ham radio and I'll tell you how you can study for free or take a frugal course, like I did, to get your ham radio license.
Above you can see my Retivis A685 handheld ham radio. I picked up a couple of them so that I can communicate on my homestead, in the community surrounding my homestead and 100's of miles away if necessary.
The knob at the top right of the radio rotates to turn the radio on and to increase or decrease volume. The PTT (push to talk button) is located on the upper left side of the radio. When you push the button, you can transmit your signal and talk to other operators and when you let go of the button you will be able to receive other operator's transmissions.
The A/B button located under my thumb allows you to switch between two available channels or frequencies you have selected. For example, you might have your local repeater in the A slot and the channel you use around your homestead in B slot. These slots can be changed at any time and easily allow you to go back and forth between two channels or frequencies. The red menu button will allow you to change offset and plus or minus settings for any given frequency using the arrows to scroll through options. The V/M button will select between frequency and channel mode.
If you hold aux button 2 down the FM radio will turn on and you can tune through the radio channels with the up down arrows in the upper center of the number pad. Speaking of the arrows, you can use them while on the frequency mode to fine tune the frequency or simply type in the frequency you want to listen to using the number pad. The arrows can also be used to select a channel, or you can enter a channel with the number pad. If you just tap aux button 2, you'll get weather channels, and you can scroll through them with the arrows. Aux button 1, will turn on the flashlight and holding it down will sound the alarm. If you press and hold the * key, you will be able to scan all frequencies or channels that are programmed to be scanned. I'll provide a bit more detail in my upcoming video that will be published Sunday 11/13/22 at 12pm.
So how did I study and pass my exam? I first used free exams provided by Ham Radio Prep Once I realized it was going to take a decent amount of time to pretty well memorize 430 plus possible questions for the exam, I decided to take a look at their course and was pleasantly surprised that it's affordable and I was able to see they streamlined the process by focusing on the questions that are actually on the exam.
The topics are organized and there is a video for every one of them. The captioning at the bottom of the video makes it easy to follow along with, anything that is covered on the test shows up in blue.
At the end of each video, you can scroll through the text and read it for more context, or you could probably focus on the areas in blue to speed up the process.
After the text there is a short test which will tell you right away if you got the answer correct and explain why if it's wrong.
Finally, there are several test exams you can take in preparation of the real exam. If you get around 90% 3 times in a row, you're ready to test. You can schedule your exam online through the website, you'll see right where to do it when you complete your practice exams. I scheduled mine with a friendly group of guys and I thought I would share their information as it will help their ham radio club and who wouldn't want to test with a nice group of people?
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I'll update this post on Sunday with a link to the video or you can Subscribe so you don't miss it.