One More Way to Do a One-Day Tech Class

On the ham_instructor Yahoo group, Norm, K6YXH, posted the following:

For all of you who are teaching multi-day Tech classes, consider the 1-day session as “Day 1″ of a multi-day course. I call it a ‘Inverted Ham Radio Class” because the test comes at the beginning instead of the end.

I’ve done it both ways, teaching 8 – 10 week community classes, and my current thinking is that 1-day is better because fewer drop out and we can use subsequent classes to concentrate on getting the new hams on the air and radio active.

At the first meeting, everyone passes their exam. In multi-day classes, I’ve had drop out rates of up to 50%, and not all of them go on to pass the exam. I’ve seen pass rates well below 20% after a semester of teaching high school students from a standard text. So, after the first session where everyone (well nearly everyone) passes, we have follow-on sessions where we do the important teaching, including giving advice about buying radios, getting the new hams on the air and involved in community service.

For Day 1, we pretty much follow W6NBC’s method. (Thank you, W6NBC, for publishing on the web – I had no idea we could do this and no confidence that it would work until I saw your site!)

We send two documents to students who sign up, and ask them to read them at least once:

  1. A list of the Tech Question Pool with just the right answers (no wrong answers to even skip over – no table of contents, no index – 25 pages (less if you use double side printing). I put a copy of that in the Files section.
  2. A “No- Nonsense Study Guide” like KB6NU’s.

Since we e-mail these to the examinees, we have no printing costs and no one has to buy anything except printer paper and ink to get started. We suggest that they read both documents, but if they’re pressed for time, just read the Q&As. We suggest they take practice exams on-line to see if they’re ready and ask them to keep reading until they can pass the practice exams reliably with scores of 85% or more.

At the study/exam session, we start at 9 am and take breaks every hour. At the breaks, I answer questions that students have quietly asked while the rest study. Typically, I spend 15 minutes answering those questions and explaining things like the calculations for Ohm’s Law and Power, and Frequency and Wavelength. I bring a dummy load, volt meter, piece of stripped-back coax and some portable antennas to show off.

But most important, I limit answers to 2 minutes and try real hard to avoid getting drawn into technical explanations in front of the class for questions like, “What’s CW?” and “What is SSB?”

If students want longer explanations, I make sure they’re already passing the practice exams and then take them out of the room to answer without disturbing the readers. One wanted to know the physics that allows direct radio waves to travel further than light waves – some are clearly more prepared than others!

Many report passing with just one read through the Q&As. Several passed without actually reading all the way through even once! At our last session, 24 of 24 passed, and many of those got 100% or missed just one or two. About half read at least a little bit outside of class, but some picked up the material for the first time at 9 am on Day 1.

Around noon, we collect exam fees (GLAARG VEC charges only $4), check ID and fill out the exam roster – we have people come into another room to do that, leaving the class to study. BTW, we allow anyone to attend just for the VE Session, including upgrades for General and Extra.

We bring in an exam team at 1 pm – most examinees are finished and turn in their answer sheets within 15 minutes. We typically grade exams and complete all paperwork by 2pm, including handing out CSCEs. We use a ‘production line’ approach, using a dedicated VE team for grading, filling out forms and completing the CSCEs, plus a few to do quality checks and answer questions.

The Day 2 training session is as close to the exam session as we can schedule. We bring in our radios, do ‘show and tell,’ and answer questions.

Day 3 is ‘how to program your radio’ – we show them how to enter simplex and repeater data and how to use memory. We use PowerPoint and have a team of experienced hams to go around and help. We ask that the students bring their manuals so we don’t get stuck.

Day 4 is a ‘get on the air’ practice where we bring a hand- held radio and have each one of them check into a weekly net – the net control expects the new hams and gets them to talk a while, introducing themselves to the others on the net.

I think I like this approach, and not only because they’re using my No-Nonsense Technician Study Guide. It gets people their licenses quickly, thereby giving them a sense of accomplishment right off the bat and keeping them interested, and then lets them learn by doing.


  1. Norm/K6YXH says:

    The credit for the 1-Day concept goes to the W6NBC club – they’re the ones who published their results and gave me the confidence to try it – it’s hard to get up in front of a class and proclaim that they are going to pass the exam with less than a day’s worth of reading unless you know it can be done. http://w6nbc. com

    After two classes and a dozen people who’ve tried it on their own, I’m a believer. I went back and asked people who studied using the classic books and they admited that the night before, they just went through all the questions, highlighting the right answers. The W6NBC approach is even more efficient.

    I’ve had more problems with instructors accepting this approach than I have with students – it’s hard selling the idea to experienced instructors who are very much against a cram session approach – they see no value to teaching to the exam. But once they see the ‘how to pick your radio’ and ‘how to program your radio’ classes filled with enthusiastic, engaged new hams, they start to embrace the concept. Getting instructors on the session’s VE Team also helps. I don’t advocate the equivalent 1-Day approach for General and Extra – there’s too much technical information and besides, they’re already on the air.

    I was just invited to a local club to show them a 1-Day study/exam session and train them on how to do it. I responded by asking them to sign up as VEs so they can be part of the team. I’m hoping for something like the doctors’ approach to surgery: See one; do one; teach one!

  2. Nice approach. BTW, is the No-Nonsense Study Guide URL correct?

  3. Dan KB6NU says:

    Sorry about that. I’d made a typo when entering this item. It’s fixed now……73, Dan KB6NU

  4. Thanks. I posted a link to your article and the PDF on our local
    ARES group’s forum in the hopes that people will spread it
    around to those that can use it.

    So far, the NoCode changes seem to have had a profound effect
    on the number of people testing at our local VE sessions. Last time
    we had the most we’ve ever had, and I’ve heard other anecdotal
    evidence the same is true at other groups. Test scores seem to
    be impressive as well; we’ve had a number of testers pass with 100%
    correct answers and many with only one or two wrong.

    Thanks for the class,
    Jim N9GTM

  5. Rich Davidson, K9RD says:

    I received the 2004 Herb S. Brier Award from the ARRL as the “Instructor of the Year.” I have taught my course since 1994, and I do it like no one else does, including your approach. The difference in my course and almost all others is that (1) years later, my students remember what they learned and (2) did not have to memorize anything except the things that have to be memorized like band edge frequencies and certain Rules and Regs. All of the theory they learned carried them through to an Extra Class license. Why? I teach outside the book. As John Houseman lectured as Professor Charles Kingsfield at Harvard in his freshman contracts course, “You teach yourself the law, and I train your mind. You come in here with a skull full of mush, and if you succeed, go out thinking like a lawyer.” I train their minds; they read the ARRL License Manual for each grade of license for which they prepare to take an exam. I do it in eight sessions, two hours each – five teaching, two problem reviews, one VE session. The difference is that they finish my course learning the material. I teach the concepts so that the book makes sense and becomes intuitive. My students’ letters to the ARRL, none solicited by me, got me the award.

  6. Jim Eller K8ELR says:

    These “ONE DAY CRAM COURSE AND EXAMS” are nothing new really. In 1975 I took a course for my private pilot license that had flight theory, laws, regulations and mathematcal theory on a Saturday. This class lasted about 8 hours not counting breaks for lunch etc. During the class each question from the question pool was dicussed and thourohly explained by the instructor. It was a very long day. Each student was given a book with all the questions with the correct answer in large bold type. They were told to spend the evening in their hotel rooms to only look at the correct answers. Sunday morning a about a one hour reveiw of the questions was given. The written test followed immediatly. Needless to say everyone passed. Most with scores 85% or higher. The question most people would ask is does that person know how to fly? Not necessarily. They passed a written test thats all. A person can pass a test and get their license to be a ham. But the prospctive pilot still had to accumulate time as a student. Then take and pass the multiple choice test. Then take check ride with a certified flight examiner. It’s not at all as critical or as important but Who is going to teach them how to be real ham operators? I passed the test and I have you to answer my questions and share your experience and wisdom. I just hope they all get the real info they need. From a real “elmer”

  7. Ronny, KC5EES says:

    Great to know that others appreciate your work in simplifying the Technician materials. I look forward to seeing your General Class materials, as well.

    Keep up the good work.


    Ronny Risinger, KC5EES
    Austin, TX

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