Writing the Amateur Radio exam(s) is FREE, and your certificate and call sign are FREE with no renewal fee. There is NO CHARGE to use the assigned Radio Amateur frequencies, but you DO NEED TO WRITE AN EXAM TO GET CERTIFIED.
I am an Industry Canada Accredited Examiner, which means that when you are ready to write the exam(s) to get certified, get in touch with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The exam is not too hard if you do some self study or take a class (especially if you have a communications or technical background), and you DO NOT NEED TO LEARN MORSE CODE anymore (but you still can if you want too).
If you have an interest in Amateur Radio but are a beginner, you are probably confused and wonder where to start. All hams were there at one time, so don't feel bad. Here is some background information to get you pointed in the right direction.
Amateur Radio (often referred to as Ham Radio) is defined as follows by Industry Canada (the federal government agency that regulates radio in Canada):
The term "without pecuniary interest" simply means you can't get paid for being a ham, for example you can't use it for business purposes like dispatching taxis.
Everyone has used a radio receiver to listen to AM, FM broadcast stations or to watch TV. Those broadcast stations are licensed by the federal government to use the radio frequency (such as 680 Kilohertz on the AM band, or 104 Megahertz on the FM band).
Also, most of us have used a radio transmitter to talk to someone if we have used a cell phone. When you pay for the use of a cell phone service from a supplier like Bell, Rogers or Cantel, they are licensed to allow you and others use the cell phone frequencies.
Ham radio operators are certified by the Canadian federal government (under international ITU regulations) to receive and transmit on a variety of dedicated (or sometimes shared) ham radio frequency bands using either their spoken voice to talk to people locally or around the world. Hams also use a variety of other operating modes (don't worry, you can start simple with voice). The goal of all this is to carry out their self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation. There is NO CHARGE to use the frequencies, but to get the FREE CERTIFICATION from Industry Canada you must study, either using reference material yourself or by taking a course and then pass one or more examinations.
After passing the exam, you get your own personal ham radio callsign (like VA3EP) that you use to identify your station when you go on the air. You can choose any available call signs. You can then make arrangements to use the club station, or make a minor investment in a new or used handheld trasceiver (HT) or base station transceiver and start communicating.
There are many, many activities that you get involved in (see bottom of this page) which you can learn about by browsing this website and others, some more focused on the communications aspects, and other more focused on the technical aspects. Whatever you find most interesting you will be sure to have a of fun and to learn a lot of skills and knowledge that will be valuable in your life and perhaps your job.
We recommend that you work with a mentor like me or someone else you know (hams traditionally call a ham mentor an "elmer") to help you get going. You can also drop by a local ham radio club meeting at PERC in the County or QARC in Belleville and introduce yourself and you will find someone will be glad to help. If you are not from this area, see if you can find a local club. Be sure to ask if they are running a course which you can register to attend, if not you can still prepare for the exam with self study.
Here are some other good articles and beginner sites on what ham radio is all about (for a quick scan and reference, you don't need to pour over all this right now):
In 2005 Industry Canada made changes to Canadian Amateur Certification, and Morse Code is no longer required to become a ham (although you can still learn it and pass the Morse Code test if you have an interest). There are 2 examinations that you can write to obtain 3 different levels of privileges:
Now on with the details of passing the exam:
Have a quick read of the overview material here, especially the introduction. Don't try to learn/memorize it, just get a general feel for the big picture of how the material is laid out for later reference.
Now study the "Basic Study Questions" here .
I would recommend that you go to the section to where you can "Print All Basic Questions" as you can download the entire 117 page PDF document. The PDF document shows the right answer for each question. I would recommend that you get it printed out and put it in a 3 ring binder, you can then add your notes as you study, and insert other pages with notes and references that you might print out from the internet. Maybe I am old school, but I like to study using paper.
This is the key document with EVERY question and answer that you have to know. It is obviously better to study and understand the underlying technical theory rather than just memorize the question and answer, but in the case of things like regulations, you just have to memorize it.
As you study use Wikipedia or Google to look up terms you need help with, or ask you elmer for help. Sometimes your local ham club may run a course that you can enroll in.
You can also buy the " Canadian Amateur Radio Basic Qualification Study Guide " book (IMHO it covers a LOT more than you really need, but is a great study guide and reference).
As well, if you can find a local club that is running a course, that is even better. Here is a list of clubs that may be closer.
When you think you know the material try the "Basic Practice Exam" here.
DO NOT just repeat the practice exam as a way of studying, as there is a chance that there are questions you would never see.
Email me at email@example.com to book the exam, I generate an exam using the same exact safe questions and answers that you studied from (random questions from the exact same question bank) and then you write it (closed book, you can use a non programmable calculator).
The exam has to be conducted in person. If you are not close, you can book with any other examiner on the Accredited Examiner list.
I do not charge a few to write the exam (some other examiners do, as they can legally charge for expenses).
If you get between 70-79%, then you can get on the air on 6 meters and higher in frequency. If you miss, you can re-write as many times as you want.
If you get 80% or more, you can get on all bands with up to 100 watts of power. (You can also do that with 70% + 5 wpm Morse code, but most people find studying for the extra 10% is easier than learning Morse Code).
After you have done the test, you select a call sign from the list of available call signs
(actually you pick 3 in case someone else picks the same one and their application just beats yours to Ottaw), we fill in the form and then send it to Ottawa, and when your call shows up on the database, you can get on the air.
Then you can go back and study for the advanced test : - )
Like we have said all along, getting the basic is just the first step in a long and enjoyable journey. Have fun!
NOTE: You may find an older version of this information at The London Amateur Radio Club which I created there when I was Webmaster for LARC. The last time I looked that information was inaccurate, so please use the information on this page as it is being kept up to date.
All Contents Copyright 2000-14 Eric Pierce