Frequently Asked Questions

This page last updated:  December 7, 2018

  1. How much does it cost to take an amateur license exam?

    All exam sessions conducted by Laurel Voluntee Examiner Coordinator (VEC) sponsored Volunteer Examiner (VE) Teams are free.

  2. Do I need to bring my own pencils, papers, etc?

    No. Everything you will need such as pencils and scratch paper will be provided.

  3. Can I use a calculator?

    Yes. In fact, the Baltimore VE team may lend a calculator for the session. However, if you bring your own calculator and it is programmable its memory must be cleared. The VEs will inspect your calculator before letting you use it.

  4. Can I use my cell phone as a calculator?

    No! In fact, all cell phones must be turned off. If it makes any kind of noise you may be dismissed from further participation in the exam session.

  5. Why do I have to provide my social security number to get my ham license?

    The Debt Collection Act of 1996 requires that anyone applying for or renewing any federally issued license must provide their Taxpayer ID Number (TIN) which is your Social Security Number (SSN).

    You may pre-register with the FCC and use the FCC Registration Number (FRN) on the application in place of the SSN. As of this version of the FAQ, the link to the FCC USL registration site is: which will open in a new browser tab or new window.

    To protect your personal information the Baltimore VE Team requires that the FRN is used instead of one's SSN; therefore, the VE Team requests that you receive your FRN before coming to the exam site since we are not guaranteed internet access.

  6. Why is there felony question on the Form 605 (Application for License)?

    See this PDF for an explination.

  7. What do I need to bring to the Exam session?

    1. A photo ID. Children without photo IDs may be tested providing that they can prove their identity to the satisfaction of the BVET Leader.

    2. A copy or original version of your current, signed, amateur radio operator’s license. (If you are currently licensed.)

    3. The original and a copy of any document on which you will be relying to prove element credit. These documents may include:

      • A Technician license (Original and/or a photocopy) granted prior to March 21, 1987 Element Credit: Element 3.

      • An expired and subsequently cancelled General class license. Element credit: Element 3.

      • An expired and subsequently cancelled Advanced class license. Element credit: Element 3.

      • An expired and subsequently cancelled Amateur Extra class license. Element credit: Elements 3 and 4.

    4. Upgrading a current, unexpired license

      • Your current license

      • Applicable items from (c) above

    5. A positive attitude and some patience. The folks administering the exams are dedicated volunteers. They will do their best to get you tested, your exam graded, inform you of the results, and if applicable, prepare and present to you a certificate stating you have earned a license or an upgrade as quickly as possible.

  8. How soon after I pass can I start operating?

    1. When you earn a new license, you can start operating as soon as your license grant is shown in the FCC's ULS license database. Usually your license will be listed in the FCC data base within 8-10 days following your exam after you take your test. (See below for info on how to search for your new license.)
      BR>If you included an email address on your 605 form and the ULS has processed your information, the FCC will send you an email (From "") that has a subject line similar to this: "FCC Application Grant OR Official FCC License".

      This email will also include a link and instructions that guide you to your new license. You may print an official license copy by following the link provided in that email.

    2. When you upgrade to a higher class of license, you may begin operating with your new privileges immediately after you pass your exam, and you must identify yourself when you are using your new privileges by appending your call sign with the appropriate suffix:
      1. Using Phone
        1. Your call sign followed by "temporary" or "Interim" KT or Kilo Tango (This indicates you have upgraded to Technician); Example: This is WN4FUI temporary Kilo Tango
        2. Your call sign followed by "temporary" or "Interim AG" or "Alpha Golf" (This indicates you have upgraded to General); Example: This is KA2JUQ temporary Alpha Golf
        3. Your call sign followed by "temporary" or "Interim AE" or "Alpha Echo" (This indicates you have upgraded to Extra); Example: This is KA2JUQ Interim Alpha Echo
      2. Using CW, Digital, Imagery
        Your call sign followed by a slant bar and the appropriate suffix: WN4FUI/KT, KA2JUQ/AG, KA2JUQ/AE
      3. Once your upgrade is in the FCC data base you may drop the suffix
    3. The good news is that with the Laurel VEC the results of your exam session are usually uploaded to the FCC on the first business day following your exam session and you may start operating using your new callsign as soon as it appears in the FCC Database.

      The FCC license search website can be found at

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

    No. While Morse code is still a popular mode of communication among hams, it is no longer required to earn a new or upgraded amateur radio license.

  10. What will the test session be like?

    The sessions will vary somewhat due to the teams and the facilities where the test is conducted. However, the session will generally be be conducted as follows:

    1. Registration - You will be asked to complete one or two forms; show your photo ID; inspect the original version of your current, unexpired license and other applicable documentation; and provide copies of your current, unexpired license and other applicable documentation.

    2. Pre-exam instructions - You will probably be given some pre-exam instructions regarding the use of calculators, procedures for asking questions, rules for taking the exam, bathroom breaks during the exam, etc.

    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, it will be graded and you will be informed of the result. If you passed you will 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 the exam, the VEs may, at their discretion, allow you to take a second exam.

      Note: The VE team will strive to score your test, inform you of the results, and process your paperwork as quickly as possible. The size of the test session and the number of VEs on-hand will be factors in how quickly this gets done. Please be patient.

  11. If I fail my exam, can I take another exam during the same session?

    The decision to let you take a second exam during the same test session after failing a previous attempt is up to the VE Team. The VE team is not required to let you take another exam.

    The team will make their decision based on several factors which include, but are not limited to, the number of applicants being processed, the number of VEs available, and how badly you failed the previous exam. For example, if you missed passing by one or two questions, many teams will let you take another exam (a different version, of course). On the other hand if you missed passing by six or seven questions the VE team will most likely suggest you go home and continue studying.

  12. I heard I can be "Grandfathered" to General. What's the story?

    In some cases a current or former licensee can earn credit for certain exam elements based on the license currently or formerly held.

    1. If you are a current or former Technician class licensee and were granted your Technician license prior to March 21,1987, you have lifetime credit for the Element 3 written exam.

    2. If you were previously licensed as a General class licensee and your license expired and was subsequently cancelled, you have lifetime credit for the Element 3 written exam.

    3. If you were previously licensed as an Advanced class licensee and your license expired and was subsequently cancelled, you have lifetime credit for the Element 3 written exam.

    4. If you were previously licensed as an Amateur Extra class licensee and your license expired and was subsequently cancelled, you have lifetime credit for the Element 3 and Element 4 written exams.

  13. Okay, I'm eligible for a "grandfathered" elemnt. What do I have to do?
    It depends on your current status.
    1. You must provide proof that you are eligible for the element credit(s). Such proof can be in the form of one of the following:
      1. The original or photocopy of an expired and cancelled license
      2. A letter from the FCC stating that you held such a license.
      3. A reference copy of an expired and cancelled license from the FCC ULS website
      4. A cover and applicable page from a call sign book that indicates the class of license and date of publication.
    2. If you are currently unlicensed you must pass the Element 2 exam before you receive your element credit.

    3. If you are currently licensed you simply show up to an exam session, go through the registration process, present your proof of element credit and you will be issued a CSCE giving you credit for having earned a new class of license depending on your element credit(s).

  14. I can't find my original license in order to claim the "Grandfathered" credit for Element 3. How do I get the letter from the FCC?

    Write a letter to the FCC and provide as much information as possible: The call sign of the license in question, a time frame of when the license was issued, address if known, the name under which the license was issued. Provide anything that might help them find proof of you being licensed in order to claim credit for the "grandfathered elements". The address is:

    1270 Fairfield Rd
    Gettysburg, PA 17325-7245

  15. How do I become a Volunteer Examiner?

    Contact any Laurel VEC VE Team leader.

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