The Sparky Examiner - The official newsletter of HamTestOnline


New Extra Question Pool UPDATE

Extra, Extra!

We are excited to announce that the new Extra question pool is now online at HamTestOnline, and we have finished updating our course materials to cover the new questions!  All Extra class subscriptions automatically include the current and new question pools, and students can switch freely between them (on the Choose Topics screen).

This was a significant update.  The new Extra pool is 3% smaller, dropping from 621 to 602 questions:

  • 161 questions (26%) had minimal or no changes.
  • 247 questions (40%) had minor changes
  • 26 questions (4%) had major changes.
  • 187 questions (30%) were deleted.
  • 168 new questions (28%) were added.
  • We added 7 new subject areas to the course.
  • The number of questions requiring calculations was reduced from 35 to 30.  Therefore, you will probably only see 2-3 math questions (4-6% of the questions on your exam), which means you can easily pass the exam without learning any math.

New topics include quadrature amplitude modulation, helical filters, new digital modes, propagation reporting networks, fresnel zones, link budgets, and link margins.  In addition, we made extensive updates and improvements throughout the course.  For example, we split some larger infotexts (including Logic Circuits) into multiple pieces, as we've noticed that our students do better with shorter texts.  We added several new “memory aids” like, “Ferrite cores need Fewer turns”.

If you started studying the Extra materials in the past, but haven't yet passed the exam, you don't want to start over with the new pool.  You have time, as there are still 3 months before the changeover, and our most successful students are the ones who compress their studies into a period of no more than 30 days.

Even for those starting from scratch, with no ham license, three months is plenty of time, as many of our students go from Zero to Extra in less than 3 months.  (See how Greg passed all three exams with just 15 study days!)

Be aware that volunteer examiners (VEs) have no leeway — they must use the old question pool for all exams administered through June 30, and the new question pool for all exams administered on or after July 1, 2024.  So, based on your exam date, you know exactly which question pool to study for.

The Extra is not for everybody, but here are a few reasons why it might be for you:

  • Dream Extra Big in 20204To learn more about this awesome hobby!
  • To have full access to all ham frequencies, including the less crowded Advanced and Extra portions of the bands.  Some of the best DX is in the Extra segments.
  • To get a shorter call sign, which can be a big advantage in a contest or working a pileup.
  • To have full reciprocal operating privileges when you travel to CEPT countries.
  • To be allowed to administer all exam levels as a volunteer examiner.
  • As a stepping stone for broadcast engineers to obtain the Certified Broadcast Technologist certification.
  • For the prestige of having the top-level license.
  • It sets your resume or college application apart from the crowd.
  • To exercise your brain.  Any day you don't learn something new is a wasted day!


Study Both Pools and Learn More

Gain a deeper understanding

Those looking to refresh and expand their knowledge might consider studying both question pools together.  Our software lets you enable both Extra question pools at once, which drills the questions from both question pools for each subject area, challenging your brain to consider concepts from different points of view, and giving you a deeper understanding.

For example, consider this infotext from the updated Extra course:
Dream Extra Big in 20204

This question is only in the current Extra question pool:

What happens to the conductivity of a photoconductive material when light shines on it?
It increases
It decreases
It stays the same
It becomes unstable


This question is only in the future Extra question pool:

What happens to photoconductive material when light shines on it?
Resistance decreases
Resistance increases
Reflectivity increases
Reflectivity decreases


If you have always planned to brush up on the Extra materials again someday, this is your opportunity (only for the next 3 months) to superset your Extra review!


Dustin's Story

by Dustin Witjes, WY9Z

Extra in 11 days (once I got serious)ǃ

This month, we share how our new Technical Editor, Dustin, WY9Z, got his ham radio license:

Dustin Witjes, WY9Z

My ham radio journey started when I was about 10 or 12 years old.  My parents bought a small cottage in the woods in the upper part of Michigan's lower peninsula.  About a year later, the neighboring cottage went up for sale, and a family friend put in an offer.  I remember walking over to that house with everyone for an open house and tour, the previous owner still had his furniture and knickknacks in the house.  In one room there was a full ham radio set up with radios and technology dating back decades.  I did not really know what it was, except for, “Dustin, do not touch anything in that room!” (I did, when no one was looking ;) )

Like many people, I found myself bored with nothing to do during the great lockdown period of 2020.  I finished all of Netflix and Hulu, got dangerous at an online board game where bluffing, lying, and backstabbing are rewarded (Diplomacy, check it out.  I suggest (not a typo)), and started playing 18xx genre games as well as wargaming (Advanced Squad Leader).  I happened to see something about ham radio when I went down a YouTube rabbit hole, and I immediately thought of the old man’s shack that used to exist in the cabin up north.

I immediately inundated myself with what it all entailed.  I felt like a kid again.  I went from knowing absolutely nothing, to knowing what I had to do to get licensed.  I used various methods to study for the Technician class license, studied for about a week, and registered for my exam.  To my surprise, I passed.  Two days later I was granted the callsign of KE8RQE.  I bought myself a Kenwood TH-D74 and began transmitting, listening, and playing around with the world of D-STAR, and making contacts all through the world.  It was exciting to actually talk to people outside of the contacts of my phone, people I would never have met outside of the newfound hobby.

A year later I decided to go for the General class.  I again passed after about two weeks of study.  To celebrate, I changed my callsign to N8WJD, something with my initials.  I then took a very different route, however.  I saved up for about a year, and instead of purchasing the traditional Icom or Yaesu radios, I splurged and got myself an Elecraft K4D.  I purposefully did not transmit on any HF frequencies until I received that radio, a full year later.  I did however spend my time as a General proctoring exam sessions for individuals looking to become Technicians.  I am currently an accredited volunteer examiner with ARRL, Laurel, and the Anchorage-VEC.  As a General, I couldn’t proctor any General or Extra exams, and this is where HamTestOnline came in.  Since I was an active VE, they gave me complimentary access, and I started my journey towards Extra.

I used and fell in love with HTO's methodology and systems.  Material was presented in such a way that it really drilled the knowledge into you, testing you not only for comprehension, but retention as well.  Initially, I studied off and on for several months, making slow progress.  However, once I got serious and started studying every day, I was ready for the Extra 11 days later, and passed on my first try.  I applied for and received the callsign WY9Z shortly after.  (I think I'm done changing callsigns for now, although I wish W9YZ was available.)

A few months later, I heard that HTO was shutting down, and I was saddened because this was some of the finest software I have ever used to get to know one particular subject, and get to know it well.  I did not have the capital to purchase it, but I hoped someone would keep it going.  And keep going it did!

One day I woke up and decided that I wanted to give back to the ham radio world.  I emailed John and asked if I could do something to help him out.  He accepted, and I spent the next seven weeks helping John and Ron tweak, rework, and retweak the Extra class study materials to cover the new question pool.  It was long and sometimes dry, but we got through it with humor.  This is a labor of love.  I hope you will find the Extra study materials well-put-together and well-presented, and that they will help aspiring hams to obtain their Extra upgrade.  We built this for you.  I'm looking forward to future reworks, and to hearing you on the air. 

Until our VFO knobs cross paths,



Owner update

Not going out of business

by John, W1AI

A year ago I announced that I was planning to shut down the HamTestOnline website and retire (unless I found a suitable buyer).  Since then, several qualified organizations and individuals have expressed an interest in buying me out and keeping the website alive.  We're still working out the details of that sale.  Whichever buyer I choose, the website will continue!

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 accredited VE

WA1RON Arizona license plate

Technical Editor
Extra-class accredited VE

W1SI Arizona license plate

Dustin, WY9Z
Technical Editor
Extra-class accredited VE

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