McKinney VE Group

A little background on what a VE is and what is involved atthe exam session.

The information tab lists items needed for taking an exam.

Click on the Schedule Tab for a list of scheduled exam session for this year.

ARRL SSC LogoWelcome to the McKinney Volunteer Examiners Group website . Our VE group is sponsored by the McKinney Amateur Radio Club (MARC), the American Radio Relay League Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (ARRL VEC), and the Heard Museum. Membership in any of these organizations is NOT required to take FCC tests at our exam sessions.

MARC is an ARRL Special Service Club (SSC); as an SSC, MARC is recognized as a positive force to improve the visibility of Amateur Radio in the community, to assist in emergencies, to encourage training and to provide activities for the betterment of the membership and the Amateur Radio Service.

The ARRL is a nationwide organization in the USA whose primary purpose is to promote and advance the art, science and enjoyment of Amateur Radio. The ARRL not only reflects the commitment and enthusiasm of American hams, but also provides leadership as the voice of Amateur Radio in the USA, whether in dealings with the Federal Communications Commission, the World Radio Communication Conference, the International Amateur Radio Union, or with the general public.

The goal of Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary is to connect kids with nature – with the hope to inspire within them, as well as their parents, families and teachers, a deeper appreciation for the environment. The Heard’s education department offers innovative programs designed for all age groups, interest and abilities. Programs include guided nature trails, live animal presentations, a preschool program, homeschool science classes, summer camps, adult and teacher workshops.

Stephen Reinen, N8BP is the VE group Liasion (FCC Session Manager); if you have any questions about the information below or relating to the exam sessions, please contact him using email or by phone at 214-937-9982.

What's all this then?
ARRL VEC Patch If you found your way here, you probably already know what Ham Radio is, but do you know how to get involved and on the air? Let's go over a few of the things that may be making your head hurt:

Over the years, the FCC license structure for the Amateur Radio Service has changed many times. In days past, you would have to report to an FCC office to get your license, now the FCC has enlisted the help of a number of organizations called VECs that coordinate the Volunteers who give the exams in the field. Without going into the long historical record of how Volunteer Examiners came into the picture, let's just talk about what's going on today.

A Volunteer Examiner (VE) offers some of his/her time to participate in VE exam sessions. These sessions are advertised on the web and in Amateur Radio magazines. In the Dallas/Fortworth area, you can check dfwlist.org for listings of local sessions, or search the ARRL exam listings to find one or click here to see our schedule.

The FCC requires that there be at least three VEs present at any exam session. The group will validate your identity, proctor and grade your exams during the session. This means you don't have to wait to find out if you've passed!

The process for getting your amateur radio license can seem vague, confusing, or even scary, but it isn't ... Really! Today there are only three exams that an applicant can take. They are all written multiple choice exams; there aren't any Morse code (CW) exams administered by the FCC or the VECs anymore. Though if you are interested in CW, then there are plenty of Hams out there still using it, and there are still exams given for the radiotelegraph operator's certificate (optional) (but that's another story).

Written exam Complexity How many questions
  Technician (element 2) 
  Beginner     35 selected from a pool of about 350 questions  
  General (element 3) 
  Intermediate  
  35 selected from a pool of about 500 questions  
  Extra (element 4) 
  Expert  
  50 selected from a pool of about 700 questions  

The element numbers are remnants of the earlier structure I spoke of, for instance element 1 was a 5WPM Morse code exam. Most people start at the beginner level and work their way up, but the FCC allows for applicants to take the exams in any order they want! This doesn't mean you can skip the first two exams and jump right to t he Extra license class though; the elements build on each other and having passed all three exams is required to get the highest level of Amateur Radio privliges. Most VE groups will encourage an applicant to take the exams in order.

Another interesting item of note is that although there is a fee for taking the exam, unless you choose to "select" a specific callsign through the vanity program, the license and all future renewals are FREE (the license is good for 10 years!). The fee for taking the exam with an ARRL VEC currently is 15$ (more details on the information tab above); the single fifteen dollar fee pays for as many exams as you can pass during that session. This means that if you take the Technician's exam and pass, not only do you now get a license, but you get a free shot at the next level (General) license. If you were to pass the General exam, then you can take the Extra exam too, all on a single fee. If you fail a exam or wait to take the next exam(s) at another exam session then you will need to fill out new paperwork and pay an additonal 15$ fee.

Depending on the VE group you are testing with they may be able to offer you a number of re-takes for a specific exam. The exact number depends on how much time has been allotted for the session and how many versions of the exam the VE group Liasion has available. The McKinney VE Group has two and a half hours set aside for any given session and can accommodate at least two re-takes as long as there is enough time left when you make the request.

If you pass an exam, we will always encourage you to try the next level, even if you haven't studied for it. Since there is no fee, and as long as there is enough time left in the session, you may walk away with a higher license level than you thought you would. We have a saying "The worst that can happen is that you pass and we encourage you to take another exam!"

Remember, the VE's are Amateur radio operators, just like you are (or want to be); we have all had to go through this process and understand the stress and confusion that you could be going through. We want you to succeed and will help you in any way we can to make the process easier to deal with, all you have to do is study and ask questions of any Amateur Radio Operator or even find an Elmer (mentor) to help you through the process. Once at the exam session, we can assist with the paperwork and the process, but answering the exam questions is up to you!

73, Stephen N8BP (VE group Liasion)