Why and How I Upgraded to an Amateur Radio General License

Over the last year I’ve been exploring amateur radio, a technology I’ve been learning quite a bit about over the last year. I started by just listening to signals using an RTL-SDR adapter and then went on to earn my FCC amateur radio technician license.

Last week I upgraded to a General class license that opens up many more long range frequencies I can use to communicate with other amateur operators all over the world at any time of day. You can find out more in my latest video.

The decision to upgrade was driven by my desire to explore the high-frequency (HF) bands, which are largely off-limits to those with a technician license. Technicians are able to access the UHF and VHF bands for local communications along with the 10 meter band for long range communications – but 10 meters is only active during the day.

Now as a General I can access the more popular 20 meter band along with some of the lower frequency bands like 40 and 80 meter that work better in the evening.

To prepare for the general license exam, I used the free website hamstudy.org and its companion mobile app. This platform tracks your progress and aptitude, providing a clear picture of your readiness for the exam. I also used the website to schedule a virtual exam I could take via Zoom as opposed to driving an hour both ways to my closest local in-person exam.

One thing I learned from this experience is the importance of not rushing into the exam. I initially attempted the exam when my overall aptitude level was only about 73 percent, and I fell short of passing by just one question.

After this experience, I took the time to really understand the questions and answers, using the “I don’t know” button on hamstudy.org when I wasn’t sure of an answer. This approach ensured that the questions I was struggling with kept coming up, allowing me to learn the correct answers. After a few more days of focused studying, I was able to pass the exam with only one incorrect question.

Looking ahead, the only other license above mine is the Amateur Extra license, which would give me access to some of the gaps in the bands that Generals are not able to access now.

This journey has been a rewarding one, and I’m excited to continue exploring the world of ham radio. I encourage anyone interested in this field to dive in and start learning – the world of ham radio is vast and full of exciting possibilities.

My radio playlist is a good place to start to learn more!