The Sparky Examiner - The official newsletter of HamTestOnline

Online courses for the ham radio license exams.

Sunspots and ham radio, Greg's story, long-term renewals!


Sunspots and ham radio

Solar cycle 25 stronger than predicted!

Many hams will tell you that the most fun part of ham radio is talking around the world without wires on HF (80 meters through 10 meters).  Others will insist that the “magic band” (6 meters) is the best part of ham radio.  Both groups agree that sunspots are important.  As a general rule, more sunspots means more ultraviolet radiation from the sun, more ionization of the earth's ionosphere, and improved “skip” propagation, especially on the 10- and 6-meter bands.

The sun has sunspot cycles that last approximately 11 years.  Solar scientists had predicted that cycle 25 would be lackluster, but so far the actual number of sunspots has significantly exceeded expectations.  We're still almost 2 years away from the predicted peak, and we've already seen better propagation than at the peak of the last cycle.  Right now is the best time in the sunspot cycle to get active on HF, as we will likely see excellent propagation for several more years!

The General class license gives you all modes on all bands, so if you haven't done it yet, now is the perfect time to step up to General!

Celebrating 20 Years!


Greg's Story

by Greg Tompkins, WW1S

Zero to Extra in 15 days (and only 38 hours of study)!

This month we share how Customer Support Representative Greg, WW1S (“World War One Soldier”), got his ham radio license:

I met John W1AI, owner of HamTestOnline, through my wife.  We were chatting at a pool party, and he said he needed some support staff for the website.  I was interested, but there was a catch (always, internal eye roll), I needed to get my ham radio license.  That didn't seem too hard — check out a pamphlet, get it done next Saturday or something.  After all, I used a walkie-talkie when I was in the Air Force, how different could it be?  But no, there is a ton of information, lots of it very technical.  All I could think was, I don't have time for that.

WW1S Greg and familyI've been married to Amber for 12 years.  We have two little ones that we homeschool, Paisley 10, and Jack 7, and an even smaller one that we adopted, Juniper 6 months.  Oh yeah, also a normal 40+ hour job and now a second job doing support for HamTestOnline.  I'm an active member of my local church.  I also enjoy my Netflix time (gotta clear the cobwebs).  I mean, I'm a juggler (literally that too, lol), but that's a bit much.

So I set a reasonable goal.  The faster I get it done, the better.  I think I can do it all in 4 weeks from zero to Extra.  I start in on Tech, I only use study mode, as it's supposed to be the most efficient.  It all flows very naturally.  I enjoy learning, but the idea of “STUDYING” is a turn-off.  However, this doesn't feel like studying, or at least what I thought was studying all those many years ago — reading the material, rereading the material, making flashcards and drilling them, taking a practice test, and then doing it all again and again.

I blew through the Tech course in 3 days, about 9 hours of study.  I didn't do it all in one sitting, I broke it up — 30 min here, 10 minutes there (maybe on the toilet).  The course is well designed to continually start and stop throughout the day.  I get to 85%, and the course tells me I'm ready to take my exam.  So I look and see where I can take it.  There is a session in 3 days, so I plan on taking my Tech, and I'll start studying for the General and see if I can be ready for that, too.

I started studying for the General.  It's a bit harder and more technical, but there is hope.  I started to see ideas and questions I had already studied in the Tech.  Also, things that are starting to make more sense.  I buckle down to try and get to 85% before my exam.  I reached 84% at about 12 hours of study time.

When I enter my local exam session, I'm a bit nervous.  I tell them I'm here to take the Tech and General, a surly man tells me I have to pass one to take the other, I chuckle.  I sit down to take the Tech, and so many answers from the site jump out at me word for word.  I passed the Tech.  I take the General, and even more the answers word for word jump out at me.  I felt confident and ended up getting a perfect score.

Well, part of the journey is done, let's keep at it.  I jump right into the Extra.  Again, the material is familiar but more in-depth.  I'm very glad I'm doing it all in a short period of time, with how the material builds on itself.  I hit it with the same amount of dedication this time around — 17 hours till the site tells me I'm ready.  I found another local exam site and walked in with a bit more confidence this time.  The questions all seem so familiar.  I turned it in — missed a few, but I passed!  I did it!

I had set a goal to go from zero to Extra in 4 weeks.  I did it in 15 days, with 38 hours of study.  It all comes down to the efficiency of the “Study Mode”.  With it, I was focusing on what I didn't know and not wasting time re-reviewing things I already knew.  Watching my progress percentage go up was also very encouraging.  Instead of setting a time goal for the day, I found myself trying to reach a certain percentage by the end of the day.

I wish I had a study guide like HamTestOnline when I was in school, and maybe I would have joined the military as an officer instead of enlisted.  See you on the air!

Click here to see Greg's impressive study history.

If you don't have the Extra yet, perhaps Greg's Story will inspire you to get it done before the question pool changes next July 1!


Long-term renewals are back

With special holiday pricing!

By popular request, we've brought back long-term renewal options, at special discount prices for the holiday season:

  • $19.95 — Our regular 3-month renewal ($6.65/month).
  • $59.85 — 1-year renewal — pay for 9 months, get 3 months FREE!  ($4.99/month).
  • $79.80 — 2-year renewal — pay for 12 months, get 12 months FREE!  (only $3.33/month).

The software now allows you to renew before your current subscription expires, so you can take advantage of the holiday pricing before it goes away at the end of December.


Feel free to respond to this email with comments for the HamTestOnline team.  We love feedback!

Thanks for being a part of the HamTestOnline family!


W1AI Arizona license plate

John, W1AI
Extra-class accredited VE

WW1S Arizona license plate

Greg, WW1S
Customer Support Representative
Extra-class ham radio operator

WA1RON Arizona license plate

Technical Editor
Extra-class accredited VE

W1SI Arizona license plate

Brandon, W1SI
Extra-class accredited VE

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