The Volunteer Examiner program started in the early 1980s, and has been a boon for amateur radio. Exam sessions are now more accessible than when tests were given by the FCC, meaning that it is much easier to obtain an amateur radio license, and that more people can now enjoy our hobby.
As the name implies, volunteer examiners (VEs) are volunteers. They may not accept any payment for administering tests. They may, however, be reimbursed for some expenses. Preparing, processing, administering and coordinating an examination for an amateur radio license are the types of out-of-pocket expenses that Part 97 rules state that VEs and VECs may be reimbursed. (E1E14)
The organizations that are responsible for accrediting and administering the exams are called Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs). A Volunteer Examiner Coordinator is an organization that has entered into an agreement with the FCC to coordinate amateur operator license examinations. (E1E03) There are currently 14 VECs in the U.S. The procedure by which a VEC confirms that the VE applicant meets FCC requirements to serve as an examiner is the phrase that describes the Volunteer Examiner accreditation process. (E1E04)
The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) is a group made up from representatives of the 14 VECs. The NCVEC is responsible for maintaining the question pools for the three examinations. The questions for all written US amateur license examinations are listed in a question pool maintained by all the VECs. (E1E02)
The rules and procedures for administering the tests are written so that everything is on the up and up. For example, 3 is the minimum number of qualified VEs required to administer an Element 4 amateur operator license examination. (E1E01) Each administering VE is responsible for the proper conduct and necessary supervision during an amateur operator license examination session. (E1E06) Having several VEs, and making them all responsible, leaves very little room for cheating.
VEs are not to show any favoritism. To minimize the chance of this happening, a VE may not administer an examination to relatives of the VE as listed in the FCC rules. (E1E08)
The penalty for a VE who fraudulently administers or certifies an examination can be revocation of the VE’s amateur station license grant and the suspension of the VE’s amateur operator license grant. (E1E09)
Before administering a test, the VEs instruct the candidates of the rules. For example, the candidates are not allowed to consult any books during the test. They may use a calculator, but only if they can demonstrate to a VE that all of the calculator’s memories have been cleared. If a candidate fails to comply with the examiner’s instructions during an amateur operator license examination, a VE should immediately terminate the candidate’s examination. (E1E07)
After the test, three VEs must correct each test sheet. This minimizes the chance for making a scoring mistake. On amateur operator license examinations, there is a minimum passing score of 74%. (E1E05) If an examinee scores a passing grade on all examination elements needed for an upgrade or new license, three VEs must certify that the examinee is qualified for the license grant and that they have complied with the administering VE requirements. (E1E11)
After the administration of a successful examination for an amateur operator license, the VEs must submit the application document to the coordinating VEC according to the coordinating VEC instructions. (E1E10) If the examinee does not pass the exam, the VE team must return the application document to the examinee. (E1E12)
From time to time, a licensee may be asked to re-take a test. The consequences of failing to appear for re-administration of an examination when so directed by the FCC are that the licensee’s license will be cancelled. (E1E13)