Foundation Course

The Foundation licence is your first step on the Amateur Radio ladder. It was introduced in January 2002 and is designed to get you involved in amateur radio as quickly, and safely, as possible. Before you are allowed to transmit ‘live’ it’s important that you know a little bit about how your radio works, the dangers of interfering with other radio users, how not to upset your neighbours, or your parents (if you are a young person), and the rules and regulations of holding a radio transmitting licence.

How do you learn these new skills?

Well in some ways it’s up to you. It’s recommended you take part in a training course (see more details of the course later) during which you’ll learn a small amount about radio and electronics theory – only enough for you to appreciate things like why it’s important to use the correct fuses in your equipment. You’ll also learn about the way radio waves travel, what to do IF you do have issues with interference, which frequencies you can transmit on and some rules we all have to comply with. Part of the course is practical where for instance you put a radio station together, you make contact with other Radio Amateurs on different “bands” and take part in an amazingly simple Morse assessment (first thing to note is you don’t need to know any of the morse characters so don’t let that worry you). Prior to the pandemic these practicals were mandatory, however that is no longer the case but we still feel they’re of benefit so we’ll still be inviting you to take part in them.

Foundation courses at the Widnes & Runcorn ARC are run over a weekend, starting at 9 and finishing around 5 both days. The courses are run in a friendly informal atmosphere by experienced Radio Amateurs, many of whom have been through the exact same course. The course will take about 10-12 hours to complete at the end of which you’ll sit an on-line examination (quiz) comprising of twenty six multiple choice questions.

Your result will appear a couple of seconds after submitting your answers so you’ll know immediately how you did. The official result will be confirmed by RSGB HQ a few days later. Once you’ve passed the exam (quiz) and have the official confirmation certificate you’re on your way!

When you’ve been issued with your own individual, as it is now, M7 callsign you’ll be able to operate on many of the amateur bands without supervision but with a power restriction of 10 Watts. This is a fairly low level of power but with the experience you’ll quickly gain this’ll enable you to communicate around the world.

What am I allowed?

All Foundation Licensees are allowed 10 Watts Maximum (this is power at the antenna) - with the exception of 137kHz where a maximum of 1 Watt is used.

You’re allowed all HF allocations and all the way up to 70cms.

The equipment MUST be commercial or approved kits, absolutely NO home construction is allowed (with the exception of ATUs and such like).

For more information see the Ofcom Website - these are the guidelines for the licence - and they must be obeyed!

What does the course entail?

Many courses follow a similar system, but they’re all fundamentally the same.

As mentioned above our Foundation courses are run over a weekend from 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Normally there’s about 1 hour for lunch, and a couple of 15 minute tea-breaks throughout the day.

On the Sunday, the Exam (quiz) is at around 3:30pm, but on the Saturday you’ll be given the timetable for the weekend, so you know where you’ll be at what time…

The Morse Assessment is probably the easiest part of the entire weekend – honestly - you need no previous knowledge of Morse, as you work from a crib-sheet, which has the alphabet on it. Basically you’re sent about 30 characters of Morse (at about 5WPM) and then you send about the same amount of characters to your assessor. Don’t worry, your Morse Assessor will guide you faultlessly through the whole experience.

As mentioned, there’s also a practical session, here you’re taught how to set up a station and how to operate correctly at both VHF and HF. This is usually the part that tends to over-run as some people want a second go!

Given there’s enough time at the end of the course we try and run a ‘mock exam’ to give you a feel of what you might see on your quiz paper.

What about the exam (quiz)?

The test consists of 26 Questions, it’s Multi-Choice and lasts for 1 hour, you need to get 19 correct (73%) to pass…Your answers will be marked on the spot. You’ll be told how you got on –RSGB HQ will verify them and send you your official pass certificate about 10 working days after the course. Once you have that you’re on your way! When you’ve been issued with your own individual M7 series callsign you’ll be able to operate on all bands without supervision but with a power restriction of 10 Watts. This is a fairly low level of power but with the experience you will quickly gain this will enable you to communicate around the world.

What if I fail?

Unfortunately you’ll have to pay for a retest and re-sit another exam (quiz) either at the next course or some other time which is convenient to both us and you, or you can come back and re-sit the course.

What if I miss one of the days?

If you miss one of the days - you can (prior to arrangement) turn up during the next course.