License Exams

The AARC VE Team conducts amateur radio license exams under the coordination of the Laurel Amateur radio Club Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) on the second Saturday of every month. Registration takes place between 12:00 - 1:00 pm and exams start at or shortly after 1:00pm.

All amateur radio exams conducted by the VE Teams of the Laurel VEC are FREE.

Contact David Rawley/AE5Z by e-mail ( for more information and to pre-register. While we prefer that you pre-register, walk-ins are always welcome.

Dates, times and locations of other exams coordinated by the Laurel VEC can be found at the Laurel VEC site

Important information about ID's, paper licenses, and FRNs:

Bring a government-issued photo ID to your exam session. Young applicants who do not have a government-issued photo ID may use other forms of ID including a school ID, library card, or report card.

Bring the most current unexpired CSCE issued at a previous test session if your license level is not yet showing in the FCC database. You will be allowed to take your exam but the results will not be processed until any pending action has been completed.

Acceptable material may be used in certain cases for exam credit. If you plan to show evidence of exam credit contact Rick at or leave a voice mail message prior to attending an exam session to verify you qualify and have the correct materials.

You must provide a Social Security Number (SSN) or FCC Registration Number (FRN). If you have an FRN it must be used in place of your Social Security Number. If you currently have an Amateur Radio license your FRN will appear on your license and in the FCC database. You might already have an FRN if you applied for a GMRS license or had some other transaction with the FCC.

If you do not have an FRN, an AARC VE may assist you in obtaining it at the exam session. You can obtain it on your own and bring it to the exam session. Having an FRN means you will not have to give us your SSN. An FRN can be obtained here.

If you are taking your first amateur radio exam and you do not have an FRN by the time you leave the exam session, do not apply for it on your own after passing the exam. You will be assigned an FRN along with your new call sign. If you plan to take an exam at a subsequent session, whether with AARC or any other organization, to upgrade your license, apply for a vanity call sign, or conduct any other transaction with the FCC, wait for your FRN to be assigned first. New FRN's and call signs in this case are usually assigned within a few business days of passing your exam at AARC.

Effective Feb 17, 2015, the FCC will no longer automatically mail a paper license with a new, modified, or renewed grant. If you want a paper copy of your license from the FCC you must log into the ULS system on the FCC web site with your FRN and set your paper preference accordingly before your exam results are uploaded by the VE team to the FCC. To ensure your preference is set prior to the upload you must do this before coming to the exam session. The VE team cannot do this for you.

If you want to receive an authorization from the FCC by email, you must include a valid, legible email address on NCVEC Form 605 and write your initials in the margin next to it. Providing your email address on NCVEC Form 605 without initials will enable the VE team to notify you of your new call sign or upgrade, but will not result in your email address being sent to the FCC.

A small number of calculators are available to use at the exam session. You may bring a calculator to use as long as nothing is programmed or stored in it. You may not use the calculator in a smartphone. Cell phones, any devices than can be connected to the internet, or devices that make noise must be turned off during your test.

Pencils and pens will be provided. Forms are filled out in ink and exams may be taken in pencil.

There is no examination fee. Exam sessions sponsored by the Laurel VEC are free.

Summary of what to bring to your exam session:

A government-issued photo ID.

FRN if you have one, or SSN if you do not. FRN must be used if you have one.
Valid CSCE issued at a previous exam session if the exam results have not been processed by the FCC yet.

Acceptable material if claiming exam credit, contact Rick at or leave a voice mail message prior to the exam session to verify you qualify and have the correct materials.

$0.00, LARC VEC exams are free

A calculator with nothing stored or programmed in it. A small number of calculators are available to borrow. Cell phone and smartphone calculators may not be used.
Pen and pencil - provided at exam session.
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much does it cost to take an amateur license exam?

All exam sessions conducted by Laurel VEC-sponsored VE Teams are FREE.

2. What materials should I use to prepare for the exam?

There are study materials available from several places. Our very informal survey indicates that the materials produced by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) are the most popular because they provide easily understandable explanations of the material plus they provide additional non-testable but very useful information. You can also use on-line practice exams to check your progress. There are several sites available but here are two good

3. Why do I have to provide my social security number to get my ham license?

Because Congress passed a law to track down people who owe the government money. That law requires anyone applying for or renewing any federally issued license to provide their social security number. Once you apply for your initial amateur radio license using your SSN and you successfully qualify for an amateur license, you will be issued a FCC Registration Number (FRN) and it will appear on your license. In almost all future transactions with the FCC you will have to use your FRN in lieu of your SSN. You can acquire a FCC Registration Number (FRN) prior to taking your initial exam by registering with the FCC at

4. Do I need to bring my own pencils, papers, etc?

No. Everything you will need such as pencils, scratch paper and calculators will be provided.

5. Can I use my own calculator?

Yes. We will provide a calculator for you to use. However, if you bring your own calculator and it is a programmable calculator it must be un-programmed. In other words, the memory must be cleared (Note: We usually put them in our microwave on high for 15-30 seconds to clear the memory. The memory gets cleared but unfortunately they don't seem to work very well after that.)

6. What do I need to bring to the Exam session?

All the stuff listed above these questions as applicable or appropriate (e.g., Photo ID, License - if applicable, Element credit - if applicable).

7. How long will it take?

The exams will start at or shortly after 1:00pm. Our typical exam session is completed (all exams administered, graded, applicants informed of their results, and all paperwork completed) by 3:00pm. That of course depends on the number applicants and the number of exams administered. You could be done and out the door if you passed between 2:30pm and 3:30pm.
Note: We've actually timed people taking their exams and have learned that on average an applicant takes 22-23 minutes to complete the Element 2 exam (aka Technician exam) or the Element 3 exam (aka General exam) and 42-44 minutes to complete the Element 4 exam (aka Amateur Extra or Extra exam). Thee level of preparation will determine how much time is taken to complete an exam.

8. What will the test session be like?

The sessions will vary at each location due to the teams involved and the facilities where the test is conducted. Unfortunately, beer and pizza are not served. However, our session will generally be conducted as follows:

Phase 1 - Registration - Upon your arrival you must register or complete the registration process if you pre-registered.(1) You will be given a folder with a number in the upper right corner - this is your Control Number (try to remember that number). Inside the folder are two forms you need to complete and a survey. When you have completed the forms (You will complete only part one of each form) return to the registrar.(2) You will be asked to provide a photo ID.(3) If you are taking an exam to upgrade an existing license, you must show the original version of your current, unexpired license and to provide
a copy.(4) If you have any other applicable documentation (e.g., current, unexpired Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE), FCC letter indicating grandfathered credit(s), etc) you must show the original version of that documentation and provide a copy of each.

Phase 2 - Pre-exam instructions - You will be given some pre-exam instructions regarding the use of calculators, procedures for asking questions, rules for taking the exam, bathroom breaks during the exam, etc.

Phase 3 - The exam - The Technician and General exams are 35 multiple question exams and you must correctly answer 26 questions in order to pass (74.2%). The Amateur Extra exam is 50 multiple choice questions and passing is 37 correct (74%).

(1) You will be given a test booklet that is " color coded" - the color of the folder indicates the class of the exam (Blue = Technician, Red = General and Purple = Amateur Extra). On the front of the exam booklet in the upper right corner is the exam version number (e.g., T-2010-04C, G-2011-09A, E-2012-01B, etc) which tells us which answer key to use to grade your exam. That information is also on the first page of the exam booklet. Please DO NOT WRITE IN THE EXAM BOOKLET!

(2) You will be given an answer sheet on which to mark your answers. On the answer sheet you need to print and sign your name. You must indicate which exam element you are taking (e.g., Element 2 = Technician, Element 3 = General and Element 4 = Amateur Extra), the exam version (e.g., TRR-602C, GRR-704F, ERR-201K, etc) and your control number (e.g., 01, 03, 07, etc).

(3) Once you have completed the admin portion of the answer sheet you may open your exam booklet and immediately begin the exam.

(4) When you are done, raise your hand and a VE will pick up your exam materials and your answer sheet will be graded. Please quietly return to the general seating area.

Phase 4 - Grading - Once you've completed your exam, it will be graded and you will be informed of the results.

Phase 5 - Certificate - If you pass you will receive a Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam (CSCE) indicating which element(s) you've passed and if appropriate, which license class you've earned.Note: The VE team will strive to score your test, inform you of the results, and process your paperwork as quickly as possible. The size of the test session and the number of VEs on-hand will be factors in how quickly this gets done. Please be patient. If there are any problems, please speak to the VE Team Leader who will try to resolve the problems and answer any questions.

9. What happens if I fail the exam?

On the way to the test site you will pass a cemetery. The last three people who failed their exam are living there now. Just kidding.
Per FCC rules and VEC instructions, we are not required to re-test you if you fail. However, we will look at your test results. If you missed passing the Technician or General exams by 1-3 questions or if you missed passing the Amateur Extra exam by 3-4 questions and if the VEs think you have a chance of passing, we will administer another exam.

Fact: A very high percentage of applicants who fail their exam on their first attempt and re-take it, usually do worse on the second attempt. Only a small percentage of applicants pass their exam on the second attempt.

10. Do I have to pass a Morse code test to get my ham license?

No. There is no longer a requirement for Morse code testing.

11. How soon after I pass my exam can I start operating?

If you have earned your initial license no matter which class of license, you have to wait until the FCC grants you a license and it is displayed in their data base.
If you are upgrading an existing license you may use your new privileges when you are given your Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) at the end of the exam session. Of course, when you use your new privileges you are required to append your call sign with one of the following designators:
KT – Upgraded to Technician – using phone you would say your call sign (e.g., WN4FUI) as “Whiskey November Four Foxtrot Uniform India temporary (or interim) Kilo Tango”. On CW or digital you would send: WN4FUI/KT
AG – Upgraded to General – using phone you would say your call sign (e.g., WN4FUI) as “Whiskey November Four Foxtrot Uniform India temporary (or interim) Alpha Golf”. On CW or digital you would send: WN4FUI/AG

AE – Upgraded to Amateur Extra – using phone you would say your call sign (e.g., WN4FUI) as “Whiskey November Four Foxtrot Uniform India temporary (or interim) Alpha Echo”. On CW or digital you would send: WN4FUI/AE