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Author Topic: What percent fail ham tests?  (Read 9417 times)
N2EY
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Posts: 3877




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« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2011, 02:28:24 PM »

people don't value a ham license at all now.

I think what's really happened is that *licenses* don't mean what they once did.

Once upon a time, the Federal Government took a very active role in the regulation of radio.

They'd seen the chaos of pre-1912 maritime radio, and lawlessness of 1920s broadcasting, and wanted no more of it. They also knew how much havoc a malfunctioning transmitter could cause. The situation was considered so important that the FRC (which became the FCC) was eventually created to deal with it.

Their solution 99 years ago was mandatory licensing of both operators and stations. Those in charge knew, understood and supported the concept of the skilled, knowledgeable, licensed Radio Operator in all radio services. In some services the required skills and knowledge would be mostly technical, in others  mostly operational, and in most a mixture of operational and technical, but in all cases the licensed Radio Operator was indispensable.

Thus there were Amateur licenses, Commercial Radiotelephone licenses and Commercial Radiotelegraph licenses. There were station licenses and operator licenses. There were several operator license classes and serious test requirements.

And as technology became more complex, a whole flock of endorsements for things like radar were created.

Those regulations created a lot of jobs. Indeed, they created a whole profession. Every commercial radio service needed FCC-licensed Radio Operators of various levels for various tasks. Whether it was routine transmitter checks at a daytime-only AM BC station, running a vital maritime shore station, maintaining land-mobile radios, or any of dozens of other jobs, the FCC-licensed Radio Operator was an absolute necessity, by law. And these were pretty good jobs, with decent pay and benefits.

Someone could have a Ph.D. in EE, the Nobel Prize in physics, years of military radio experience, etc., etc., but without the proper License they were not a Radio Operator and could not legally do any of the Radio Operator's jobs. Of course they could earn the License - but only by passing the test. And only a US citizen could get a US license.

The end result was that for several decades a commercial license of the right type, plus a high-school-equivalent education and a clean record, were practically a Golden Ticket to a decent-paying career. And Amateur Radio was often the first step in the licensing process of commercial operators, though not all commercial operators started out as hams.

This doesn't mean all those jobs or the licenses were easy to do or get, nor that a Radio Operator didn't have to know his/her stuff. Not by a long shot. But it did mean that it was a way for folks who knew something about Radio to get a decent living without a college degree and without a whole bunch of low-priced competition, both domestic and "offshore".

At the same time, none of the licenses required anything close to the knowledge of an four-year EE degree. Nor were they meant to.

It was a Good Thing. Too good, in fact.

The problem was that the Captains of Industry didn't like paying for all those licensed Radio Operators, nor their benefits, for what seemed to them to be simple, easy jobs. Unionized or not, the License requirements meant the Captains couldn't hire just anybody for the Radio jobs, nor could they combine certain jobs to reduce the head count, nor could they neglect doing certain things to reduce expenses. Nor could they export the work. FCC regulations prevented any of that.

So the Captains of Industry got the regulators, and the regulations, changed.

Over a number of years they succeeded in all but eliminating the concept of the skilled, knowledgeable, *licensed* Radio Operator under the banner of "deregulation". Saved lots of money and aggravation. All we have left now on the commercial side are bits and pieces of the old rules and requirements.

Since they did it for commercial services, they didn't see any reason not to apply the same ideas to the Amateur Service. Why should amateurs have higher requirements than "professionals"?

The difference is that the Amateur Radio Service is still all about the technically knowledgeable, operationally skilled Radio Operator.

Some folks just don't seem to understand the Radio Operator concept. Or if they do, they want to stamp it out forever.

Think about that when you see folks saying that there's "too much regulation" and "government is too big" and such.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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KB3HG
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« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2011, 03:08:54 AM »

Not to sound crass, but if one wanted wanted to know the current pass fail ratio, Follow the money. I am not sure if it is possible, should the money from the tests be track able. Fees collected vs licenses issued, I know its a long shot and am not sure it is even reported, but a thought.

Tom Kb3hg
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N2EY
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« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2011, 05:26:38 AM »

Not to sound crass, but if one wanted wanted to know the current pass fail ratio, Follow the money. I am not sure if it is possible, should the money from the tests be track able. Fees collected vs licenses issued, I know its a long shot and am not sure it is even reported, but a thought.

Won't work. Here's why:

Note corrected post below (thanks W3HF!) Apologies for earlier misinformation.

1) Not all VECs charge the same fee. Some even charge no fee at all.

2) When a person is first licensed, their license is "new". But when they upgrade, their license is "modified". So a VE fee paid can result in a new license or a modified license.

However, when a licensee changes address or name by direct interaction with FCC, the license is also "modified", but those modifications don't involve a VE fee.

So there's no direct correlation between fees collected and tests passed/failed.

Since the fees go the VECs, it would be far simpler to just ask the VECs what overall pass-fail ratios they experience. But even that isn't precise, because many folks will try all the exams they can, simply because one fee entitles them to. Why not? They might get lucky and pass, might know more than they thought, and in any case will have some more experience.

----

The idea of "why not try it while you're here" isn't new.

Way back in 1968 I went to FCC to try the 13 wpm code for the second time. I had passed the General/Tech written at an earlier session, so I had the Novice and Technician simultaneously (which you could do back then).

I passed the 13 wpm code on the second go and so had earned my General license. But as I was about to leave the FCC Examiner said "why not try the Advanced written while you are here?"

I hadn't studied for it, and hadn't planned on getting an Advanced. I was 100% CW then, and an Advanced gave zero additional CW privileges.

But no sane 14-year-old ham would say "No" to The Man From FCC, so I tried the Advanced - and passed. Wasn't that hard, really.

Couple of weeks later I started high school.

Looking back, it made sense all around. The test fee in those days was $9, which was a ton of money to me then. Trying the Advanced meant one less test to take on the way to Extra. Also meant FCC might be spared one test-interaction in the future.

(I couldn't try Extra then, because in those days you needed 2 years' experience for it, and time as a Novice or Technician didn't count).

73 de Jim, N2EY
« Last Edit: November 05, 2011, 12:03:17 PM by N2EY » Logged
W3HF
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« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2011, 07:18:47 AM »

Won't work.

Agreed. But one correction and some additions.

1) VEs can waive the fee or reduce it at their discretion.

No they can't. Some VECs don't have fees (Laurel VEC comes to mind), but individual VEs can not waive fees required by their accrediting VEC. VE teams must charge the rate required by their VEC to all applicants. And VECs can't even waive fees for some applicants/sessions/situations; VEC fees must be established at the start of a calendar year, and they must charge the same fee for all sessions conducted under their auspices for that year. Otherwise it could be seen as discriminatory.  (That's why Laurel conducts the tests at Dayton; neither of the two largest VECs--ARRL or W5YI--can waive their fees for that one session, and DARA wants free tests.)

2) When a person is first licensed, their license is "new". But when they upgrade, their license is "modified". So a VE fee paid can result in a new license or a modified license.

However, when a licensee changes address or name, the license is also "modified". But those modifications don't involve a VE fee. So there's no direct correlation.

If the licensee applies directly for the modification, there's no FCC fee. But some folks use VECs for address changes and renewals too; QRZ, for example, refers folks to W5YI-VEC for this service. So there's more confusion on whether fees reflect tests taken.

Another case is that the VEC fee allows the applicant one shot at each of the three tests. So you can't view either the number of fees paid as the number of tests taken, or the number of licenses issued as the number of tests passed. For example, applicant 1 at a test session may pay his fee and take only element 2, and get his Tech license. Applicant 2 may take elements 2 and 3, pass only element 2, and get his Tech. Applicant 3 may take elements 2 and 3 and pass both, receiving a General. And applicant 4 can take elements 2,3, and 4, and only pass element 2, receiving only a Tech. So we have 4 fees, and 4 licenses issued, but 8 elements taken, with 5 of them passed and 3 of them failed. Without the underlying details, you can't generate the real results.

But the biggest problem I see is that the fees go to VECs, not the FCC, and most VEC organizations have no requirement to report either actual revenue or the detailed statistics that would let someone determine a pass/fail rate.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2011, 07:26:24 AM by W3HF » Logged
K2YO
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« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2011, 08:02:57 PM »

"(That's why Laurel conducts the tests at Dayton; neither of the two largest VECs--ARRL or W5YI--can waive their fees for that one session, and DARA wants free tests.)"

There's one other real big reason. Laurel can directly upload 605 data to the FCC and get licenses back in a couple of hours. The big issue is that people who test on Friday and pass, have a call sign on Saturday morning.

Bernie
K2YO


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W3HF
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« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2011, 03:39:23 PM »

There's one other real big reason. Laurel can directly upload 605 data to the FCC and get licenses back in a couple of hours. The big issue is that people who test on Friday and pass, have a call sign on Saturday morning.
Wrong verb (but right idea).

All VECs can (and do) upload directly to the FCC. It's just that Laurel will do it directly from Dayton.
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KA8OCN
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« Reply #21 on: November 20, 2011, 05:53:28 PM »

I am wondering why you are asking this question in the first place?

Its alot easier now than its ever been. I think the VE's giving you the test want a person to pass as much as the person taking the test.

There is no shame in not passing, I always say try it without studying at all and then study. Its nice to know how much you know without the memorizing the test.

I flunked my extra the first time (by 1 question) not bad for someone that had not studied. Yes I passed it the next time.

I just could not give up my old call, I kept my Novice call, it has served me well for quite a few years.

I for one HATED going to the FCC office to take the tests years ago, those people had no sense of humor at all!

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AE6ZW
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« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2011, 05:14:06 PM »

I have been VE in many different places , in general about 80% of person who took exam pass at first time.  those who did not pass often admit they did not study for HAM exam at all, since they are majoring electronics engineering, or have degree in electronics , they thought the exam is similar to their electronics class exam like introduction to electronics circuit 101.
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