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To be able to transmit on the amateur radio bands, you have to have a licence (people who only listen are known as short-wave listeners or SWLs). In the UK, that means you have to have a licence from Ofcom, the regulator — and to be able to apply for a licence, you have to pass an exam. The syllabus for the exam is speecified by Ofcom but the examination process is administered by RSGB, the Radio Society of Great Britain. The UK provides three grades of qualification: Foundation, Intermediate, and Full. It's easy to tell what qualification a person has as that is reflected in their callsign. The main distinction between the grades is the amount of power with which they are allowed to transmit.

EARS is able to run courses at all three grades, and some EARS members are registered instructors with RSGB.

  • A Foundation course is an introduction to amateur radio. In it, you learn about the nature of amateur radio, an introduction to the underlying principles, and a little of the regulatory framework — it's not quite as dry as it seems. You also learn to operate radios on the short wave and VHF wavebands and to send and receive (slow) morse code. A typical Foundation course is about a dozen hours of study and practice and is well within the each of anyone: the youngest person obtain a Foundation licence is aged about 8!

  • An Intermediate course bulids on the fundamentals learnt in the Foundation course. It extends knowledge principally about how radios work and, to help put that into place, you have to build a something relevant to amateur radio (e.g., an AM radio or an audio amplifier) from parts. This is because a full licence allows you to build your own equipment and it's best to get those practical skills in place early.

  • A Full course explores all the topics relevant to amateur radio in depth. It involves only an examination; there is no practical component. Given suitable teaching material, it is entirely possible to pass the full examination by self-study.

All of the examinations consist of multiple-choice questions. As well as studying the teaching materials (see below), it is a good idea to register with the hamtests website and see how well you do on its sample exams — there are exams for all three levels.

The current course

A course isn't running at the moment. Contact Adrian Clark to find out when the next one will run.

Our most recent Foundation course ran from Sunday 30th January 2011 to 27th February 2011, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the CSEE Hardware Lab on level 2 of the CSEE building on Square 1. The course itself is free but the cost of the examination is £27.50, which you'l have to pay yourself.

Foundation course teaching material

We use the excellent Foundation course material provided by the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society:

  1. The nature of amateur radio (PPT, PDF)

  2. Licence conditions (PPT, PDF)

  3. Technical basics (PPT, PDF)

  4. Transmitters and receivers (PPT, PDF)

  5. Feeders and antennas (PPT, PDF)

  6. Propagation (PPT, PDF)

  7. EMC (PPT, PDF)

  8. Repeaters (PPT, PDF)

  9. Safety (PPT, PDF)


Last updated on 30-Mar-2011 by Adrian F. Clark.