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Author Topic: Can we stop bashing NO-CODE hams!  (Read 6374 times)
M0HCN
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Posts: 473




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« Reply #30 on: August 19, 2011, 06:30:12 PM »

I fall squarely into the no code category, having only fairly recently gotten around to getting a ticket.
Taking a code test was not offered as an option, so it is not like the code/no code thing is actually something a new operator has a choice about.

Now I am working on my code (In between designing and building the gear for my station), I fully intend to by up to at least 20WPM by the time I get the boards for my radio fully stuffed (And the driver board rebuilt for the ***third*** time (Design improvements for hopefully better IP3 on transmit)) and everything tested to my satisfaction.

Personally I suspect that the bigger problem in the US is the public question pool, always a bad idea in an exam context as it means that rote memorization is a viable way to get a pass. 
The UK licenses (we call them 'foundation', 'intermediate' and 'advanced') have a secret question pool and for the intermediate, require that some sort of practical radio related kit or circuit be constructed as well as a specified simple DC circuit on which measurements must be made.

Doing away with the multiple guess approach in favor of proper essay questions would also be good, how can anyone take multiple guess seriously as a test of knowledge?

The thing is any of the stuff you need to learn for the exams is at best just the beginning, I have entire bookcases on radio engineering, propagation, aerials, modulation theory, coding theory..... Every thing from Langford Smith & Shannon through the ARRL (EMRFD is great!) & RSGB books to proceedings of the ACM and AES, and yet still I find things when operating that make me go "Thats strange", 6M propagation especially.....

Regards, Dan.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3926




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« Reply #31 on: August 20, 2011, 10:14:48 AM »

The worst mistake the FCC was forced to make was the release of the question pools--word for word.  What should have been done was to release the general information--but not the exact questions and answers.  Thank the mixed up and ludicrous laws and the 'freedom of information' act for that one. 

Nope. FOIA had nothing to do with it.

What happened was this:

In the late 1970s, a fellow named Dick Bash published "study guides" that were very, very close to the actual exams. I am told that what he did was to ask hams who had recently taken the tests to recall the actual Q&A, and paid for their answers. Over time he built up a complete set.

It turned out that the FCC didn't have all that many different tests; the question pool was quite small. This was one of the reasons for the "30 day wait to retest" rule.

Some at FCC wanted to prosecute Bash. But the higher-ups said no.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president. One of his big campaign promises was to "get the government off your back" by "starving the beast" of Big Government. Funding for many agencies was cut or held to the same level despite rising costs. FCC was one of the affected agencies.

So FCC looked for ways to save money. One way was to create the VEC/QPC systems, which replaced paid Federal examiners and administrators with unpaid amateur volunteers. FCC exam offices and "traveling road show" examiners were assigned to other duties.

Of course this meant the exams had to be available to the VEs, which meant they couldn't be kept secret. So they increased the size of the pools and made them public domain - which put Mr. Bash out of business.

We also got the 10 year license term from those budget cuts.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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M0HCN
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Posts: 473




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« Reply #32 on: August 20, 2011, 10:45:28 AM »

Interestingly the UK also uses volunteer invigilators at the exam centers (Mostly your local club), but does NOT have a published question pool.

The way this works is that when you apply for an exam the RCF send out a personalized exam paper in a sealed envelope together with (for the first two levels) the answer sheet also in a sealed envelope (Computers make producing customized exam papers really easy).
At the exam center there are two invigilators needed and the envelope carrying the paper is opened in your (and their) presence. You take the exam and (for the first two levels) one of the invigilators then opens the answers and marks the answer sheet. For the advanced exam the answer sheet is returned to the RCF who mark it (And take forever for some reason).

While I suspect it would be possible to do a Bash on it, it is not like these things are really hard enough to make the rote memorization easier then actually understanding the subject, so to the best of my knowledge nobody has bothered..

The issue of published questions is orthogonal to the one of paid Vs volunteer invigilator for the exam. 

Our licenses are lifetime as long as you inform Ofcom every 5 years that you are still around.

Regards, Dan.
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G3RZP
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Posts: 4965




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« Reply #33 on: August 20, 2011, 11:42:06 AM »

Dan,

>While I suspect it would be possible to do a Bash on it, it is not like these things are really hard enough to make the rote memorization easier then actually understanding the subject, so to the best of my knowledge nobody has bothered<

I'm not sure about that, judging by some of the levels of understanding I come across in new UK amateurs.
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N2EY
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Posts: 3926




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« Reply #34 on: August 20, 2011, 11:48:07 AM »

when you apply for an exam the RCF send out a personalized exam paper in a sealed envelope together with (for the first two levels) the answer sheet also in a sealed envelope (Computers make producing customized exam papers really easy).
At the exam center there are two invigilators needed and the envelope carrying the paper is opened in your (and their) presence. You take the exam and (for the first two levels) one of the invigilators then opens the answers and marks the answer sheet. For the advanced exam the answer sheet is returned to the RCF who mark it (And take forever for some reason).

That's similar to how the USA did "by mail" exams until the VE system came around. Novice and Technician exams were done that way from 1954 until the 1970s at least. There was also the Class C/Conditional for those living out in the boonies.


While I suspect it would be possible to do a Bash on it, it is not like these things are really hard enough to make the rote memorization easier then actually understanding the subject, so to the best of my knowledge nobody has bothered..

It's not about how hard the exam is. It's about having that preview.


The issue of published questions is orthogonal to the one of paid Vs volunteer invigilator for the exam. 

Our licenses are lifetime as long as you inform Ofcom every 5 years that you are still around.

If somebody were really interested, they could do a Bash on such a system. One reason nobody did it in the USA before Bash was that we were convinved the FCc would come down on such a thing like a ton of bricks, and the people involved would be spending hard time in a Federal penitentiary. A lot of us were really surprised when Bash didn't even lose his license.

My main point in all this is to point out that the reason for the changes 25+ years ago wasn't the Freedom of Information Act, the ARRL, or any other ham group. It was cost-cutting, pure and simple, with the added benefit of putting Bash out of business without any costs.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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M0HCN
Member

Posts: 473




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« Reply #35 on: August 20, 2011, 12:33:01 PM »

I'm not sure about that, judging by some of the levels of understanding I come across in new UK amateurs.
That is probably down to the fact that the foundation and intermediate both cover a SMALL part of the full license with the advanced test being a big step up from the intermediate (for all that if your electronics is up to snuff it looks fairly easy).

Given that the only real difference in basic privileges (providing you don't want to go /mm, run high power remotes or get a NOV for something) is +9dB on the power you are allowed at the feedpoint, I suspect that most don't bother with the advanced test. I want /mm so I will be taking it at the RSGB convention, but if I did not want /mm I might not bother as the QTH does not really lend itself to QRO operation.

In any case the level of understanding is largely something that the licensing exams should be only testing to a basic minimum, it is a start, not the end of the learning (Or at least I would hope not).

Regards, Dan.
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