04 – Amateur radio examination

TesttakingstudentThere are three levels of Amateur Radio Examination:

  • Foundation;
  • Intermediate;
  • and Advanced

The three levels are progressive; and although one exam can be taken immediately after the other, they must be done in that order; and a pass in one is a prerequisite for the next.

Whilst the examinations must be taken in a progressive order, there is no requirement for candidates to progress through all three levels; it is for individuals to choose whether to progress, and if so, when.

All three levels of Amateur Radio Examinations use a multiple-choice format to examine the relevant syllabus, which is produced and maintained by the RSGB Examination Standards Committee in consultation with key stakeholders, including the RSGB’s Training and Education Committee.

The examinations are administered by the RSGB Headquarters Examinations Secretary with locally appointed Examination Secretaries and Invigilators conducting the actual examinations in accordance with RSGB procedures. Examinations may only be arranged by RSGB registered Examination Centres, and take place in a Registered Examination Venue.

There is no requirement for Candidates to attend formal training courses prior to any of the Amateur Radio Examinations; indeed many candidates train themselves through reading books and listening to the amateur bands. Some candidates may already be competent through prior knowledge/experience in the electronics/radio industry.

There are a number of practical assessments that must be completed by all candidates prior to sitting the Foundation and Intermediate Amateur Radio Examinations; these must be signed off by an RSGB Registered Assessor prior to the exam being taken.

Examinations can be arranged at any time, subject to at least ten working days’ notice for Foundation and Intermediate, and at least one month’s notice for Advanced. Named Invigilators mark Foundation and Intermediate examinations on site, and candidates are given an Indicative Mark/Feedback Sheet as soon as the marking is completed. These local indicative marks cannot be used to obtain a Licence, but provide instant feedback. Licences can only be obtained once RSGB Headquarters staff have verified the results and uploaded them to Ofcom, normally up to 10 working days after the exam.

An indicative pass at Foundation or Intermediate level is sufficient for entry to the next level examination. It is therefore possible to complete all three examinations in a single day if all practical assessments have been completed in advance. Discounts are available for candidates sitting more than one exam in a single session. A single ‘session’ can run over two consecutive days.

Advanced exam papers are not marked locally but are returned to RSGB Headquarters for marking. Candidates can obtain feedback on their exam performance on request.

For all three levels of Amateur Radio Examinations RSGB Headquarters staff notifies the validated results to Ofcom and sends a certificate to each candidate through the post. This process may take up to 14 days from receipt of the completed examination papers at RSGB Headquarters. Candidates must be requested not to contact the examinations office until that period has elapsed. It is important that Invigilators return papers promptly.

Candidates with special needs

Examination Centres are to make reasonable adjustments for candidates with disabilities.

Candidates needing special examination requirements are catered for according to their individual needs. Some examples include:

  • An examination paper without diagrams may be produced for the registered blind and a Reader/Writer provided.
  • Extra examination time (amount depending on the degree of disability) may be allocated when a Reader/Writer is required.
  • A home examination may be arranged if the candidate is physically unable to attend the examination location.
  • An examination paper printed on coloured paper may be produced to aid those who are dyslexic.

Exam Secretaries must notify the RSGB of any special examination requirements at least 28 days in advance of the examination date.

This will entail a discussion between the Examination Standards Manager (or an appropriate person nominated by the ESM) and the candidate in order to determine what is required by that individual. This may also involve seeking advice from the candidate’s professional adviser. It is the candidate’s responsibility to obtain this. A template letter requesting details of what reasonable adjustments would be appropriate is available from the RSGB Headquarters Examination Secretary on request.
The need is not for a certificate of the candidate’s disability, but proper advice from a competent person on what to do about it in order to provide the candidate with a fair examination.  An existing certificate or letter from an appropriate professional adviser and issued within the last year will be acceptable, if the candidate accepts that their needs have not changed substantially in that time.

Once the requirement is known, the RSGB will seek to meet the requirement so far as is reasonable. If the requirement cannot be met, alternative suggestions will be offered.

It is essential that Exam Secretaries do not make their own judgements as this may not be in the candidate’s best interests and could also invalidate the subsequent examination. The RSGB Examination Office will not issue special examination papers or recognise assisted practical assessments unless they have agreed them following receipt of the professional advice.

This process is not quick and it is vital that any candidates that are likely to require reasonable adjustments are made known at an early stage; 6 to 8 weeks is typical for this process to run its course.

Examinations summary

Examination details are as follows:

Foundation Licence Examination

  • Examinations must be held at an RSGB Registered Exam Centre, unless there are special needs (see above)
  • At least 10 working days’ notice required
  • Cost – £27.50
  • 26-question multiple-choice paper
  • Marked locally for indicative results, and verified using optical marking at RSGB Headquarters
  • Pass mark: 19/26
  • Time – 55 minutes

Intermediate Licence Examination

  • Examinations must be held at an RSGB Registered Exam Centre, unless there are special needs (see above)
  • At least 10 working days’ notice required
  • Cost – £32.50
  • 45-question multiple-choice paper
  • Marked locally for indicative results, and verified using optical marking at RSGB Headquarters
  • Pass mark: 27/45
  • Time – 1hr and 25 minutes

Advanced Licence Examination

  • Examinations must be held at a RSGB Registered Exam Centre, unless there are special needs (see above)
  • At least one month’s notice required
  • Cost – £37.50
  • 62-question multiple-choice paper
  • No local marking for indicative results. Papers are marked and verified using optical marking at RSGB Headquarters.
  • Pass mark: 37/62
  • Time – 2 hours

Identification and documents

The candidate must take the required means of identification and other documents to the examination. Details are provided in the RSGB EX500 Conduct of Amateur Radio Examinations booklet.

Conduct of the Examination

This is covered in the RSGB booklet EX500 Conduct of Amateur Radio Examinations, and will not be repeated here.


Candidates may challenge the validity of examination questions and/or appeal against the examination as a whole within 5 working days of the examination. Details of how to challenge a question or appeal against an examination are provided in the RSGB document Handling of Irregular Conduct.

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updated 2016-07-17 G5FM