Just over a decade ago, Richard Bateman KD7BBC saw the need to begin improving and modernizing the way Amateur Radio exams are administered. At that time he and a close-knit team of volunteers began developing and hosting web and computer based software applications that aim to improve how people study for, take, and administer Amateur Radio license exams. The results of this labor turned into two tools:
- For candidates, HamStudy is a program that aids in studying for upcoming tests by using intelligent flash card study and practice tests, as well as maintains a listing of upcoming exam sessions. It can be used at no charge in an exclusively web based format, or as a mobile device application. While primarily used to study for US based Amateur Radio exams, HamStudy can also be used for many FCC commercial elements, as well as Amateur Radio exams in several other countries.
- For volunteer examiners,
ExamTools is a web-based software package that allows for administering and grading exams via computer or paper, and digital signing of all forms including NCVEC Form 605 and all Certificates of Successful Completion. It can be used to generate randomized exams for Amateur Radio Element 2 (Technician), Element 3 (General), and Element 4 (Amateur Extra).
These projects are funded primarily through proceeds from SignalStuff, an antenna design and development company Richard started which is known for its highly acclaimed Signal Stick handheld radio antennas, with additional support from Icom America.
The COVID-19 pandemic seriously restricted the ability to hold in-person amateur radio license testing beginning in the Spring of 2020. To address the continuing demand for license testing, a Fully-Remote Working Group representing several VECs was formed. The working goal of this group was to determine how to implement and proctor remote exams while remaining in full compliance with Part 97 requirements and VEC-specific policies. The very first fully-remote exam session was held as a proof of concept on March 26, 2020 using Tier 1 of the ExamTools software. Though the session was successful, the process was cumbersome, required remote access to the candidate’s computer by VEs, and third party digital signature tools for all paperwork. To improve the workflow and operation of remote testing, ExamTools Tier 2 was developed and released on May 26, 2020,
Several VEC organizations are actively using ExamTools at this time for both in person and fully remote exams. From March 26th until December 1st, 2020 ExamTools has been used to administer tests for:
- In-Person: 1,100 candidates taking 1,600 elements
- Fully Remote: 9,000 candidates taking 10,000 elements
ExamTools is being improved further based on input from active VEs and the support of a committed team of volunteers that assist Richard in design, development, testing, documentation and training. Future enhancements of ExamTools could integrate features such as digital payment, video conferencing and VE chat functionality which are currently performed using stand-alone applications. ExamTools has provided a world-class computer-based fully-remote testing environment that is efficient and scalable to support the continued growth of the amateur radio community.
If you are a Volunteer Examiner and would like to learn more about how ExamTools works in a typical exam session, please read the ExamTools Overview.