Book Review: The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual

February 22, 2012

Book Reviews, Communications, Ham Radio

ham radio as a survival skill

“Whoa, I don’t even understand some of these questions. I’ve got a long way to go.” Those words echoed through my mind as I thumbed through the question pool for the Ham Radio Technicians License for the first time.

The Ham Radio License

The Technician Class license is the first of three License classes available to amateur radio operators. It’s the entry level, the most basic of the three amateur licenses. With the more advanced licenses, the General License and the Amateur Extra License, come more privileges and more bands over which to communicate.

The Technicians Class license exam has 35 multiple choice questions. These are selected from a pool of 396 possible questions. The exam covers 10 topics such as basic electronics, FCC regulations, ham radio etiquette, and safety issues. You must correctly answer 26 questions to pass.

The exam question pool is revised every four years; the last time that the Technicians Class exam was updated was July 1, 2010. For more information you, visit the AARL web site.

Exams are administered by amateur radio enthusiasts under the guidance of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) with the aid of Volunteer Examiners (VEs).

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual

When I decided to pursue a Ham Radio license as part of our prepping, I searched for a good resource to help me prepare. I wasn’t interested in temporarily memorizing just enough to pass the exam, I wanted to learn the technology so that I could actually make use of it in an emergency situation.

I reviewed a number of possible study guides and methods. I opted for the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. It received 4.5 out of 5 stars from 36 reviewers on Amazon.

The manual is divided into 11 chapters that roughly correspond to the sections on the exam. The 11th chapter is the full Technician Class Exam Pool, complete with answers. Every possible question that you may face when taking the exam. That’s not unusual, though. The question pool is published and available in books and on web sites.

The manual also comes with Windows-based Practice Exam Software on CD. I didn’t use this since my primary computer is a mac. Instead, I practiced using a free online test simulator,

I read the manual from cover to cover.

My Results

I found the License Manual to be pretty straightforward and informative. On occasion, I found that I needed to supplement the book with additional research, but that wasn’t often the case. For example, I didn’t find the book’s explanation of comparing different signal strengths using decibels to be very clear. A quick search of the internet helped to clarify it for me.

I come from a pretty technical background and have had a fair amount of math and even some electronics in the past. So much of the book was a refresher for me. Other areas, such as FCC regulations and accessible bands was brand new. All in all, the material was presented in a clear and relatively concise manner.

After reading through the book once, including Chapter 11 with the exam questions, and taking the online practice exam 4 or 5 times. I registered for the exam.

It took about 40 minutes to complete. I scored a perfect 35 out of 35. I don’t say that to brag, but only to underscore that the ARRL manual was an effective guide for me.

Communications in a grid-down scenario is something that every prepper should consider. If you decide that a ham radio is part of your prepping, I’d recommend the ARRL manual. It worked for me. In fact, I’ve already purchased the General Class License Manual and plan to take that exam within the next couple of months.

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10 Comments on “Book Review: The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual”

  1. Beck Says:

    Congrats on obtaining your license. Choosing to prepare should the need arise is a worthy goal. Also, congrats on the perfect score. As your mother, I am proud of you! Next time you come down, I’ll try to have a banana pudding waiting to celebrate!


  2. northernhomesteader Says:

    Thanks! Ham radio licenses are on our list too. Looks like we will add this book to guide us to a successful passing grade.


  3. Dan KB6NU Says:

    I invite everyone to check out my study guides, the “No Nonsense” series of amateur radio license study guides. You can download PDF versions for free or purchase e-book or printed versions. For more information, go to



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