Exam Specifications – Syllabus 2019

An update on the amateur radio licence exams

As previously announced, the amateur radio licence examinations will need to change to reflect the changes to the licence conditions announced by Ofcom. The scale of the licence changes will have a significant impact on Section 1 of the syllabus (licensing) and a small impact on Section 7 (operating). Ofcom is currently reviewing representations and will publish its final decision, including the final version of the licence, before 21 February.

In parallel with the Ofcom consultation and representation periods, we have been working on the syllabus and published an early draft on the RSGB web site. We expect the final version of the syllabus to be ready a few weeks after Ofcom publishes the final version of the licence and we have also had time to consider comments from trainers.

The new licence will come into effect before work on the syllabus and examination question bank is completed. We have, therefore, sought and gained approval from Ofcom to continue to examine to the current licence conditions for a period of six months following the publication of the new licence. This will allow trainers time to update their courses in line with the new syllabus and allow candidates that have started their training under the current licence conditions to complete their courses and take the exam.

We expect examinations to the new licence conditions will begin on 1 September 2024. Candidates that pass the exam between the introduction of the new licence and the new exam should be advised to read the new licence before starting to operate. [Note: we do not foresee any problems with this as, in almost all cases, the new licence will be more permissive than the existing one]

Tony Kent, G8PBH
Examinations Standards Committee Chair


Timing explanation

Since the announcement above, some members of the tutor community have raised questions about the RSGB’s decision to move the start of exams to the new licence conditions to 1 September from the original target of 1 April which had been proposed in a Tonight@8 webinar in August 2023. This note is to explain the reasoning behind this change.

In the webinar, it was stated that meeting the 1 April target was dependent on both the timetable for the consultation and representation process in the Ofcom consultation document and publishing the new syllabus (v1.6) in the first week of January (giving about three months’ notice to tutors and candidates).

Ofcom had originally planned to publish the results of the consultation in November, but this was delayed until December. The knock-on effect of this was the representation period went over the Christmas/New Year holidays into January. As there could be changes to the licence following the representation period, we were unable to finalise the syllabus for the start of January.

The Ofcom consultation document did not give a precise date for the adoption of the new licence. We had worked on the assumption that it would be towards the end of the final quarter of the financial year 2023/24 leading to the 1 April target. We later learned that the new licence will be in effect before 1 March, so even with the 1 April date there would still have been a period after the start of the new licence when we examined to the old licence conditions or had to suspend exams.

Although we didn’t know the details, we were aware that there were some representations taking place which could affect the syllabus. We had also received feedback from tutors and ESC members on the first draft, which suggested more work was needed on the syllabus. These meant that the earliest the new syllabus would be ready for publication would be March. Allowing three months’ notice would then put the start of exams to the new licence conditions in June, for which we would need Ofcom approval. However, given that June to August is traditionally a quieter time for exams, it made sense to request from Ofcom approval to continue to examine to the old licence conditions until 1 September instead. We thought this would give plenty of notice to tutors and candidates and allow sufficient time for careful vetting of the question bank to make sure no questions on the old licence conditions slip through the net. We released news of the change of date immediately after Ofcom gave its approval.

In the end, we made the decision that the quality of the syllabus and exam was more important than rushing the process to try to get close to a target date based on an assumption that turned out to be incorrect.

We hope that this helps to answer the questions that have been raised about the timing and that we can now work together as a exam and training community to ensure everything is in place for 1 September.

Tony Kent, G8PBH
Examinations Standards Committee Chair


Exam Specifications v1.5

Changes from the previous version

The following document shows all of the changes from the previous version of the syllabus (v1.4) to readily allow tutors to identify what is new and what has gone.


NEW Direct to Full


Exam overview

Summary of exam questions; pass mark, percentage and time

Exam  Questions   Passmark   Percentage     Time (mins)
Foundation  26  19  73  60
Intermediate      46  28  61  90
Full   58  35  60  120
Direct to Full  Part 1 – 18
  Part 2 – 57
  Part 1 – 14
  Part 2 – 36
  Part 1 – 77.7
  Part 2 – 63.2