Operation of an amateur station requires an amateur operator license grant from the FCC. For individuals entering the amateur service, or upgrading their license operator class, there are three classes of license, each authorizing privileges corresponding to the qualifications required. The classes of license, from highest to lowest are: Amateur Extra Class, General Class, and Technician Class. There is no code requirement, anymore.
Before receiving a license grant, you must pass an examination administered by a team of volunteer examiners (VEs). The VEs determine the operator class for which you are qualified by testing your knowledge in operating an amateur station. Most new amateur radio operators start with the  Technician Class operator license. Some newcomers, however, begin at the General Class testing for elements 2 and 3. A few even begin at the Amateur Extra Class testing for elements 2, 3, and 4.
To request examination, submit to your VE team a completed NCVEC Form 605 which can be downloaded or can be obtained at our test site.
In the amateur radio license examination system, there are three written examination elements [Elements 2, 3, and 4]. For each operator class, you must pass the elements indicated in sequence, Element 2 first, Element 3 second and Element 4 third.
Operator Class Required Elements
Amateur Extra Written Elements 2, 3, 4
General Written Elements 2, 3
Technician Written Element 2

Your VEs accommodate physical disabilities that require a special examination procedure. They may, however, require you to provide a physician’s certification indicating the nature of your disability before determining which, if any, special procedure must be used.


Written Elements

Your written examination establishes your level of operational and technical ability in performing properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.

Each written examination consists of a set of questions:

Element Operation Privileges Questions Minimum Passing Score
2 Technician Class 35 26
3 General Class 35 26
4 Amateur Extra Class 50 37
NOTE:  The FCC has updated testing requirements for an expired amateur license when requesting license renewal or upgrade to a higher license beginning with our September 6, 2014 exam session. (The grace period remains 2 years beyond license expiration)  The below chart details the credit and testing that will be required:

Element Credit Table

License Class                                                                                               Elements

Technician License                                                                                        2

Technician license (issued before 03/21/1987)                                     2  and 3                  

along with a current Technician license. (See additional “Valid Forms of

Examination  Credit” information below.)


Expired Technician license issued before 03/21/1987,                       3 only

but presently expired and beyond the two-year grace

period. (See additional “Valid Forms of Examination

Credit” information below.)

Applicant must pass Element 2 before General

class license can be issued).

 General license                                                                                      2 and 3

 Advanced license                                                                                 2 and 3


Valid Forms of Examination Element Credit 

The following are means to verify the credit status of someone eligible for credit. At a test session, the VEs will review all documents presented by applicants. FCC does not require the applicant to have been continuously licensed.Expect each examinee to bring you proof of licensing, usually a printed “official” copy of current license or a CSCE that is less than 15 days old of a “granted license” from a previous test session.

Such valid credit documents may include:

1.  For any credit, a passing CSCE issued within the previous 365 days for Element Credit (credit as indicated) is acceptable IF A LICENSE HAS NOT BEEN GRANTED.

2.  For General written test (Element 3) credit, persons who took a 50-question Technician/General written test before March 21, 1987 receive “grandfather” Technician licensees’ credit. This can be verified if an applicant presents any of the following:

    a. Per FCC Rules, an FCC Technician license issued before March 21, 1987, as indicated  on the license.

    b.  An original Element 3 CSCE issued before March 21, 1987, is acceptable as proof.

    c. If licensed in the mid-’70s or after, FCC will issue a License Verification Letter indicating that the applicant was licensed as a Technician licensee prior to March 21, 1987. To request such a letter, write to FCC, ATTN: Amateur Section, 1270 Fairfield Rd, Gettysburg, PA 17325 (or fax 717-338-2696).

    d. For 1966 or more recent records, an FCC Records Contractor extract/certification from FCC Fiche Records can be obtained. There is a charge for this service. For assistance in acquiring copies of FCC documents, please contact “Best Copy & Printing, Inc” (BCPI) at: Telephone 202-488-5300; TTY 202-488-5562; Fax 202-488-5563; Email requests, help & orders: or via the Web at

    e. A 1987 Edition, or earlier, Radio Amateur Callbook listing is acceptable as proof (be sure to include the year of publication reference, if not printed on the page) so long as the license class is shown in the listing (only Callbooks Fall 1967 or later show license class).

    f. QRZ has posted a copy from their archives of their very first CD ROM product on their Web page, as originally published in 1993. This data includes licensees from 1983 to 1993. A printout of such a listing from this CD ROM, showing a Technician license effective/begin date prior to 3/21/87 is acceptable.


Also, the Administering VEs must give credit to an examinee holding a CSCE for each element
the CSCE indicates the examinee passed within the previous 365 days.
The Volunteer Examiner Coordinators maintain a common question pool for each written examination element. Each pool contains at least ten times the number of questions required for a single examination. Every question set administered to an examinee is prepared by a VE. The questions you are asked on your written examination are taken from the appropriate pool. These pools are revised and updated periodically to incorporate the latest rules, new technology and interests of the amateur service community. Make sure that you prepare for your examination by studying material based upon the question pools currently in use. The pools are available to you in several non-government publications. Non-government sources also offer learning opportunities in the form of audio and video tapes, manuals and books, and computer and live instructional courses.

Volunteer Examiner Responsibilities

The volunteer examiners are responsible for the proper conduct and necessary supervision of your examination, including:

  • Observing you throughout your entire examination.
  • Determining the correctness of your answers.
  • Issuing a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) when you score a passing grade.
  • Terminating your examination if you do not comply with their instructions.

The Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) collects your NCVEC form 605 document from your VE team and, after carefully screening it, forwards the information thereon to the FCC electronically.

Examination Fees

Your VE will charge you a reimbursement fee for their out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing, processing, administering or coordinating your examination. The South Metro VE Team fee is $15.00 for 2020. You can take all three elements for this one fee at one exam sitting. If you fail an element, you may retest that element for an additional $15.00.

Authority to Operate

Your operating authority begins when your license grant information appears in the Amateur Radio Service licensing information, available by searching the Universal Licensing System (ULS). These searches allow the viewing of pending applications and granted license information. There is no requirement that you have a license grant document showing the information in ULS in your possession before you begin operating. For more information, refer to more information on Communications & Operations.