Extra, Extra, Extra…Read all about it!

Scan_Pic0009I realize it was just Wednesday, 24 August when I blogged about reaching the 50% mark in the amateur extra training course I’ve been attending.  I also realize it’s been less than a month (21 days to be exact) since I blogged about getting serious about extra….Again!!  I have some great news I’ll share with you all in just a minute.

When I first got my license in August 2007, I knew I wanted to upgrade to the general class and I wanted to do it in relatively short time.  I will admit that I quickly grew bored with working local VHF/UHF repeaters and while I did manage to work 10m HF, the QSO’s made on that band were few and far between.  I became intrigued in PSK31 after watching Randy Hall’s K7AGE Youtube videos.  Within a few weeks of earning my technician license, I was actively reading and preparing for general.  I tested for my general ticket on 5 January 2008, just four months after getting my ticket.

Something else I need to admit is once I had my general in hand, I was satisfied.  I had all the HF privileges that I believed I needed and wanted.  I was happy as a pig in mud with being able to work PSK31, RTTY and of course phone on all the bands generals have access to.  I even remember a conversation with a colleague from my office who was also a general.  We both discussed how general was all we felt we would ever need.

Now keep in mind this was inside of my first six months of the hobby.  In May of 2008 I started the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast and the Elmer bug bit me.  Also, it was through the podcast and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter where I really became friends with many hams who were either already extra class or working to become extra class. 

I believe it was very soon after I started the podcast and really started to get more involved with my Elmer activities that I realized I did see more to the hobby than staying at general.  Sometime during the summer of 2008 I picked up the ARRL extra class study guide and started reading.  But sadly over the last three years the ARRL extra class study guide spent more time on the shelf than it did in my hands.

Now jump forward three years and as I blogged on 8 August, I had once again pulled the book from the shelf and began studying.  The approx. 50% of the material I had previously read all came back to me relatively easy.  Plus the SCARS Echolink training was adding additional knowledge and confidence to my overall process.  Again, just as I blogged last Wednesday, I truly felt on-track to take the exam in late September or early October.  While I didn’t state this in writing, my unofficial target date was prior to October 4.  On October 4 I turn 45 years old.  Birthday present to myself???

On Thursday (just one day after the blog update) I had been passing the sample tests from QRZ in the high 80’s to low 90 range.  My ideal practice score is in the upper 90’s as I don’t feel I am the best at taking exams.  I told my wife that I couldn’t see a reason for me to delay taking the exam and she supported my decision to take a chance.  She actually suggested I go into the exam thinking it was just another practice exam.  If I didn’t pass, I still had several weeks of the SCARS class to continue to build my understanding of the material (this has always been my #1 goal versus memorization).  Another reason to give it a try is my schedule at work is also starting to pickup speed again.  I was recently promoted and had a few added responsibilities sent my way.  I feared if I delayed, something would happen and I would lose the momentum. 

Scan_Pic0012

I went to bed on Friday night feeling pretty nervous, but feeling confident.  I slept remarkably well and woke up with enough time to enjoy some coffee and a bagel and just ease into the morning.  I didn’t take any sample tests…I just enjoyed the peacefulness of the morning.  With a cup of coffee for the road (a roadie) I started the 25 mile journey to Franktown, Colorado for the Colorado ARES sponsored VE session.  By 9:45 AM, I had the CSCE in my hand and had finally made extra.

In closing, I don’t view the extra class as the only true ham class.  For those who are technician, general, advanced….if you are happy then this is what matters.  You are just as much a part of this hobby and service as anyone else is.  However, if you are interested in upgrading I say go for it.  I’m glad I finally got serious about it and followed through….ALL THE WAY through. 

Finally, thanks to all who over the past several weeks have taken the time to post comments to the blog and even email me to lend words of encouragement.  This meant a lot to my study and preparation process.  I felt like I had all of you with me yesterday cheering me on as I worked through the 50 questions and answers.  

Until next time….

73 de KD0BIK/AE

Jerry Taylor, KD0BIK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. He is the host of the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “Extra, Extra, Extra…Read all about it!”

  • Matt W1MST:

    Congratulations, Jerry! You’re an inspiration to me!

  • KQ2RP (ex-WB2VEN) Chris:

    Huzzah!!! Congrats!!!

  • Mark W3LZK:

    Jerry,

    Congrats..you set your sights on a goal, and you went for it..even a few weeks early..which is even better. Enjoy your new privleges, its a blast down on the low end of the band.

  • Cliff KU4GW:

    Congratulations on your upgrade Jerry! You have reached the pinnacle of the hobby! That’s the way I liked to look at it when I got my Extra Class license in 1997. A 16 year old kid passing his exam was what it took to get me to get up off my duff and blow the dust off my study guides. I was 35 when I got mine and now I’m 50. I just couldn’t sit by and let a 16 year old out do me! That 16 year old was KF4LLF Seth Oneal and I credit Seth as my elmer because of that! I had the books for several months before that and barely even touched them, but when I finally did I had 2 VE’s encourage me by saying “Don’t stop, while your already in the studying habit, you can go all the way if you just keep studying” and so in 9 months I went from non-ham to Amateur Extra and have been having a blast ever since then! Those 2 VE’s I also credit as elmers, them being AE4GA Bill Edwards and AE4II Gail Edwards and after I aced the Extra they surprised me by driving up to my house the next day and delivering to me a large analog, bigger than a dinner plate, model MFJ-105B UTC wall clock with black face and white and gold numbers which I proudly display on my hamshack wall and always will! I know exactly how you feel Jerry and I am very happy to learn of your well deserved success! Enjoy your new privileges and I hope to work you on the air soon!

    Very 73 de Cliff KU4GW

  • Fred W0FMS:

    See.. I told you taking the tests over and over again would work! :O) (It always does!)

    Catch you in the pileups in the “rare-DX” bands..

    Congrats and enjoy!

    P.S. Not that it matters, but do you know what your score was on the exam? Was it close to what you got on the practice exams? In most cases those who do the “test-over-and-over” approach typically do slightly *better* on the real exam. Don’t know why– there are some positive aspects to pressure in some cases!

    73,
    Fred W0FMS

  • Rynn KI5BC:

    I got my start in the late 80’s. Just like you, repeaters were okay for local stuff, wx, etc. but just not that interesting.

    I got novice and tech within a couple months, and worked Europe on 10. that was a great solar max. Then a college buddy asked if I could help him contact his dad in Columbia. I couldn’t work 20, so I answered no. I worked through the theory, and struggled with the code. Passed the theory with no issues, but failed the code. Went back at code practice every morning and operating at night on 40 CW and got my Advanced the next month. It was too amazing to have a sched with a missionary in the Columbian jungle every Wednesday evening.

    I went all the way from Novice to Advanced in a little less than a year.
    When they relaxed the code to 5 wpm in 2000, I jumped at it, and I’m an Extra now.

    I’ve been amazed at how much ham radio has allowed me to do: career and personally.

    take care!!!!

    de….Rynn

  • Ricahrd W5BXE:

    Congratulations!

    73 W5BXE

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