Extra Study Update

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I thought it was about time to provide a brief update into my study preparation for my extra class upgrade.  First, I did just want to say a very special and heartfelt, “Thank You” to all who have contacted me either via email, commented on the blog post or via Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+.  Your words of encouragement have helped to push me and most importantly have helped me to believe in myself.

I certainly don’t mean to sugarcoat the difficulty (or even lack of difficulty) there is in achieving the extra class ticket.  Some have found it extremely difficult and others extremely easy.  I would safely and squarely place myself in the middle of that spectrum.  This, like many other things in life, is made much easier when you look at it through positive lenses.  It is the many comments I’ve received which have taught me that this is just like anything else in life.  Look at it negatively and it will be difficult to impossible, but look at it positively and it can be achieved.

As I mentioned in this blog post from early August, I’m participating in an online (via Echolink) study program hosted by SouthCARS and we are 50% of the way through the program.  We meet twice weekly on Sunday and Tuesday evenings again via Echolink.  Volunteer SouthCARS members help moderate the sessions and help provide both encouragement and inspiration as they help educate us in the material. 

The program works like this.  Before each session we (the students) are tasked with reading about 60-70 of the questions which make up the question pool.  During each session, the instructors select about 15-20 of the questions to cover.  They read the question and the correct answer.  But then spend several minutes providing detailed information regarding the subject of the question.  Many times this extra information comes from firsthand experiences and after a few minutes, it really becomes clear as to what the particular content of the question is about.

Because many of the questions in the extra class question pool relate to each other, once you have a good grasp of one question, the knowledge and the “ah ha” moments just click right into place.  The SouthCARS Elmers are always good about answering questions from the questions not covered. 

In addition to the homework and the online sessions, I’m also actively taking the practice tests for the information we’ve covered in the sessions.  This is helping to keep my mind sharp around those areas covered several weeks back.  I’m spending approx. 1-2 hours per day in reading the ARRL extra class manual, reading the question pool and doing the study questions for the info covered.  I’m going to owe my wife a nice dinner and perhaps tickets to the theater for her being so supportive.

So when do I plan to take the exam?  This is still a very good question.  One thing I can say today, which I couldn’t or certainly didn’t want to say back in early August, is I’m certainly better prepared on the information we have covered so far.  Having said that, if I can maintain my pace and continue as planned, I believe I could be looking at being ready to take the exam around the early October timeframe.  Yes…October 2011.  Smile

Look for another update from me regarding my study/preparation process around the 75% mark.  But for now, I need to get back to my studies and keep those brain cells “extra” energized.

 

Until then….

73 de KD0BIK

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].

6 Responses to “Extra Study Update”

  • Fred W0FMS:

    The easiest way to pass any of the exams is to take them again and again and again and, dare I say, again on-line ad nauseum.

    Once you get 85% or so on EVERY online run, you will for sure pass the test for real.

    Of course for me as a EE who literally studied for the Advanced and Extra writtens (at the time) with only a printout of the question pool, maybe it seemed “extra” easy to me at the time.

    But as a VE who’s done the occasional VE exam for the last ten+ years.. the greatest measure of success of an applicant is that they took a boatload of online tests…do it.. again and again and again…

    Good luck.. you’ll get there.

    Fred W0FMS

  • Matt W1MST:

    Thanks, Jerry. You’ve motivated me to get my dusty copy of the same book off the shelf and start studying again. I found General Class to be a walk in the park compared to some of the Extra material.

    I’m curious: what other techniques, websites, books, programs, etc. have other people used to successfully pass the Extra Class exam?

  • K4TOJ - Tom:

    I just passed the Extra exam this past weekend. I JUST passed the exam. If it will help anyone, this is what I did.

    An email came out advising one of the clubs I belong to that there would be a VE session on a Saturday three weeks away. I thought about it and with about two and a half weeks to go, I decided that having the goal of that Saturday, I would study and try to pass it that day.

    The first thing I did was go to QRZ.COM and take the Extra practice exam. I wanted to get a feel for it again and see where I was with the material. Then I opened the ARRL Extra manual and began reading while making notes on the sections I was reading. At first, I didn’t pay attention to the “before moving forward, look at these questions and review what you miss”.

    When studying for the Tech and General exams, i spent a lot of time on learning the material, especially the math problems. I even made a special trip to the store the day of the exam to get a non-programmable calculator because I couldn’t find the one I had. When I took the exam, I noticed how little math there was. So, in studying for the Extra, I focused on the theory more than the math. There’s a lot of formulas in the Extra material. But I felt that the exam would focus more on theory than figuring math problems. Turned out I was right.

    In my last week of studying, I noticed that I needed to speed things up a bit. So part of the time I would fast forward to the “review these questions” and go answer them. If there was something I didn’t think I understood, I’d spend a few minutes reading the section to see if I could make sense of it. What I found was the questions didn’t always seem to pop from the text. The closer it got to the exam, the less time I spent reading and more time trying to learn the questions and answers.

    I’d periodically took the QRZ practice exams while studying. I never passed them. The highest score I got was 64% the day of the exam. But, in taking them, I learned the right answers. Especially when it came to the math questions. I really didn’t think I was going to pass, but figured I’d give it a shot and try again in a month.

    When I took the exam, there were a few questions I had to guess at. But there were also a few that I knew very well. Did I get lucky? Not sure how to answer that. But I did some serious cramming and it seemed to work out for me. What would I have done differently? Given myself more time and spent more time taking QRZ.COM exams.

    I wish you and the others good luck. It’s a great feeling!

  • Matt W1MST:

    Tom, pass by one point or ace it, the bottom line is you’re still an EXTRA! Congratulations!!

  • Ricahrd W5BXE:

    I agree with everyone, just take the test even if you feel you aren’t ready (you do need to do some studying).

    First time I took it, I wanted to get a feel for what to expect (including the environment). Didn’t pass.

    Second time, I just up and went one afternoon. Passed….

    Good luck, you’ll sail right thru.

  • Fred W0FMS:

    Tom.. You know what they call a medical student who graduates at the bottom of his class? DOCTOR!

    Congrats. The extra portions of the bands are a serious boon if you every are going to do DXing and/or contesting and are nice to have access to even if you don’t! Nice job… enjoy!

    You can pass like that if you aren’t passing the online tests, but it’s risky– you’d have to admit Tom there was an element of luck there too! When the ham exams were $6 it was no big deal. At $14 (W5YI) or $15 (ARRL) though that could be a pricey risk.

    I still think someone studying should go and take the online tests over and over and over, though. It’s the one thing that the people who ace the tests always tell me when I ask them.

    Someday I’ll convince my wife (N9SFT) to go for General and get at least one of my four kids to get at least a Technician.. so I’ll be going though giving them tests over and over as well.

    Matt: currently since the General test has been updated the general consensus of most of the VE’s near me is that the Extra test is the easier test now. So go ahead, knock it off.. it’s not that bad! Good luck.

    Fred W0FMS

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