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I'm an inactive amateur in D.C. looking to get more involved and studying for the Extra Class exam. The last time I took an exam was decades ago in an FCC office. I read about the volunteer exam process. I see a lot online but don't see, specifically, how to go about initiating the process to take the Extra Class exam. Is it online? Do I contact a local club? Please advise and thanks for your help.

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  • $\begingroup$ Local clubs do the testing. Find one! $\endgroup$
    – Pete NU9W
    Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ But during Covid a lot of online testing options also popped up. This might also be interesting, if you're not as mobile. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ Please don't add "thank you" as an answer. Instead, accept the answer that you found most helpful. - From Review $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 2:40

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  1. Make sure you have an FRN and know it — you will need to enter it on the application form. As a previous amateur, there's a good chance you already have one, but if not, you'll have to register for one (and if you do, you'll want to get it registered in the online system anyway). Info from the FCC here.

  2. If your expired license is Extra, General, Advanced, or a pre-1987 Technician license, bring proof of your previous license. You will only have to pass the Technician test, but you will receive an Extra license (if you were previously Extra), or a General (if you were previously General, Advanced, or pre-1987 Tech). The ARRL provides info on valid forms of proof of an expired license.

  3. Find a testing session through a local club or the ARRL's exam session finder. Before 2020, the majority of testing sessions were an open-door affair — a club's VEs would get together once a month in a published location, and they would offer the test to anybody who showed up. Some are still like that, but nowadays more of them are "call ahead" — there will be contact info in the listing on the ARRL site; call or email at least a few days ahead of the scheduled date and let them know that you'd like to take the test, to be sure that someone will be there.

  4. Show up and take the test. Have \$15 on you; some groups offer the test for free, but the maximum they're allowed to take to recoup expenses is \$15.

  5. You'll be told right away if you passed or failed. If you passed, wait for your license to show up via email within a few days. You may also be offered a chance to take the next higher exam for free if you pass, but that's at the VE's discretion. If they have places to be, they don't have to offer. If you didn't pass, you'll have to try again at another session.

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I've had the experience of first joining a club and participating (using an old license) and then writing an exam for an advanced license.

The examiners are all volunteers, so if a stranger asks they might quite truthfully say "sorry, no exams scheduled for the next few months". But as a club member that they know, they'll meet you at a convenient time and place to get it done.

In my case when I finally decided to write the exam, I asked the guys I knew at the club to examine me. It was about 4 days from asking to writing, and I had the licence and callsign within a week.

As you're starting fresh, look for a club that's active - has over 100 members, meets weekly on a repeater and publishes a regular newsletter. Sometimes the closest club to you is almost defunct, with a few old timers holding the fort, and they may not be able to help with the license exam.

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One thing you can do is go to the ARRL website and look for test locations. Then click on a session that is convenient for you and follow the direction to sign up with that group. I took mine with the Laurel VEC team in Catonsville MD and they were very well set up.

Each organization will give you the direction you need to follow to get everything in order.

The ARRL site i mentioned is here.

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As mentioned there are now volunteer examiners which hold sessions. most are associated with a HAM radio club. Contact your local club or go to the ARRL web site and they have a exam session finder you can use.

Most groups charge $15 to take the exam. With the ARRL, the money goes to the ARRL to cover their costs. They are ones that will submit the application to the FCC.

You will get a notice from the FCC. The FCC charges an additional $35 to award the license. This a relatively new fee only recently added.

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