Passing the RSGB Advanced Ham Radio Exam

After several months of study I have now obtained my full amateur radio licence. Continuing on from my RSGB foundation and intermediate amateur radio exam retrospectives, I wanted to share my experience progressing from a 2E0 to a full licence holder. If you are currently a foundation or intermediate ham radio licence holder thinking about getting your full licence, hopefully this write-up will go some way to helping you along your certification journey.

The Advanced Licence

The RSGB advanced licence is the final stage in the UK’s three tiered amateur radio licensing model. It follows on from the intermediate licence qualification and builds an operator’s knowledge up to encompass the internationally agreed Radio Communications Foundation (RCF) syllabus. Passing the examination grants increased privileges such as higher power limits and operating at sea or in foreign countries.

The Assessment

Unlike the foundation and intermediate level licences, there is no practical assessment involved, just a written multiple choice paper. The exam paper has 62 questions each with four possible answers and a time limit of 2 hours. A fee of £37.50 is payable to the RSGB to sit the exam (£5 more than the intermediate exam).

The test must be taken at an approved RSGB test centre. This is usually a local amateur radio club, but could also be at a training provider’s site or the annual RSGB convention. Traditionally it has been a ‘pen and paper’ test but recently it has become possible to sit a computer based test with a web browser and Internet connection. From what I understand, the candidate can use their own computer at the test centre but will be closely supervised by the invigilators. I opted for the written test to avoid the possibility of any IT drama on the test day.

My Exam Preparation

My approach to preparing for the exam was to join a popular distance learning course run by a club in the UK. This provided a structured schedule to work through the RSGB Advance study guide book. A group of volunteer instructors look after students, provide weekly assignments and administer practice tests. The course ran for just under six months.

On the one hand, having a fixed training schedule and people outside my usual circle to discuss the material with was very useful. However, I didn’t get on with the 3rd party learning website the course was hosted on, which was designed for school children rather than adults. Also, the pace of the course felt too slow at times, but obviously this is going to be different for everyone.

In addition to the official study guide and distance learning course, I found a wealth of informative electronics and radio videos on YouTube. Regularly watching amateur radio related content on YouTube really helped cement the knowledge I was gaining from the distance learning course.

Towards the end of my training course, I started working on the various RSGB past papers which can be found around the web. This is an essential activity to gauge readiness for the real exam and gave me some extra confidence. The RSGB Exam Secrets book is a good source of extra practice questions.

Finally, as I have said in my previous exam post-mortem articles, making an effort to get on the air and develop practical knowledge of radio is not only a good idea, it’s essential at the advanced exam level.

Exam Day

The exam has to be booked at least two weeks in advance. My local club helped arrange this for me, and I sat my exam on a weekend at the same registered test centre I had used for my foundation and intermediate tests. As before, I was provided with an optical marking sheet and also the official reference material booklet (EX309).

The exam lasts two hours, and unlike the foundation and intermediate exams, I needed all of the available time. The exam questions are randomly picked from the RSGB database, and I felt like I had been unlucky and assigned every ‘trick question’ available. I found my real exam noticeably more difficult than the practice papers I had completed.

Unlike the lower tier exams, the invigilators do not provide an indicative marking at the end of the exam. Towards the end of my two hours I had time to ‘mark myself’ by totalling up the number of questions I was certain were correct. This gave me confidence that I should hopefully receive a pass certificate in due course.


Sure enough, almost three weeks later I received the paperwork from the RSGB confirming I had passed the full licence exam. I now need to use the Ofcom portal website to select and register my new radio station call sign.

Even though there are no more licence exams for me to take, this feels more like the beginning rather than the end of my amateur radio journey. If you’re preparing for the RSGB advanced exam, my best advice is to totally immerse yourself in ham radio full-time until exam day. Good luck!

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