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Author Topic: FCC CW Test Content  (Read 10667 times)
N3DF
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Posts: 251




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« on: July 11, 2008, 01:29:28 PM »

When I took the Amateur Extra exam at the FCC New York field office in 1971, the content of the cw test (played on paper tape on a 1930's style code machine) consisted of ship position reports (latitude and longitude coordinates).  Evidently, the FCC used the same tape for amateur and commercial examinations.  Does anyone else remember the content of their FCC cw examinations?  --Neil N3DF
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Neil N3DF
K7KBN
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Posts: 2766




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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2008, 02:53:43 PM »

I took the General code test (not CW) in Los Angeles, and the Extra in Seattle.  Both tests were plain language text, with numerals and punctuation.  I don't think I ever heard of an amateur code test at an FCC office that was mainly numerals.

Good question!

73
Pat K7KBN
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
K9MRD
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Posts: 331




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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2008, 05:52:20 PM »

I took the Extra CW test at the Chicago FCC office in 1964 and it was text as I recall.

Wayne
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KG9SF
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2008, 07:09:08 PM »

I took the CW test at the Chicago FCC office (39th floor of the Federal Bldg.) in November 1975.  As I recall, I was sent 5-letter groups of random letters and numbers, e.g.  KFBT7, AV43T, 90HGH, etc.
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K7KBN
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2008, 09:18:37 PM »

I can't seem to find it right off, but the more I think about it, I'm sure I remember in the FCC's rules that the code exams for amateur licensing were specified as plain text.  Anybody have a copy of the older rules?

73
Pat K7KBN
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N3DF
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Posts: 251




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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2008, 10:38:58 PM »

Pat,

I think you are correct.  However, I think that the term "plain text" meant as opposed to random code groups, which constituted (and I believe still constitute) part of the code exam for some commercial radiotelegraph operator licenses.  By that standard, ship position reports would be plain text.  

Neil N3DF
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Neil N3DF
K2ACB
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Posts: 64




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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2008, 11:40:56 PM »

I got my novice license (WN2DZW) in December of 1963. I was 14 and at that time you had to get a higher class license within a year or you lost your license.        

From the second month after I received my novice license I went down to the FCC office in Manhattan in New York City to try for the general class license.I never bothered with trying to obtain a technician license.

There was this crusty old gentleman by the name of Finkleman or Finklestein who administred the exams at the New York FCC office.He also administerd the commercial FCC exams. At that time you did not get credit if you passed the cw portion of the exam and if you failed you had to wait thirty days to try again. However the exams were free.


I failed the cw portion of the exam five times before I passed it.It took me another two times to pass the cw and theory portions of the exam.However I did get my general license with two months to spare before my novice license expired.I became WB2DZW and held that call until they instituted the vanity call sign program when I changed my call for my initials and present call of K2ACB.

If I recollect correctly at the New york FCC office for the CW exam they sent random code with letters, numerals and punctuation. They did not send words or text that made any sense. The code was sent using this perforated code machine for 5 minutes. You had to copy one minute correctly or 100 characters. Punctuation counted as two characters.You wore earphones and sat at these old classroom desks.


If you successfully passed the code you then had to send. There were  strait keys attached to the desks and Mr. Finkleman or Finklestein would listen to see if you sent correctly.He tested everyone who passed individually. You could bring a bug(semi automatic keyer like a vibroplex key) if you had one and use it to send cw. You did not have to send very long.If I remember he gave you the text which was plain English to send. I actually remember one person passing the written portion of the test but failing the sending portion.Mr. Finkleman or Finklestein could not understand what the fellow was sending. After several attempts at trying to decipher his sending he told the fellow to come back next month and try again.I don't think that happened very often but it did happen in those days.

About two years after I received my general class license I went down for the extra class license. This was before incentive licensing. I think it was around 1966. In those days the Extra Class license was composed of 90 multiple choice questions and you had to draw ten schematic diagrams. The code speed was 20 wpm. If I recollect correctly, the code at that time in the FCC office in New York was still sent as random characters for five minutes and there was no plain text.Punctuation counted as two characters.(Mr. Finkleman or Finklestein still administred the tests.He became an institution at the New York FCC offices until he retired.He must have  administered thousands of FCC tests during his tenure there.

Well I never came close to passing the 20wpm extra class code test. I never even got to the theory part. I tried it once at that time and that was it.When the FCC instituted in 1967 or 68 there incentive licensing I went down and passed the advanced class license. However for that license I did not have to take a code test.

It was not until 1980 that I once again tried for my Extra Class License.At that time things were very different at the New York FCC offices . I think they had moved from Washington Street in lower Manhattan to Varick street. Also Mr.Finkleman or Finklestein had retired.The Extra code test was still 20 wpm but this time the exam was an actual qso sent for 5 minutes. They asked you such questions as what antenna was the sending station using and where was his location. You had to get seven out of ten questions correct.You also got credit if you passed the code and failed the theory. I passed the code on my first try this time for the Extra Class license. I failed the theory on my first attempt but passed on my second attempt. I still had to wait 30 days but the exam was free.

Originally when I took the Extra class license before the incentive licensing it was 100 questions with 10 schematics. Ninty of those questions were multiple choice and you had to get 75 questions to pass. After incentive licensing they made the extra Class exam 50 questions and you had to get 37 right. However in the late 70's for a period of two or three years they reduced the Extra class exam to only 40 questions and you only had to get 32 questions correct to pass. They then put it back to 50 questions where it is today. Maybe they did that because they found too many people were passing the exam? I don't know but I have not taken a radio exam since

I still use cw mostly on 30 and 40 meters. However I am only a casual cw operator and like to send and receive at the leisurely pace of around 13 to 15 wpm.
Alas!most operators in the extra class portion of the cw bands like to send much quicker than that.At least I passed the code at 20 wpm.                           73-Alan-K2ACB
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W8ZNX
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2008, 12:51:30 AM »

all morse code tests i took at the FCC office

were 5 letter/number code groups

mac
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AD5X
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Posts: 1426




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« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2008, 04:21:57 AM »

I vividly remember my General test in 1964, as it was a high pressure situation for me (Dad had to take a day off work to drive me into down-town Washington, DC).  The code test was sent by machine and consisted of 5-letter/number groups.  I had to copy a solid minute error-free.  Then I had to send a clean minute with a straight key.  I can't remember the Extra code test taken in 1977 at the FCC office here in Dallas - probably because the pressure wasn't as great!

Phil - AD5X
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N3DF
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Posts: 251




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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2008, 08:10:48 AM »

Alan--

Interesting narrative.  That Washington Street FCC Field Office was in a very creepy building.  Lots of empty corridors and cobweb-covered World War II era shuttered offices.

When I took the sending tests, the examiner didn't bother putting on the headphones--he said he could judge my sending just by watching me.  Told me to speed up at one point on the 20 wpm exam.

Neil N3DF
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Neil N3DF
W4YA
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Posts: 317




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« Reply #10 on: July 12, 2008, 11:24:35 AM »

A lot of guys in my high-school radio club in 1954 were getting their FCC commercial tickets. So I studied Kaufman's Q&A Manual and passed the 2nd Class Telegraph exam which included a 20WPM code test. I think it was plain language.

The FCC examiner talked me into taking the Extra exam, which he said was EXACTLY the same questions as the 2nd Telegraph. It was indeed the same test, and I didn't have to take the code test again.
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W5HTW
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2008, 05:01:18 PM »

From reading these postings, I can only guess that the FCC code tests must have been left up to the choice of the district FCC Engineer in charge.  I don't recall the content of my General test in 1957.  But the test for my Extra, in 1969, was indeed a commercial ship message, citing things like position, nautical weather, load manifests, and the like.  I think this test, taken in the Washington, DC office, was the same tape used for testing the commercial operators, but simply run at a different speed.  

The sending test was a paragraph supplied by the engineer, and I had to send what he had typed out.  After about 20 characters, he stopped me with "OK, you can send code," and graded me 'passed."  

I never ran into a code test that was five letter groups, in FCC licensing.  However, such tests were common in military or government communications, as one had to pass such a test to get out of radio school.  I recall I had to copy 25 GPM to graduate from the school, and 22 GPM of cut numbers.  The 25 GPM test did NOT include any symbols or punctuation, but letters only.  Same with the 22 GPM of cut numbers.  

Back in 1957 I took the General and failed it the first time, went back a month later and took it and passed.  I think I got the same code test both times.  I took the Extra only once.

Ed
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K7KBN
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Posts: 2766




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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2008, 06:55:51 PM »

Both my Second and First Class Radiotelegraph license tests were 5-letter/number groups, with an occasional punctuation mark thrown in - including the semicolon, which I'd had to learn from Navy "canned" message formats.  It wasn't taught in "A" School.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
N2EY
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Posts: 3860




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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2008, 05:25:43 AM »

Passed 13 wpm in the summer of 1968 (age 14) and 20 wpm (age 16) in the summer of 1970 at the Philadelphia FCC office. Both times were plain text. Looked like the Congressional Record as I recall. The code table could seat 4 or 5 people at a time IIRC.

The FCC gave you a yellow legal pad and a #2 pencil to copy with, plus headphones. Code came from a little machine that read a paper tape. The machine, 'phones and all materials were kept in a locked file cabinet.

You got exactly 5 minutes of code and the examiner had to find at least 1 minute of perfect legible copy for you to pass. When the test ended you had to put the pencil down, no going back and fixing errors or filling in blanks. If the examiner couldn't read your writing he didn't ask you what a letter was; you just failed.

You only got to send if you passed receiving. You only got to the written test if you passed code.

When I went for the Extra I was the only one there for 20 wpm so I had the examiner's undivided attention. When the test started, it seemed easy. After a minute or so he shut off the machine and asked

"Easy, huh, kid?"

"uh, yeah..." was all I could manage. I was supposed to get 5 minutes, what was going on?!

"It should be" he said. "That was 13. Here's 20!" and he restarted the machine at the right speed for the real test.

I'll never know if he did that on purpose or simply forgot, but I passed 20 that day.  

I don't know how many different tapes they had in the office. I do know that if you failed an exam you had to wait 30 days before you were allowed to retest. I think part of the reason for the 30 day wait was that FCC didn't have a lot of different tests, written or code.
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N4ST
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« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2008, 01:31:39 PM »

13 WPM in 1969 in the Baltimore Federal Building, I believe the receive test was 5-character groups. The transmit test was 5-character groups and the guy stopped me fairly quickly I thought.  Didn't seem like a minute of sending.  When I went back for my Extra in 1978, the receive test was a ham type QSO, multiple guess answer sheet and no sending test.
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