Many Radio Amateurs became licensed through courses run by Colchester Radio Amateurs. There have been many changes to the exam system over the years and CRA have maintained a high degree of excellence in training throughout.
The entry point for all newcomers into the hobby is via the Foundation licence, progressing on to Intermediate, culminating in the Full/Advanced licence. An introduction to each of these licences, as explained by the RSGB, is provided below.
The entry Level is the Foundation licence. This is a new licence that was introduced in January 2002. The Foundation licence is designed to get you involved in amateur radio as quickly as possible. But before you are allowed to transmit 'live' it is important that you know a little bit about how your radio works, the dangers of interfering with other radio users, how not to upset your neighbours or your parents (if you are a young person) and the rules and regulations of holding a radio transmitting licence.
How do you learn these new skills, by taking the Foundation licence training course, which is an integral part of of obtaining a Foundation licence. Most of the training is practical. There is a small amount of radio and electronics theory but only enough for you to appreciate things like using the correct fuses in your equipment and how to build an antenna to get the most out of your radio station.
Don't be afraid of the thought of having to undertake a training course. The courses are run in a friendly informal atmosphere by experienced radio amateurs. Courses take different formats. At CRA we do the Foundation as a Fast Track single day including the exam at the end. This requires that candidates do plenty of reading before the day, but all practicals and theory are covered on the day. Some clubs run the course over a weekend and some over a number of weeks. Once you have passed the exam you get your 'Pass' certificate and you are on your way! When you have been issued with your own individual M6 series callsign you will be able to operate on all bands without supervision but with a power restriction of 10 Watts. This is a fairly low level of power but with the experience you will quickly gain this will enable you to communicate around the world.
All successful candidates taking a Foundation course with CRA receive one free year’s membership of the club
Once you have gained experience at the Foundation level we are sure you will want to take the next step up.
This is the Intermediate licence. The Intermediate licence gives access to the Intermediate frequency allocations within the amateur bands . The Permitted power levels are increased to 50 watts.
To obtain the Intermediate licence it is advisable to take a training course. This course is more substantial than the Foundation course and aims to teach many of the fundamentals of radio in a stimulating way by actually undertaking practical tasks such as soldering, building a small project and a variety of other exercises building on the experience you have gained as a Foundation licence holder.
After completing the course candidates sit the Intermediate Licence Examination. Again this examination is a multiple-choice test based on what was learnt on the course, covering the basic concepts of radio operating on the amateur bands and the licence conditions. With both of these successfully completed an Intermediate licence can be obtained.
CRA implements a Intermediate course in a day but currently only offers this to existing members.
This is the highest level of licence that you can obtain.To gain a Full licence it is necessary to pass the Advanced Radio Communications Examination. This examination is more advanced than the Intermediate, it again covers radio theory and licence conditions but because holding a full licence enables you to use 400 Watts power output to your transmitter such subjects as Electro Magnetic Compatability (EMC), antenna design and safety issues are covered in some depth. The licence allows access to all the amateur allocations with full power.
When studying for the Advanced Radio Communications Examination there is currently no requirement to take a formal training course, this is because the examination is currently theory based, with no practical training element in the syllabus. It is possible to study at home on your own if you so wish. However, many local amateur radio clubs and societies and technical colleges run courses specifically for the Advanced Radio Communications Examination. Alternatively there are some correspondence and Internet courses available.
CRA are happy to book exam places for its members, and exams can now be booked on demand.