The Ham radio exams over the years

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The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby G4RMT » Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:10 pm

I found this interesting resource http://www.g4dmp.co.uk, A collection of old exam papers, examiners reports and comments - with some stats about how many exams were being taken, over a huge number of years since radio started. It's interesting to look at the content of the papers and see how they have changed - it also shows what people needed to know at the time they took their tests. I was quite impressed with the content of the one I took. When there were thousands of entries each year, the City & Guilds institute ran the amateur radio exams like their other qualifications, and now far less take it, it's done very differently.

The examiners reports show that even back in my day, loads (33% in some cases) of candidates knew little about some technical aspects and they also misunderstood the licence conditions too.

Worth a read to see how things have changed.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby m0lsx » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:43 pm

Thanks. An interesting read.
I still have my copy of G L Benbow, G3HB's orange book sitting on my book shelf.
For those who do not realise back in the late 70's & early 80's the exam was a multi choice exam covering two papers with an exam time of 3 hours. The CW test was then required to gain use of HF.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby lars » Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:56 am

The problem with the amateur radio exams, then as now, is that they require a superficial knowledge of some enormously complicated subjects. I note that some of the questions that the examiner's report complains about are ones that seemed to me to be deeply ambiguous, or simply unanswerable. It doesn't surprise me that people didn't answer them properly. Some questions require making assumptions that may not really be justified. Then as now, I suspect that the more technical knowledge you have, the more confused you will be by the questions.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby Darkstar » Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:48 pm

I found this a problem when i did my advanced exam, some of the questions were rather ambiguous in their wording, i had to go back and alter 3 answers after re-reading the paper before i submitted it. I brought this point up with Dave Wilson ex president of R.S.G.B. and now on the exam committee. He said changes were going to be made to both the syllabus and question wording. As a side note it will be interesting to see how the online exams pan out, i know as a tutor/invigilator there will be less paperwork ;)
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby lars » Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:21 pm

To be fair, I don't think these problems are exclusive to the RSGB. All multiple-choice type exams rely on the reader interpreting the question in the same way as the writer. In a "real" written exam, it's easy to see where this has happened, and make adjustments in some way. With multiple choice, all you get is a scatter of incorrect answers, with no obvious explanation. The people that do well will be those who have learned to read behind the question.

There's a good example in the first paper on the list, which asks what LEDs will light when a fuse blows. The correct answer is "who knows?" because we have no clue at all how the "transceiver" in the diagram behaves if it is fed with current through a resistor. I would guess that with the kind of equipment in use when this paper was set, the "transceiver" would continue to draw enough current to light the LED even at reduced voltage, but I don't think this could automatically be assumed, even then.

Putting an LED in parallel with a Fuse was, and still is, a common way to detect that a fuse has blown. However, that's not something you could work out (I think) from the question, unless you have been exposed to such design ideas in the past. So you've really got no alternative to second-quess the question setter.

There's a later question in the same paper that asks you to work out the power dissipated in a transistor, when the base current is described as "negligible." If it really negligible, the transistor would not turn on at all, and no power would be dissipated. But zero isn't given as a possible answer so, again, it's necessary to guess what the examiner is really getting at. Unsurprisingly, the examiners report notes that this question wasn't answered very well.

What I dislike most of all is the way that complex subjects like electromagnetic propagation and electronic design are reduced to soundbites. At that level of superficiality, almost any answer could be the correct one.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby m0lsx » Tue Nov 28, 2017 6:40 pm

The problem is, if move away from multi choice, then you return to the old system of two written papers. where you were asked to describe certain things, without knowing what the question setter was actually looking for. So you could describe something & leave out what the question setter wanted within the answer. Where at least with a multi choice you get options & thus normally from the answers, you get to realise what is being asked of you.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby Scan125 » Tue Nov 28, 2017 6:50 pm

I have two irreplaceable bibles for any budding ham. I've not seen a modern equivalent as no doubt commercial books are used these days.

"Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy 1938 - Volumes I and II" by the "Admiralty".

These are absolute master pieces (IMHO).

Volume I covers electricity and magnetism from a simple battery and resistor right up to resonant circuits etc (including introduction of an antenna).

Volume II starts off with the spark transmitter, progresses to active circuits (valves), modulation, demodulation, culminating in antenna related stuff such as: (this will get you all Googling like mad in your possible ignorance :laughs:

Bellini-Tosi Systems
Adcock Direction Finder
The Goniometer

In the 70s I did a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and to this day these two books/volumes really challenge my aging brain cells :sad:
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby m0lsx » Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:01 pm

Scan125 wrote:I have two irreplaceable bibles for any budding ham. I've not seen a modern equivalent as no doubt commercial books are used these days.

"Handbook of Wireless Telegraphy 1938 - Volumes I and II" by the "Admiralty".


The Admiralty Handbooks are wonderful. I picked up both editions in near spotless condition at a table top sale several years ago.
The information on the Marconi T makes for interesting reading. Extra top wires. Not attached to the antenna improves performance.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby lars » Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:42 am

m0lsx wrote:The problem is, if move away from multi choice, then you return to the old system of two written papers. where you were asked to describe certain things, without knowing what the question setter was actually looking for. So you could describe something & leave out what the question setter wanted within the answer. Where at least with a multi choice you get options & thus normally from the answers, you get to realise what is being asked of you.


But a competent marker will usually realize what has gone wrong, when reading an answer that doesn't seem to address the question. When I used to be forced to set multiple-choice exams -- usually because they are quick (and thus cheap) to mark -- I always provided space on the paper for candidates to write comments. I quickly learned how difficult it was to set questions about complex technical subjects that everybody would interpret the same way. When marking "real" written exams, I would always give students credit for a well-reasoned answer, even if it wasn't the answer to the question I thought I had set. At university level, I think most markers are competent, and aware of the problems that are inherent in any kind pf examination. Earlier than that, I'm not sure. I've seen some terrible howlers in the marking guidelines for GCSE papers.

Those historical amateur radio papers seem to require a knowledge of physics and electronic engineering that is at least at first-year undergraduate level, and I'd expect these papers to be set by people who are capable of examining at that level. Whether they were or not, I'm not sure. I guess the supposition is that, by making them multiple-choice, competence is no longer required of the examiners.
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Re: The Ham radio exams over the years

Postby barryk » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:32 pm

ham exam
I gained my ham licence in 1950s when a radio tech in raf
so did not take exam.
I also took pmgcert --bellini tosi systems!!
pasted morse at Liverpool coast guard station!
an owd bugger!
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