on 19 July 2005 the FCC released Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order (NPRM), …. When acted upon as written and posted in the Federal Register … this page will no longer be necessary.
Looks like 23 February 07 is the day that Morse code is no longer a requirement for Amateur Radio licensing…….
Just a note…… 23 February 07 is now history……… Just leaving the page here for a bit of nostalgia.
(13 March 2007)

…. These notes are from My experience’s of administrating the CW examination as a member of a VE team…… even before the FCC turned it over to the Amateur community in mid- eighties. — all NOVICE Class 5 WPM examinations were administered by a General Class or higher prior to that.

TIPS FOR TESTING scroll down a little … DONT WAIT FOR THE FCC TO REMOVE THIS REQUIREMENT…..Get the code “under Your belt”

MORSE CODE a little background

It is a relative simple matter for anyone to broadcast a message using voice and the
English language. The only requirement is that the individual sending the message
should speak into a microphone connected to a transmitter. At the receiving end, the
procedure is just as simple, the individual desiring to understand the transmitted message
needs only to tune a receiver to the broadcasting station and listen to the spoken words
as they are reproduced by the receiver.
The transmission of messages by code however, requires a special skill on the part of
both the sender and the receiver.


1. Radio communication by code requires less elaborate, less costly and less bulky
equipment than does voice radio communication.

2. Code transmission will penetrate radio and atmospheric interference more readily than
will phone transmission. Code transmission will usually be intelligently received under
conditions that render voice transmission and reception impossible. The spoken word with
it’s inflections, intonation and a tremendous variety of sounds is infinitely more complex
than is the single piercing note of a radio telegraph signal.

3. The radio telegraph code constitutes an invaluable method of sending secret
messages or security information with a greater amount of safety.

4. A transmitted code signal requires much less frequency space than does a radio
telephone signal. Approximately 6 KHZ for an AM signal and 15 KHZ for the wideband
FM signal. The typical CW signal is 1.5 KHZ.

5. Amateur radio operators use “Q” signals which have common meaning in languages
other than English. This permits the exchange of basic information in CW between
operators regardless of their English speaking ability.

The Morse code is made up of letters as is most spoken languages. The code letters
consist of sounds of short and long duration which are called DOTS & DASHES.
(sounded like DITS & DAHS) These sounds are usually high pitched tones of about 500
to 800 Hertz or approximately the sound of a high C on a piano. The long sound (DAH) is
three times as long in duration as the short sound (DIT). Each letter of the alphabet, each
number and each punctuation mark is composed of a different combination of these long
and short sounds.

Since Morse code consists of sound combinations it is very similar to music. A person
listening to the National Anthem hears only the melody and not the individual notes of the
music. Morse code is quickly mastered by listening for the “melody” of the letter sound
rather than counting the individual dits and dahs.

Now for the Examination

questions about a five minute QSO without four or five of them requiring
numbers. (Call Signs, RST, Antenna Height, number of tubes, power, age,
years a ham….etc)

Expect to have a CALL Sign with a DAH DIT DIT DAH DIT ( / ) … FCC exams are
required to have all 26 letters, zero thru 9 numbers, at least 4 punctuation
marks including the slant bar & procedural SK. Learn the common configurations
for CALLSIGNS like 1×2, 1×3, 2×1, 2×2 & 2×3 … That way there will be no
surprises if something like WN7OPQ/6 is heard.

The exam is a typical QSO that will last for a little over five minutes.
Before the exam there will be a one minute warm-up to insure that everyone
can hear the message. You will be given a paper to copy both the practice
warm-up minute and the QSO . The QSO will start with a series of six “V”s and end
with the procedural sign SK.

A passing score is achieved by answering 7 out of the ten questions
correctly or 25 characters in a row. (Not counting the V’s or Warmup)…
Numbers and punctuation marks count 2 and letters count 1.

Typical questions:
What is the Call of the receiving station?
What is the location of the receiving station?
What is the Call of the Transmitting station?
What is the location of the transmitting operator?
What was the name of the receiving operator?
What was the RST report given by the transmitting operator?
What was the radio being used by the transmitting operator?
What did the transmitting operator say His power output was?
What type of antenna did the transmitting operator utilize?
What was the height of the antenna?
What was the weather described as?
How long had the transmitting operator been a Ham?
What was the reason given for ending the contact?

ADDITIONAL HELP: Learn the names of as many type of radios as possible…
especially the more common ones like KENWOOD, ICOM, YAESU, TEN-TEC, SWAN,

Learn the names of the common antenna configurations….. like DIPOLE,


Be “up” for the examination both mentally & physically.
A good night’s rest and something on the stomach is important.
Comfortable attire – (pinching shoes or a tight collar is a distraction)
Get to the examination location early. (get familiar with the testing facilities ..this
takes the apprehension “edge” off)

Whenever the examination is announced – secure a seat close to the sound.
When given the opportunity – copy all of the “warm-up” or practice run.
CW exams start with a series of six Vs and end with the procedural sign AR or SK

Call signs (If you miss part at first, they will also be in the closing).. The first call given is the RECEIVING operator followed by DE .. and then the Call of the TRANSMITTING operator

Names of the operators (receiving operator usually near the first of message)
…. Expect short names like JOE, JIM, JACK, BILL rarely a SAMANTHA or CLEMENTINE
but often a MARY, JILL, BETH

When you hear UR RST or SIGs is/are — know there will be three numbers coming
next. Most likely the first will be a 5 and the last a 9 (know what RST is ….and that the first number is never over 5)…. remember, it’s possible to get a RST report like …. 599 W/QSB (with fading).. ….QSB….QRM ….. QRN are the only ones I have ever seen on a 5 WPM exam.

If you miss a Character—-FORGET IT (for now) — mark your copy with a “-” or just a space where the letter should be. These “holes” can be filled in later…. see below.

QTH – look for City & State (rarely DX locations on 5WPM exam) Sometimes just
the CITY or the STATE is given…. and the question usually asks for the CITY or STATE
even if both CITY & STATE are given.

When you hear weather or WX it’s usually a two word description following.
Sometimes followed by “TEMPERATURE IS __ DEGREES”

Type of radio (rig) –sometimes descriptive like OLD TUBE or QRP but
most often the name of a manufacturer…. KENWOOD, ICOM or YAESU
& HEATHKIT). … be familiar with names of Rig types

Antenna used. Know the names of several configurations. DIPOLE, DELTA LOOP,
By knowing the configuration names of the antennas it helps to fill in the “holes” in Your copy.

Comment like “BEEN A HAM 30 YEARS” or “AM IN 12TH GRADE”

Listen for why QRT…….. “I MUST QRT FOR WORK”…. “QRT FOR BED”

Listen for Callsigns again

The CW message is over: Listen for directions from the VE

Scan your copy – fill in the” holes” of the letters missed. (GROC_R) most likely
GROCER (EN_INEER) likely ENGINEER …. GET THE IDEA?…. This filling in of the “holes” helps in getting 1 minute of straight copy (25 characters in a row)….. a person must be able to communicate at 5 words per minute…… a copy of CHICA-O and later adding the G still means that the person got the meaning of the communication.

See if QTH corresponds to the callsigns (KL7XXX should be Alaska–WH6XXX in
Hawaii & etc)…. KNOW the Call sign areas

Read over ALL the questions BEFORE printing any answers.

Usually the questions follow the copy (first in message — first on test generally the
same sequence – but there are exceptions)

Answer all of the “SURE” ones FIRST. (Hopefully 7 or more)….

Look at the “doubtful” ones. Are any a “toss-up” between 2 responses? Like is it a four or a six? If its in a Callsign ….. see if You answered Florida for a location … Florida is in 4 land

Look for “tell-tell” letters in your copy–if a couple of letters
match to what You have knowledge of , MARK IT. (DI_O__ is likely DIPOLE…. even
if the copy is just D_____ and it’s about an antenna it’s probably DIPOLE
if the copy is just _a___ and it’s about a radio it’s probably YAESU

If there is one “I have no idea” it’s worth a guess. If it’s a callsign remember the FCC
requires ALL numbers be used in the exam. Count the numbers You have copied….
If You are missing a ZERO or any other number, put it in the Callsign that doesn’t have a number in Your copy.

If an Op says His age is 78, it’s likely He’s not a go-go dancer. If an Op says STUDENT
don’t expect a number over 20 for age.

As a last resort—– EDUCATED GUESS…… any omitted answers are already incorrect.
If You don’t have anything copied for antenna …. dipole, vertical, beam & longwire
showup most often. NEVER OMIT AN ANSWER …… put down an educated guess.
Nothing copied for the rig? … Kenwood, Yaesu or Icom …. certainly better than leaving it blank.

All of this is NO substitute for CW skill however, but it’s a sure thing to help overcome the
exam apprehension and to secure a passing score. 7 out of 10 right

On the 5 WPM examination the requirement is 25 characters in a row.
(Not counting the practice run or the series of “V”s)
Numbers and punctuation marks count as two characters

After July 2001, all of the CW examinations were “fill in the blank”. Of the
examinations that I have administered since that date there have been many
more applicants passing by 25 characters in a row rather than correctly getting
7 of 10 of the fill in the blank.

Good luck! I would even like to know if this information helped You………
send Me a message……… [email protected]


Amateur radio operator from Malaysia

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