Video-Supervised Amateur Radio License Procedures & Requirements

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NOTES ABOUT VIDEO-SUPERVISED AMATEUR RADIO EXAMINATIONS

  • Sun City Amateur Radio is authorized by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), and, by extension, the FCC, to conduct video-supervised testing for both new, FCC-issued amateur radio licenses and license class upgrades. 
    • For the purposes of this document, video-supervised testing means that no Volunteer Examiner (VE) is physically present with the applicant.  Instead, the VE team is connected to, observing, and supervising the applicant through two online video feeds that allow the VEs to ensure testing is conducted in accordance with ARRL guidance. 
    • This video-supervised method of testing allows for testing applicants who are remote and cannot attend an in-person test session, and will help ensure the safety of VEs and applicants during times of emergency or pandemic crisis. 
    • In addition, it will allow Sun City Amateur Radio to make testing more readily available to applicants throughout the year.
  • Because we are entrusted with exam integrity, the VEs have a duty to ensure that tests are conducted fairly and that there is the same level of integrity as there would be for an in-person examination.
  • The exam session is conducted using Zoom, an online, video-conferencing tool, and ExamTools, a web-based, exam-taking system.  The applicant joins the video conference using two Zoom capable video devices simultaneously.  The two video streams combined with applicant screen sharing give the VEs a similar view to what they would have for an in-person test.  
  • All VEs have completed specialized training on conducting video-supervised exams and are authorized to assist with the exams by the Sun City Amateur Radio VE Team Liaison.
  • IMPORTANT: The online exam-taking process is much more complicated and will take a lot more time than in-person exams.  You must be able to meet and agree to all of the procedures and requirements in order to take a video-supervised exam.
    • Please read the requirements and understand what will be asked of you before registering.  If you don’t agree, please consider another option for taking your test.
  • The process may seem onerous and somewhat invasive, and it may seem like we suspect that each candidate might try to cheat.  That is not the case at all.  Please understand that these processes and requirements for video-supervised exams allow us to uphold our responsibility to maintain the integrity of the exam.

What to consider before registering for a video-supervised exam:

  • Please consider the commitment required before registering.  We are required to have at least three VEs continuously monitor each candidate for the duration of the test.  The VEs are volunteers and are dedicating their personal time to you while you take the test which is typically around 30-45 minutes. 
  • There is a backlog of candidates waiting for tests.  When you sign up, you will be taking up one of the very few available spots.  Please make sure you have studied and are completely prepared for the exam before signing up.  You should not take the exam if you are not fully prepared to pass.
  • Thoroughly review the technical requirements and ensure you will be able to get through the sessions without any issues.
  • Please do not register for multiple exam sessions (with ours or other VE teams) with the intention of missing later sessions once you pass at an earlier session.  By doing so you are denying other candidates the opportunity to register and generating extra work and lost time for the VEs.
  • If you are under age 18, we will need to receive parental or legal guardian permission and that person will need to be present in person at the beginning of the session to state their approval, prove their identity, and remain present in the room during your exam.  
    • Further, if you are under age 13, your parent or guardian will need to fill out a COPPA Parental Consent Form and email it as directed on the form.
  • Be aware of how information about your FCC license information is made publicly available.  This information is available at the end of this document.
  • Be aware of the ExamTools software privacy policy.

Technical Requirements:  You must have…

  • A computer with a webcam, hands-free speaker and microphone (headsets are NOT allowed for applicants during exams), an up-to-date web browser, and the Zoom video-conferencing application loaded. 
    • During the examination, only one display may be connected to the computer. 
    • The computer must be located in a room that is appropriate for taking an exam, see below.
    • Your screen will be shared with the VEs for the duration of the exam.
    • Preferred computers are Windows PC, or Apple Mac.
      • Chromebooks do not work correctly with Zoom when used as the main exam computer and should not be used.  They may serve as a 2nd video device.
  • A separate mobile device (cell phone, laptop or tablet) with a camera must also be logged into the Zoom video conference for the duration of the exam.  This device provides the VEs a side view of the applicant and the computer the applicant is using.
  • A reliable Internet connection that can keep both the computer and the 2nd device connected to Zoom and ExamTools for the duration of the exam.
  • A sufficient power supply for both devices to keep them running for the duration of the exam.  We recommend A/C power for both.  If the test session is interrupted because of loss of power, the exam may be terminated.
  • During the exam, a method of keeping the 2nd device’s camera steadily positioned on the candidate will be needed to properly position the view of the camera.  This could be a tripod, a stand, or other method to prop the device up.  See the following diagram for proper camera positioning.

Suggested Zoom device layout:

1. Your computer camera points at you.
2. Your second device shows the side view of you, including your hands on the keyboard.

Preparing for your video-supervised exam session:

  • REGISTER WELL IN ADVANCE IF POSSIBLE. 
    • Register for the exam at https://hamstudy.org/sessions.   HamStudy will walk you through the process of collecting necessary information for your NCVEC 605 Application Form.  Do not fill out an NCVEC 605 yourself; a completed form will be filled out for you upon successful exam completion and you will sign it electronically at that point.
      • Be sure to take note of the 4-digit Pin that is assigned to you from HamStudy.  You will need this to make payment and to join the exam session.
  • EXAM FEE PAYMENT IS REQUIRED IN ADVANCE.
    • You must pay the exam fee in advance, normally within 48 hours of registering for the exam, or your seat may be forfeited to another applicant. 
    • After you have registered for the exam, usually within 24 hours, you will receive an email with fee payment instructions.
    • We currently accept Venmo or PayPal for payment of the standard exam fee.  Venmo and PayPal can be used from a computer, smart phone or tablet.  (www.Venmo.com) (www.paypal.com
    • If you don’t personally have a Venmo or PayPal account, a friend or family member may pay the fee for you.
    • In all cases make sure the payment memo has your name and the 4-digit PIN that was assigned to you when you registered.
    • Failure to send payment by 48 hours before the scheduled session time will result in your session reservation being cancelled.
    • Unfortunately, we are unable to accept any other forms of payment at this time.
    • The FCC may change the amount of the exam fees at any time.  The payment instruction email will let you know what the current exam fee is.
  • A VALID PHOTO ID IS REQUIRED: 
    • A legal, government-issued photo ID will need to be shown on camera to the VE Team at the start of all video-supervised sessions.  The VE Team will only accept driver’s license or passport for adults. The address on the ID must match the address on the registration information you provided. 
      • Under-18 students may show either of the above items, or a current school ID or report card and a parent or legal guardian must be present and present a photo ID. 
      • As mentioned above, for children under age 13, a parent or guardian must fill out a COPPA Parental Consent Form and email it as directed on the form.
      • For all children taking the video-supervised exam, a parent or legal guardian must remain silently in the room, behind the applicant, to act as a chaperone.  No exam taking assistance is allowed.
  • FCC REGISTRATION NUMBER IS REQUIRED (FRN): 
    • During the exam registration process, you must provide HamStudy with your FRN.   
    • If you do not have an FRN number, the HamStudy.org site will submit an application for you and will collect the additional information required.
  • IF YOU ARE UPGRADING YOUR LICENSE: 
    • If you are taking the General or Amateur Extra exam, we will download an electronic copy of your current amateur radio license from the FCC database.  If you have a pending Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) from a previous exam session that is not yet reflected in the FCC database, please reply to the VE team email with a copy.
  • EXAM ELEMENT RETRIES AND MULTIPLE EXAM ELEMENTS
    • Due to the difficulty of administering exams online, if you do not pass your exam on the first try, you may NOT take the exam again during your scheduled session.   To retake the exam, you must register for another test session and pay the exam fee again.  
    • If you do pass your exam, AND if time allows, we may allow you to take additional exam elements (General or Extra), but only if you are well prepared for the additional elements, and if you indicated in advance which elements you plan to take as part of your session registration.  There is no additional fee for additional elements, but we need to know your plans in advance so we can schedule other candidates’ exam sessions accordingly.   
      • Because we are usually only supervising one exam at a time, allowing additional exam elements for an applicant is at the sole discretion of the VE Team Lead.

Preparing your computer and 2nd video device:

  • In order for the VE Team to ensure the integrity of the test delivery system, be sure your computer and 2nd video device (I.e., cell phone, tablet or laptop computer) are ready by following these steps:
    • Ensure the computer is working properly by testing the web cam, microphone, speakers, and the browser.  Test the camera on your 2nd video device.
    • Your computer and 2nd device must be connected to the Internet with reliable service.  If the service drops during the exam, the session will be terminated.
    • You must download and test-run Zoom on your computer and 2nd device in advance of the exam session.
      • The 2nd device should be connected to the Zoom meeting without audio (video only) to avoid audio feedback.
      • We strongly recommend thoroughly testing Zoom with both devices at the same time well in advance of the test session so that you have time to resolve any issues that come up.
    • Temporarily disable any chat, alerts, Bluetooth, virtual screens, or pop-up apps.  We recommend putting your mobile devices in “Airplane Mode with WIFI” or enable the “Do Not Disturb” setting for the duration of the exam.
    • Be sure the computer and 2nd device are plugged in or fully charged.
    • You may have only one active screen or monitor on the computer in front of you. Remove or disable any additional monitors, or take a single laptop into a different room.  If additional monitors are present, you must prove that they are disconnected from the computer.
      • The VE team may end the exam immediately for non-compliance.
    • You may have a single browser window open to access the ExamTools software when directed.  All other browser windows, apps and programs must be closed.
    • You have the option to use a calculator for the exam.  This may be a manual calculator or a computer calculator all on your screen.  If using an on-screen calculator, you must load it in advance and will be asked to clear the memory while sharing your screen.

Preparing your exam room:

  • The VE Team must ensure the integrity of the test environment.   Be sure you have an isolated area where you can take the exam without any interruptions that may cause your exam session to be terminated.
    • You must not have any other people or pets other than a registered service dog in the exam room.
    • Clear the room of all amateur radio related materials, notes, books, posters, computer screens, or anything that could aid in taking the exam.
    • If you have a Smart Watch-type device or other electronic devices that have internet connectivity, you must remove them from the room.
    • Clear your exam table and floor of ALL items within reach or view that would raise suspicion, such as papers, sticky notes, electronic items, headphones, waste baskets, and anything unnecessary for the exam.
    • We recommend setting up on a clear dining room table or conference room table with only your computer on the table top.
    • Clear the room of any distracting things that could take your attention off of the exam.
    • Warn family members, co-workers, etc., not to enter the room during the exam.
    • Have a fully charged 2nd device ready to link to the same Zoom meeting to use to scan the room for the VE team. 
    • Plug your computer and second device in to AC power if possible.  If one of the video feeds goes down, your exam may be invalidated.
  • Before the exam begins, you will be asked to use the 2nd video device’s camera to scan the room where the test is taking place, including the walls, floor, ceiling, desk area, your chair, and under the desk.  This is done to give your VEs the confidence that the exam is taking place in an appropriate environment.

Practice for your exam:

  • It is your responsibility to be fully prepared since you will be taking the time of three or more volunteers and a time slot from wait-listed applicants.
    • Use an online practice sites to practice all topics and to take randomly selected practice exams.
    • Be sure you are consistently scoring well above the passing grade before you schedule an exam.  We recommend consistent score of 85% or higher before you take the exam. Some recommended sites:
      • HamStudy.org, a free site with lots of tips. It has an inexpensive companion phone app you can use on the go.
      • ARRL Exam Review for Ham Radio™, a free site from the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio, that you may want to join and use for referencing a wealth of information.

Know the Rules for Video-supervised Exams:

  • Rules and Conditions for Video-Supervised Exams:  The VE manager will go over these exam rules at the start of the exam while recording the session and ask you to acknowledge your acceptance of the exam conditions.
    • You must agree to be recorded while you are taking your exam and that the recording will be retained for up to 30 days to ensure exam integrity in case of a dispute about a possible breach of exam protocol, and for training purposes. 
    • You will be asked to show your picture ID, front and back, in the camera until every VE can verify your identity.  This will not be recorded to avoid security concerns.
    • At this point the Session Manager will begin recording the session.
    • You will be asked to agree to the following conditions:
      • You must complete the test without any interruptions, distractions, noises or anomalies that would raise suspicion about the integrity of the testing environment.
      • You are asked to complete the exam within a 45-minute time block, which is more than enough time for most applicants.
      • You must agree to keep attention on the exam materials at all times.  Your eyes may not wander to other parts of the room.
      • You may not appear to reference or use unauthorized materials.  This may include, but is not limited to:
        • Looking at a cell phone (including a locked screen)
        • Opening pop-up notifications on your computer screen
        • Changing window on your computer or 2nd device
      • You may not leave the room during the exam session. 
        • If you have an emergency, please let the session moderator know.  But if you have to leave the room for any reason…the exam will be terminated. 
      • You may NOT have visitors in the room.  Family and pets must be kept out for the duration of the exam.  Another person entering the room without prior approval is cause for terminating the exam.
    • You may optionally use a manual calculator and show that it has been emptied of stored formulas and memory.  Calculator apps on the computer may also be used.
    • You may use a single piece of blank scrap paper, writing utensils, during the online exam.  You will be asked to show us both sides of the paper.
  • Exam Process: 
    • At this point the VE Team will ask you to use your 2nd device camera to scan the room, all around, including ceiling and floor, under table and chair, under laptop and keyboard, with a closeup of the computer, keyboard, and other spaces as needed.
      • Remember to connect the 2nd device with video only (no audio).
    • Once the scan is complete, you will be asked to return the device to its supported position to your side, at a distance, aimed toward you and the computer. (See the Suggested Zoom Device Positions diagram above.)
    • You will be asked to share your screen using the green Share Screen button at the bottom of the Zoom window.
      • You must share your entire screen…not just a single window.
    • The VE team will check to ensure that only Zoom is running and that all additional windows and programs are closed
    • You will be directed to open a web-browser and log in to the Exam.tools website using your previously obtained log on and password information.
    • You will then be instructed on how to start your exam and given specific instructions on how to navigate the ExamTools program.
    • Once the exam has started, you may take notes or make calculations using the blank piece of paper.
    • All VE Team members will mute microphones and turn their video cameras off.  Your microphone and video will be left on.
    • At all times, if you run into a problem or have a question that is not related to the content of the exam, you may simply speak up and the VE Team Lead will unmute and assist you.
    • If the VE team observes any anomalies or problems while you are taking your exam, the VE Team Lead will direct you to stop working on the exam while the issue is being addressed.
    • When you finish the exam, you may check over your answers and then notify the moderator when you are ready for your exam to be graded.  Do not click the button for grading the exam until directed to do so.
  • Procedures for after the Exam:
    • Once you have been directed to click the Grade Exam button, your exam will be graded immediately and the results will be shown on your screen.
      • You are welcome to know your score, but we will not be able to specify which questions you missed.  Only your score will be reported.
    • The VEs will turn their cameras back on at this point.
    • The VE Team Lead will give you direction for next steps (taking another exam or finalizing paperwork).
    • If you were successful on your exam, you will be emailed a copy of your CSCE form for your records.
    • If you are not successful, you will be given instructions on how to retake the exam.
    • The VE Manager will explain the time frame for submitting your paperwork to the ARRL and the FCC, and when your license will appear in the FCC database.
    • You will then be free to leave the session.

FCC Licensee Privacy

Information about how your FCC license information is made publicly available.

You should be aware that, as an applicant for an FCC Amateur Radio License, information about you will be made publicly available via the FCC’s Universal Licensing System  (ULS), specifically information you submit on the NCVEC 605 form  will be published:

  • Your name
  • Your mailing address
  • Your license call sign and license class
  • Your FCC registration number
  • Felony conviction status
  • Various transaction dates, administrative review statuses, etc.

You can read more about the FCC Privacy Act information for Wireless Services Licensing Records.

Good luck on your exam and welcome to the Amateur Radio Community.

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