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Author Topic: Flash Cards for Forumlas  (Read 622 times)
ROBPUR
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Posts: 5




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« on: February 27, 2017, 02:29:17 PM »

I got my first license in '93, let it expire in '03, and recently decided to get it again. I started practicing on hamstudy.org, and read a few threads on Radioreference and eHam about people just memorizing the questions and answers without learning the material. I also observed debates about whether the tests are too easy, too hard, or just right. Some extreme old school Hams seem to think that CW should be required and test answers should be given in essay form before someone is let into the ol' boys club, while others feel that the test should be easy so that new Hams are more likely to go for their ticket. However, most people seem to have an opinion more toward the middle. They understand the need for good testing, but realize that passing a test does not insure that a person knows the material. A debate of what should or should not be required to become a Ham could go on forever, like arguing about religion or politics, but one aspect stands out to me, the practice of memorizing questions and answers.

While going through the flashcards I realized that much of the content can only be memorized since it's not based on theory. Things like rules and regulations, frequencies and band plans. I don't see any advantage to reading from a book and memorizing such things compared to memorizing the information from flashcards. However, there's areas where learning theory can help a Ham to use their equipment more effectively. For example, it's good to know more about the ionosphere than is covered in the questions, especially if working HF.

This brings me to the point that I have the most trouble with, mathematical formulas. I think it's beyond reasonable expectation that Hams speak mathematics like a second language, so we memorize formulas to be used when required. The problem is that the FCC question pools, and therefore the flashcard systems that are built on them, don't teach the formulas. Yes, the formulas can be looked up from some other source and memorized, but the person that uses flashcards as their primary source of study will likely just memorize the answers to the questions containing math and will not gain anything other than a passing score on the test. The argument can be made that a person should not use flashcards as their only source of study material, but it seems to happen a lot.

So how can things be made better? Well, a long shot would be for the FCC to change their questions. Instead of asking a question such as "What is the current through a 50 ohm resistor when 200 volts is applied", the question could be "What is the formula to calculate current when resistance and voltage are known". In the first case a person could memorize the answer without gaining any concept of ohms law, while memorizing the answer to the second question would result in acquiring usable working knowledge. Like I said, it's a real long shot to expect the FCC to make this kind of change, so what else can be done?

I recently read one Ham's experience with flashcards and formulas. He wrote down all the formulas he would need for the pool of questions that he was working on and kept them on the side. When he got to a question that required a formula he would look over at the paper and do the calculation. After a while he learned the formulas and no longer needed the paper. The important aspect is that he learned while using flashcards, and didn't do it by memorizing the answers. To take this a step further, why not just put the formulas on the flash cards and make them a higher priority than the FCC question pool. That way the formulas will already be memorized before they are required for the questions?

I'm only about 70% through the General question pool and I can see that I'm going to have to spend time memorizing formulas, and I expect the Extra class will be even more mathematically demanding, so I'm looking for an easy way to do it. After a Google search I found cram.com which allows you to make your own flashcards, so I plan to explore that option. I'm sure that this is not an original idea, and someone somewhere must have already created a system for learning formulas, but I've not been able to find one.

Any comments and suggestions are welcome.


Rob     
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W3HF
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Posts: 822


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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2017, 05:22:37 AM »

...
So how can things be made better? Well, a long shot would be for the FCC to change their questions. Instead of asking a question such as "What is the current through a 50 ohm resistor when 200 volts is applied", the question could be "What is the formula to calculate current when resistance and voltage are known". In the first case a person could memorize the answer without gaining any concept of ohms law, while memorizing the answer to the second question would result in acquiring usable working knowledge. Like I said, it's a real long shot to expect the FCC to make this kind of change...
     

Rob -

Actually it's not the FCC that defines the questions. It's a group called the NCVEC, the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators, and their web site is www.ncvec.org. FCC has delegated creation of the question pools to them, and they routinely solicit inputs from the amateur community to work on updates. Each of the question pools (Tech, General and Extra) is updated on a five-year cycle. The current Tech question pool is up for review now, and their Question Pool Committee (QPC) is actively soliciting inputs on it. The statement on the web site is:

"The QPC is currently accepting input on the review of the Element 2 - Technician pool that expires June 30, 2018.
You may submit feedback or questions to the QPC by email to qpcinput@ncvec.org"

Frankly I think the Tech pool is the right place to put Ohm's law and the power calculation formulas.

Steve
W3HF
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KI7LLD
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Posts: 28




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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2017, 08:50:01 AM »

When I was studying I noticed for the tech class test if you know the Volts then every formula is divide and if you dont know the volts then you multiplied.
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ND8M
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Posts: 64




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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2017, 04:32:21 PM »

I found it much easier to memorize the formulas than the answers.  If you memorize the formula, that's all you need to know.  No matter which question pool you get, you're covered. Also, you're allowed a blank piece of scratch paper for the test.  As soon as the test begins, write down whatever forumulas so you don't have a brain fart later. 
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