Becoming a ham – Where do I start?

A question received by the team: “I am interested in getting a foundation license, but the question is where do I start?”

To get your first amateur radio licence and callsign, you need to take the RSGB Foundation Exam:

What is the exam?

  • It is a 26-question multiple-choice test that lasts one hour
  • You can choose to take this at a nearby amateur radio club, or online at home (monitored using a webcam)
  • The exam fee is a one-off £27.50. There is no fee for the licence or callsign
  • You can book the online exam here: RSGB Online Exam Booking

What am I asked in the exam?

  • 9 questions on the amateur radio rules and operating procedures
  • 6 questions on the technical side of the hobby, including transmitters and receivers
  • 5 questions on how radio works, including antennas and how radio signals travel
  • 6 questions on safety and not causing interference

The pass mark is 19, so you can get any 7 questions wrong, and still pass.

How do I study for my exam?

HamTrain Logo
  • Online Course – Essex Ham runs a very popular, successful and free course called Foundation Online that uses a mix of lessons, videos and mock tests. The course is free. At the time of writing this, over 7,700 people have taken this. Course information and signup form
  • Online study – Other groups around the UK offer online study, some using YouTube, some using Zoom video conferencing. Some are free, and some charge for their training. See: Online study options
  • Courses at a local club – There is a network of ham radio clubs around the UK that offer training courses in a classroom environment – handy for those not good with computers or who prefer hands-on study. There is usually a charge for these courses. See: RSGB Course Finder
  • Training Manual – The RSGB offers a low-price manual. See: Foundation Licence Manual
  • Help from an existing ham – if you know someone who holds a licence, they may be able to help with training

Other Common Questions:

  • There is no lower or upper age limit
  • The licence is free for life – no annual or recurring fees
  • You don’t need any radio equipment, or prior radio knowledge, to start studying for Foundation
  • If you’re in a rush and are a good studier, you can get your licence and callsign in as little as a couple of weeks.
  • You can optionally progress from Foundation, to Intermediate, to Full at your own pace

Anything we’ve missed? Please ask in the comments section below, or in our Getting Started forum

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