#157 - I Finally Did It. I Took A Chance And Jumped In Head First.
Back in 2017 I took my Technician and General amateur radio exams on the same day, passing both, but I allowed someone to talk me out of taking the Amateur Extra exam because it was just too difficult and I wouldn't have a chance at answering the advanced math questions correctly.
Over the last few years I have regretted that decision. Not because as a General class radio operator I am really missing out on a lot of additional frequencies that are available to Amateur Extras, but as a license instructor and Volunteer Examiner I am limited by my current license.
As a General class radio operator I am able to teach the Technician and General class license exam classes, but I am only able to test people for the Technician class license. For me to be able to test the General or Extra class exams, or to teach the Extra class license exam class, I have to first obtain my Amateur Extra license.
Over the past few years I have thought about it over and over again. From time to time I would open the Amateur Extra class license manual and thumb through it, but then after seeing all of the complicated math that was used throughout the book, I would give up on it and put the manual back on my bookshelf.
I never had ANY advanced math courses in high school. No algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or any of that, yet all of them are necessary to do the calculations required on this exam.
And then there is the dreaded Smith Chart shown below. What a complicated looking beast to make sense of and try to learn how to use.
I allowed fear to keep me from trying. Last week I decided I would never know unless I tried, so I decided to take the Amateur Extra exam and see how it went. I mean what's the worst that could happen? Absolutely nothing. If I fail the exam, I don't loose anything, I still have my General class license and nothing changes. But on the off chance that I actually pass it . . . then, I would finally be finished with taking exams as the Amateur Extra exam is the highest you can go in ham radio. I would never have to take another exam.
So, I grabbed the book and started reading it once again. I also followed along with an Amateur Extra exam class that I found on YouTube by W4EEY ( https://youtu.be/vCNnQEWBA74 ). Since next weekend is the ARRL Winter Field Day, that gave me two weeks to try to cram all of the information in, and then find an exam session available that I could get into before Winter Field Day if I wanted to have a chance of using my new license privileges on the air for Winter Field Day.
I contacted the local Volunteer Examiners and found out they were offering exams every Saturday, which means I would have to take the exam a week before Winter Field Day to get it in time, which means I only had 1 week to cram the information in instead of two. Talk about enormous pressure.
So, last week I began my studies. Mind you the Amateur Extra exam course is taught over a 15 week period, yet I only had one week to complete it in. So, instead of covering a single chapter each week, and a couple chapters are broken down over two weeks each, I had to cover multiple chapters each day.
I decided to concentrate my study time on all of the areas other than math calculations, since I would not have enough questions on the exam that required calculations to cause me to fail the exam, as long as I got the rest of the information in. So, that's what I did. I simply ignored the math.
Last night at 6:00 I sat down to take the exam online via Zoom, and I kept to my plan of simply ignoring the math calculation questions and concentrating on the other questions. Yes there were questions on the exam that included math calculations that I had no clue what the formula was to solve, but I didn't care, I simply skipped over them and went on with the exam.
Once I had answered the last question I went back over my answer sheet to find the questions that I skipped over earlier and simply made my best guess at the answer.
At 6:35 I handed in my answer sheet and waited as it was graded by four Volunteer Examiners who had been watching me as I took the exam on two different cameras. About 10 minutes later they delivered the news that I had been dreading for the past 4 years. . . I PASSED, and not only did I pass, but I did it with plenty of room to spare.
Of the 50 questions on the exam, I could have missed 13 questions and still passed, but I only missed 6 of them. I was able to do a one week "crash course" and learn enough information to answer 44 of the 50 questions correctly.
I could have done this 4 years ago, but I allowed an unrealistic fear of failure to prevent me from even trying. Don't allow an unrealistic fear to hold you back from what you can accomplish if you set your mind to do something. Try it and see, you will never know until you actually do it.
Until next time,
Aloha and 73