Direct Entry to Full Licence: RSGB Consultation

Introduction

By Tony Kent, G8PBH, Examination Standards Committee Chair

It is widely recognised that the UK three-tier licensing scheme has proved successful in bringing people from a wide range of backgrounds into amateur radio. Passing the relatively straightforward Foundation licence exam enables people to get on the air, with restricted privileges, to experience what amateur radio has to offer. With this, they can begin a process of self-training, possibly in parallel with taking club-based courses, leading to the Intermediate and, ultimately, Full licences, with increased privileges at each step.

This path to a Full licence is ideal for candidates who are enthusiastic about radio but don’t have a lot of prior knowledge/experience of RF technology and communications. However, it could be seen as unnecessarily onerous and off-putting to some potential amateurs, such as those with a high-level aptitude in STEM disciplines and/or a background in electronics and/or communications. Such individuals would easily be capable of passing the Full licence exam by supplementing their extensive technical knowledge with things like the licensing conditions and operating practice learned from a book and by shortwave listening. They could be a great asset to the hobby by pushing forward the technological boundaries as well as providing training and mentoring for others.

The main problem is that, for an exam to be fair, there has to be a sufficient number of questions for a candidate who may have weaknesses in one or two of the syllabus areas to still be able to achieve the pass mark. Therefore, by splitting the examination into three parts, there will inevitably be more questions to answer than would be necessary in a single exam for the Full licence. Furthermore, providing three separate examinations means increased administration costs which are borne by the candidate. Currently, if a candidate were to take all three examinations in one sitting, it would be a four-and-a-half-hour exam, with 130 questions and would cost the sum of £73.00.

During my three years as Chair of the Examination Standards Committee (ESC) I have manned the exams desk at the National Hamfest where I have been approached by numerous individuals asking if it was possible to sit the Full exam without having to go through all the other levels. They have left the desk disappointed with my answer, but this has persuaded me there must be a demand out there for a Direct to Full option.

We are now consulting you, the UK amateur radio community, on a proposal to run a Direct to Full licence exam in parallel with the existing three-tier system. This would mainly be targeted at candidates with a high level of prior knowledge and experience in electronics and RF and communication technologies, but would, of course, be open to all who felt they were prepared to take it.

The Examinations and Syllabus Review Group (ESRG) has been working on an exam specification and syllabus, which can be downloaded from the link below. The Direct to Full syllabus is essentially the Full section of the three-tier syllabus, including the points on licensing and operating from the Foundation and Intermediate syllabi which are not currently covered in Full. The interdependencies and links between sections were then tided up to make a coherent self-contained specification. As well as your opinions on the principle of offering a Direct to Full licence route, we would also welcome your comments on the proposed syllabus.

The consultation will close on Sunday, 14 March 2021 after which we will collate the responses and share the results in due course.

The consultation

We thank you for taking the time to fill in this survey.

Proposed syllabus