I drove to Fremont (about 30 miles from my office) this afternoon to take the tests to upgrade my ham license. I am so glad I don’t have to make that commute on a regular basis — it took well over an hour, most of it on Highway 880 (the “Nasty Nimitz”, as they call it on the radio), most of it at very slow speeds. But I got there in plenty of time to have dinner and review the General Class exam book again before going to the test session.

I got to the session a few minutes late, but still in plenty of time to be tested — there were about 7 other examinees, several of whom were going for their first license, Technician Class (the old Novice class is no longer being issued. You don’t have to learn Morse Code for the Technician, but if you do pass the 5 words-per-minute exam, you get the old Novice privileges; 5 words-per-minute is all that’s required for any class now, which made it reasonable for me to consider upgrading).

I filled out the form (of course there’s a form!) and they gave me the exam for Element 3 (General Class). I was pretty sure I’d do well on it, since I’d read the whole manual over the weekend (not to mention reading through the entire question pool at dinner), but I took my time and double-checked everything before turning it in. The examiner took a quick look, decided I’d probably passed, and asked me if I wanted to take the Element 4 (Extra Class) test; even though I hadn’t studied for it other than trying a couple of sample tests, I had nothing to lose and said yes.

The Extra Class test covers many areas — I was ready for some (the simpler electronics and most of the FCC questions); for the others, it was time to dust off strategies from Test Taking 101. The mandatory Smith Chart question wasn’t too bad — they wanted to know what kinds of calculations you could do with a Smith Chart, and that was one I could answer (it’s impedance and SWR, in case you’re curious). In the end, I missed 11 questions, but that was few enough to pass the test, so now I have a Certificate of Successful Completion of an Examination for Elements 3 and 4 in my hot little hands, and very soon, my new Extra Class license will arrive in the mail. And who knows, I might even use it some day!