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Author Topic: Whats allowed for an Extra Class exam - calculator? formula sheet?  (Read 13474 times)
KD0ZGW
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« on: April 05, 2015, 07:07:16 AM »

I am presently studying for the Extra exam.  I couldn't find anything that specified whats allowed to be used during the exam.

Specifically I am wondering if a programmable calculator is OK or possibly a sheet with the various formulas.  Seems like a lot of formulas to memorize particularly when someone doing any design work or calculations would have the relevant information readily available.

(of course I can just memorize the answers to the specific problems on the test but my objective is to learn the material.)

thx in advance for advice or information.

KD0ZGW
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SOFAR
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2015, 08:03:46 AM »

A calculator with no stored memories, blank sheet of paper, pencil, that's it. If you look up the exam site info on the ARRL website you can verify it. Always best to go to the source, don't rely on forums.
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AB3TQ
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« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2015, 09:34:45 AM »

http://www.arrl.org/what-to-bring-to-an-exam-session

This is a good ARRL resource covering any first test or upgrade situation. I brought a simple scientific calculator (no formula memory capability). I did quick verifications on a few answers I was already quite sure of. It was fairly obvious how few math problems might be on the test, but it only makes sense to be as prepared as you can for any of them.

With the Extra question pool in mind, you might concentrate most on Reactance / Resonance related formulas (XL, XC, XL=XC)  and Ohms Law. Familiarize yourself with the more basic formulas and how to then transform them into whatever form you need.
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WW7KE
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« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2015, 09:52:14 AM »

With the Extra question pool in mind, you might concentrate most on Reactance / Resonance related formulas (XL, XC, XL=XC)  and Ohms Law. Familiarize yourself with the more basic formulas and how to then transform them into whatever form you need.

I know it's been over 40 years since I last took an FCC exam (Advanced, 1972), but IIRC, questions about Ohm's Law were on my Novice test, and reactance questions were on the General.
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K7MEM
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« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2015, 10:29:37 AM »

I know it's been over 40 years since I last took an FCC exam (Advanced, 1972), but IIRC, questions about Ohm's Law were on my Novice test, and reactance questions were on the General.

Its just a guess, but I will bet you brought a slide ruler, which is still allowed. My testing wasn't quite that long ago (Advanced & Extra 1999) , but I did bring a small 6" slide ruler. It had everything I needed.
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AB3TQ
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« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2015, 02:31:43 PM »

With the Extra question pool in mind, you might concentrate most on Reactance / Resonance related formulas (XL, XC, XL=XC)  and Ohms Law. Familiarize yourself with the more basic formulas and how to then transform them into whatever form you need.

I know it's been over 40 years since I last took an FCC exam (Advanced, 1972), but IIRC, questions about Ohm's Law were on my Novice test, and reactance questions were on the General.

I never held a Novice or Advanced ticket. A quick check quantified 5 Extra class Ohms Law involved questions (in conjunction with factors and conversions). Admittedly fewer than I recalled. So two questions maximum possible on the Extra exam. Zero questions more likely There is quite a bit more Ohms Law in the General Exam.

There are Resonance questions on the Extra exam. You can derive the Resonance formula from the equality of the individual Reactance formulas, so quite closely related in my opinion. There are Impedance questions on the Extra exam. Given frequency and component values, calculate Impedance. I'm gonna determine Reactance first.

There is certainly some degree of crossover between the current exams. And I have been known to confuse exactly what was asked where after looking over all of them in succession. You can go from zero to Extra if you can't memorize even one formula. So my new advice to him is just study everything, take your best shot and Good Luck.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 02:35:10 PM by AB3TQ » Logged
N3QE
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2015, 07:15:11 AM »

You mention formulas as if you want to program them into a calculator (as others have pointed out, verboten) - but maybe you haven't really grokked the Extra class reactance questions. Most of the Extra class questions about reactance, you do not need 8 digits of precision in the answer, you just have to get the right order of magnitude. e.g. take this question from the actual question pool:

Quote
E5A16 (D)
What is the resonant frequency of a parallel RLC circuit if R is 33 ohms, L is 50 microhenrys and C is 10 picofarads?
A. 23.5 MHz
B. 23.5 kHz
C. 7.12 kHz
D. 7.12 MHz

Two of the answers are wrong by a factor of a thousand or 300. The remaining two answers (23.5MHz and 7.12MHz), one of them is what you'd get if you had the wrong number of zeroes before taking the square root. This is the way all the numerical questions in the question pool are - you just need to get the right order of magnitude.

You would learn a lot from the question pool, not concentrating so much on the formula for the right answer, or even memorizing the right answer, but figuring out WHY all the wrong answers *are wrong*!
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KE6EE
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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2015, 01:36:40 PM »

Most of the Extra class questions about reactance, you do not need 8 digits of precision in the answer, you just have to get the right order of magnitude. e.g. take this question from the actual question pool:

You would learn a lot from the question pool, not concentrating so much on the formula for the right answer, or even memorizing the right answer, but figuring out WHY all the wrong answers *are wrong*!

Absolutely right.

There's no need for calculation in the exam. If you go over the questions and understand them at all, you'll be able to eliminate the wrong answers by ballparking the numbers. You'll notice that most of the answers supposedly requiring some calculation have the same ranges of values.

Don't overthink the exam. When I took it last year I got all the answers right and I'm not at all an engineer type. Another guy who passed the exam had taken endless practice exams and never passed a single one.

The practice exams are very helpful. I took them daily a week or ten days before taking the exam until I passed at 90% or higher each time.

Another very useful approach for studying is to write out all the questions with only the correct answers following each question to make yourself a special personal study guide. That way when you take the practice exams you will recognize the correct answer immediately without having to think the question through carefully.

That means using a recognition aspect of your memory rather than relying on a deeper understanding of principles involved. If you are interested in a really useful understanding of radio electronics, studying for the Extra exam is NOT the way to proceed.

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KA4GFY
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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2015, 04:37:52 AM »

As a Volunteer Examiner, I can tell you that some programmable calculators are allowed.  As long as you can demonstrate the memories are cleared, that's OK.  If you can't demonstrate the memories are cleared, you won't be able to use that calculator.  Formula sheets definitely not allowed.  Nor can you use the calculator in your smartphone.  Too easy to surf the internet to find the answer.  We provide the scratch paper so nobody has the opportunity to "accidentally" bring scratch paper with the formulas already on it.  It's happened to another VE group in our area.

We tell the students in our classes they will have to remember formulas for test day.  Plain and simple.  But we tell them that once we say "start," write down all the formulas they can remember on the scratch paper.  Then, all they have to remember is when to use each formula.

Like a couple of others have said, check ARRL or the VEC's website for what is allowed.

Good luck on your Extra test.

73,
Rich, KA4GFY
« Last Edit: April 07, 2015, 07:50:27 AM by KA4GFY » Logged
WV4L
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« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2015, 07:11:16 AM »

ARRL VE Manual - 9th Edition pages 52 & 53

Calculators
Most applicants will bring some type of scientific calculator to use on their exams. Most of these, including some
programmable calculators, are acceptable. The candidate must, at the VEs' request, demonstrate that all of the calculator's
memories have been cleared. The VE Team has the right to refuse a candidate the use of a calculator if the team isn't
convinced that this has been accomplished. (Most calculators clear their memories automatically when they're shut off, but
some have an internal backup battery or power source that powers the memories continuously even when the main battery is
dead or removed.) Many of today's calculators support programming features, such as built-in formulas.
ARRL/VEC guidelines are that the candidate can use a calculator at the test session, provided they can prove to the VE
Team that the memory has been cleared. Many of today's calculators support programming features, such as built-in formulas
which cannot be cleared from memory. If a calculator has hardwired formula capabilities (that is, formulas which can
neither be added nor removed by the user) then the calculator cannot be used during a test. If the VE Team feels a calculator
may contain formulas that could be used on the exam, the VE Team has the right to refuse the use of the calculator by the
candidate. Slide rules and logarithmic tables (math tables) are acceptable, as long as they're free of notes and formulas.
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K3LRH
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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2015, 03:18:27 PM »

I see applicants taking the exam WITHOUT a calculator.  I guess they memorize all the test answers and never do know how to calculate anything. Sad   Huh
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KG6AF
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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2015, 04:56:41 PM »

I see applicants taking the exam WITHOUT a calculator.  I guess they memorize all the test answers and never do know how to calculate anything. Sad   Huh

Maybe they memorized the answers.  Or maybe, as N3QE pointed out, they arrived at the answers with rough order-of-magnitude calculations.  I haven't seen any questions in the exams that couldn't be done in one's head, or maybe with simple calculations using paper and pencil.
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