Online VE Sessions

HAM RADIO TEST ONLINE

Amateur radio (or “ham radio”) is used by people all over the world to communicate over radio waves. Some people use ham radio for emergency preparedness, to provide communications support for community events, to report on severe weather and natural disasters, as a social activity, and even occasionally to contact crew members on the International Space Station. If you are interested in amateur radio, consider taking a class to prepare for the ham radio test to get your license.

VIDEO-SUPERVISED ONLINE HAM RADIO TESTS

  • The Billerica Amateur Radio Society, BARS, is authorized by the ARRL VEC and the FCC to conduct online video-supervised testing with strict rules and protocols for maintaining the integrity of the testing environment.
  • You must be consistently scoring above 88% on practice tests BEFORE you schedule an exam.
  • Study and practice using HamStudy.org before signing up for an exam

RULES AND PROTOCOL — READ THOROUGHLY

Warning: You must be fully prepared for an online ham radio test

The ONLINE ham radio test is much more complicated than a regular in-person exam. Exams require a minimum of 3 volunteer examiners per session, and only 1 candidate can be tested by them at a time. To be sure no one can cheat, you will use a camera phone to scan around the room to verify the integrity of the exam environment. You and your exam session will be recorded. If you are not comfortable with this, please consider taking the ham radio test in person at a future date.

 Practice for your ham radio test: It is your responsibility to be fully prepared since you will be taking the time of volunteers and a time slot from a long waitlist of candidates. Be sure you are consistently scoring above 85% on practice tests before you schedule an exam.
–– HamStudy.org, a free site with lots of tips. It has an inexpensive companion phone app you can use on the go.
–– ARRL Exam Review for Ham Radio™, a free site from the national group that you may want to join and use for referencing a wealth of information.

 One Exam per Session:  Due to the difficulty of administering exams online one person at a time, you may normally take only ONE exam per session, unless you have prearranged multiple exams with the exam team.

 Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam (CSCE): The Exam Manager will send you a CSCE that includes your digital signature that you will keep for your records when you pass any element.

 Privacy Information: Please know that getting a ham radio license will make your name and address become public information when the new license is issued. An alternative address, such as a PO Box or work address, would be acceptable. See details here: http://www.arrl.org/fcc-licensee-privacy. Social security numbers, phone numbers, and email addresses are never published.

Exam Registration: when registering for an exam be aware of the exam software’s privacy policy. You can register for a “W1LUS Billerica ARS” exam session here. Find one of our exams listed there. Fill out your registration information and a day or so after you will receive an email with instructions on how to pay the non-refundable $15 exam fee electronically via Zelle or PayPal. Once payment is received you will receive a LINK to YOUR specific exam session.

Your public information:

Signing your NCVEC 605 form: If you successfully pass your exam the exam software will sign this form for you. You should be aware that you are signing this:

I certify that:

  • I waive any claim to the use of any particular frequency regardless of prior use by license or otherwise;
  • All statements and attachments are true, complete, and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief and are made in good faith;
  • I am not a representative of a foreign government;
  • I am not subject to a denial of Federal benefits pursuant to Section 5301of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, 21 U.S.C. § 862;
  • The construction of my station will NOT be an action which is likely to have a significant environmental effect (See 47 CFR Sections 1.1301-1.1319 and section 97.13(a));
  • I have read and WILL COMPLY with Section 97.13(c) of the Commission’s Rules regarding RADIOFREQUENCY (RF) RADIATION SAFETY and the amateur service section of OST/OET Bulletin Number 65.
  •  FCC RF Safety Requirements – You will be certifying that you have read and will comply with the above when you sign your name online after successfully completing the exam.

 Federal Registration Number (FRN): If you do not have an FRN, get an FRN ahead of time by visiting the FCC’s Registration page and clicking “Register for an FRN.” This number will be used to uniquely identify you in all transactions with the FCC.

 Basic Qualification Question: Applicants are required to answer the FCC basic qualification question (felony question). If an applicant answers YES, they must submit the required documentation directly to FCC as outlined in these instructions http://www.arrl.org/fcc-qualification-question, and reference the application file number. The candidate must take action within 14 days of the application filing date, or the application will be dismissed by FCC. The candidate should not communicate any information or documents to the Volunteer Examiner team or the VEC.

 U.S. PHOTO ID: ONE legal photo ID will need to be shown on camera to the VE Team. Adults must show a U.S. or state-issued driver’s license, non-driver state ID, or U.S. passport. Under-18 students may show one of the above items, or the student shows a school ID or birth certificate and a legal guardian presents a photo ID.

Parental Consent: If you are under age 18, we will need to receive parental or legal guardian permission and that person will need to be present in-person to state their approval, prove their identity, and remain present in the room during your exam. Further, if you are under age 13, your parent or guardian will need to fill out a COPPA Parental Consent Form and email it to coppa@examtools.org.

Clear your exam table of ALL items within reach or view.

Prepare your EXAM ROOM BEFORE the exam:

  •  Clear the Exam Room of all non-exam materials, papers, notes, posters, computer screens, calculators, watches, or anything that could aid in taking the exam. Many people just use a bathroom to simplify everything. You may not be in a vehicle, outdoors, or in a public space.
  •  Clear your exam table of ALL items within reach or view that would either distract you or raise suspicion, such as papers, sticky notes, electronic items, monitors, headphones, food, drinks, and anything unnecessary for the exam (see photo).
  •  NO Virtual Backgrounds or Blinds are allowed; we must see the entire room.
  • Warn family members not to enter the room during the exam.
  • You must NOT have in the exam room any other people or pets other than a registered service dog.

Prepare your COMPUTER BEFORE the exam:

You may use a computer calculator app. Put it on the left. Adjust the browser into a tall narrow rectangle and center it between the calculator and Zoom images.

  • You must have a working laptop computer with a built-in webcam, microphone, and reliable Internet service (no VPN or Hot Spots).
  •  You may **NOT** use any kind of tablet, iPad, or any Chromebook. They won’t work. Note: certain versions of Linux may not work.
  • NOTE FOR MAC USERS: “Due to increased security and permissions with Mac OS 10.14 Mojave and 10.15 Catalina, you will be prompted to authorize the Zoom Desktop Client to use the microphone, camera, and on Mac OS 10.15 Catalina, screen recording. The permissions are set within System Preferences of the device.” We have found that, as of the most recent Zoom 5.x clients, you will be forced to exit and restart Zoom for these changes to take effect. Please make sure you have done this prior to joining your video-supervised exam session.
  •  Remove ALL audio devices, headphones, earbuds, smartwatches, hats, blue tooth mice, secondary monitors or keyboards, and anything that could be considered suspicious and unnecessary for the exam.
  •  Disable any chat, alerts, blue tooth devices, virtual screens, VPN, or pop-up apps.
  •  NO EXTERNAL MOUSE OR KEYBOARD is needed or allowed to be connected to a laptop. You will press the A, B, C, and D keys to answer a question and automatically advance to the next one. You may also use the RIGHT/LEFT ARROW KEYS on your KEYBOARD to advance or go back through the questions.
  •  TEST your Internet browser to be sure it is not full screen and fits as shown in the photo, then close it.
  •  **QUIT ALL APPLICATIONS** except Zoom and optional calculator app.
  • You must have only one display screen running. Disable any virtual screens and backdrops.
  •  A Calculator App may optionally be on your screen during the exam. Load it in advance and clear its memory if you need it.
  •  Download Zoom on both computer and phone and use this link to TEST them.
  •  Zoom must run as an APPLICATION! It cannot be in a browser!!
  •  Name your computer in your Zoom profile before you go into the Zoom waiting room. EXAMPLE: “Jane Doe computer”
  • You will JOIN AUDIO on the computer but NOT the cell phone.
  • Locate and practice the SHARE YOUR SCREEN option of Zoom. Practice with a friend.
  • Practice minimizing the ZOOM DISPLAY BOXES so they don’t block your browser or calculator.
Prop the phone up to view the computer screen and keyboard from the SIDE. Like this!

Prepare your SMARTPHONE BEFORE the exam:

  • You must have an Internet-connected cell phone with a built-in camera.
  • Be sure the cell phone is fully charged or plugged in.
  • Download Zoom on both computer and phone and use this link to TEST them.
  •  Do NOT Join Audio on the cell phoneCANCEL AUDIO on the cell phone so it won’t cause audio feedback.
  •  Learn how to REVERSE VIDEO from “selfie” view to room view and how to hold the camera in horizontal orientation.
  • You will use the camera to scan the room, the computer, and your hands for security compliance, then use the camera to observe you during the session.
  •  Find a way to PROP UP THE PHONE to see the computer from a SIDE VIEW HORIZONTALLY during the exam. (see photo)

EXAM DAY! If you do not complete these steps, your exam will be delayed.

PREPARE 45 Minutes Before Exam Time:

  1. REVIEW all rules (above) and correctly prepare your exam area, computer, and phone.
  2. Have your drivers’ license ready. **NO OTHER PAPERS** or documents – you do not need anything else!
  3. JOIN the Zoom session (both phone and computer) as sent to you in your Exam Registration Email.
  4. NAME YOUR COMPUTER and PHONE in your Zoom App profile so the Exam Manager knows which is which. EXAMPLE: “Jane Doe computer” and “Jane Doe phone”
  5. QUIT ALL APPLICATIONS except Zoom and (optionally) the on-screen calculator app.
  6. When we bring you into an exam session, UNMUTE audio on the computer but DENY AUDIO on the cell phone. For an iPhone you click CANCEL, for other devices, you click DENY or just click on the speaker’s video and not choose any option.
  7. FOLLOW the Exam Manager’s step by step directions.

EXAM DAY! Here is what to expect from the Exam Team.

The Exam Manager will read to you the PROTOCOL for ONLINE Exams:

 Protocol for Online Ham Radio Tests: (*Parent or guardian of a child candidate must be present for the rules and answer questions. If child is under 13, a parent will remain in the room with the child.)

  1. You must complete the test without any interruptions that would raise suspicion about the integrity of the testing environment.
  2. You agree to keep attention on your computer screen at all times. Your eyes may not wander to other parts of the room and you may not leave your seat during the exam session.
  3. You may not read questions out loud or talk to yourself.
  4. Please remove any drinks, snacks, papers, or anything else from around your testing area.
  5. You may not have any visitors or pets in the room during the test. (*parent, if child is under 13)
  6. In a moment you will use your cell phone camera to scan the room, then place it so it views your computer screen, your keyboard, and both of your hands.
  7. You will NOT be able to use scrap paper, manual calculators, or any other kind of assistance, however, if you wish, you may pre-load an on-screen calculator app. Do you want to use a calculator app?
  8. You will need to share your entire screen with the exam team, not just the browser. Do you agree to share your screen? (*parent)
  9. You must agree that the exam session will be recorded and stored for up to 30 days in case of any question about a possible breach of exam protocol. Do you agree to be recorded? (*parent)
  10. 10.You must agree that if the Exam Team suspects a possibility of cheating, the exam may be terminated and the exam fee forfeited, and you would be barred from taking future online exams. Do you agree? (*parent)

At this point, the Exam Manager will follow this procedure: (You don’t do this yet.)

  • The Exam Manager will ask you to show ONE picture ID, front and back, in the camera until every examiner can verify your identity. Then put the ID away and out of sight.
  • The Exam Manager will now turn on the recorder to record your screen, your webcam, and your phone camera view.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to use your phone camera and step back to show the computer and workspace, scan around the room, including walls and floor, with a closeup of the computer, keyboard, hands, and arms.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to leave the phone on and propped up to one side, aimed toward the computer, so that it can view your computer screen, your hands, and the computer.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to share via Zoom your full desktop, not just a browser window.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to load and arrange a browser window and optionally position a calculator app next to it, and show that the calculator memory is clear.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to open your “Display Settings” to verify that there is only one video session running.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to type in the browser address field the address to load the exam engine.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to enter the session manager’s call sign and your 4-digit exam code. (They will have your code. You don’t need it.)
  • The Exam Manager will tell you that when you finish the exam, you may check over your answers, then press the Grade Exam button.
  • The Exam Manager will ask you to keep your attention on the screen and keep your camera and microphone on.
  • The Exam Manager will tell you that you will press the A, B, C, and D keys to answer a question and automatically advance to the next one. You may also use the RIGHT/LEFT ARROW KEYS on your KEYBOARD to advance or go back through the questions.
  • All Exam Team members now shut off their video and microphones. The exam will now begin.
  • When you finish, press the Grade Exam button, and your score will show. We are unable to show which specific questions you missed.
  • Now the Exam Manager will ask you to click the Finish and Sign Forms button, verify your name and address on the screen, then electronically sign your name at the bottom to complete your exam application and CSCE.
  • You will now click the Close Session button.
  • The Exam Manager now turns OFF the recorder and releases your shared screen.
  • The Exam Manager will email you the Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam (CSCE).
  • The Exam Manager will explain that your exam application and scores will be processed this evening, so your license will typically appear in the FCC database within about 2-3 working days.
  • The Exam Manager will encourage you to join a local radio club for further learning opportunities.
  • The Exam Manager will encourage you to join the American Radio Relay League, ARRL.ORG, for further learning opportunities and to support amateur radio on the national level.
  • You are now free to leave the session. (The Exam Manager may disconnect the candidate from the session.)