By: Kent Petty, KL5T
Chairman, Anchorage ARC VEC
Remember when you took your license examination to get your very first amateur radio license? Remember those “volunteer examiners” (at least 3 of them were there). Remember the paper examinations? Remember the wait to get your examination graded? Remember how long it took to actually receive your license from the FCC? Well, we aren’t in Kansas anymore Toto!
Some of you may know that the Anchorage ARC VEC was the first Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) in the country to give a “remote” examination”? That was back in 2014 and was permitted after we requested a subtle change to be made to the wording in Part 97 relative to license examinations. We ramped things up in 2019 when we started moving away from paper examinations and started developing our computer-based testing process. Once we had computer-based testing worked out, we stopped all “paper” exams. Then COVID-19 hit. Prior to COVID-19, the Anchorage ARC VEC pretty much only coordinated examinations in Alaska. We had started to offer “remote testing” to other locations around the country because we realized that there were certainly folks that experienced the same challenges as some Alaskans who live remotely, namely, to get a testing team to them, or to get them to a testing team. Computer-based testing bolstered our remote testing effort in that we no longer needed to send examination kits out to the proctor for the examination.
After COVID-19 hit, nearly all in-person examination sessions were suspended across the country. We were faced with the realization that we were the only VEC that was already fully ready to offer remote examinations. We therefor went ahead with offering remote examinations to anyone anywhere who wanted to test. This meant that each of our VEs could be at separate locations and linked via a web-based video conference such as Google Meets or Zoom.
Fast forward to December 28, 2020. We have had 553 requests for remote examinations, given 383 examinations, helped 275 people earn new licenses, and helped 83 upgrade their existing licenses. At present we typically offer 2 exam sessions per day, and we have VEs located all over the country (Alaska, Oregon, California, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, and Michigan). One of the great features of our program is the speed at which we submit applications to the FCC. When examination sessions are held during a weekday, successful examinees typically receive their callsign or upgrade within 30 to 60 minutes from the time they complete their examination.
Do You Want to Be a VE?
Our active VEs will all convey that helping with our Remote Testing program is an extremely rewarding endeavor! And the examinees are so thankful as well! We’ve tested folks all over the country and internationally in places like Afghanistan, Jordan, Djibouti, Kuwait, Spain, and Germany. Our examinees likely would not have been able to test without our service.
We do have a need for more VEs in our program. We have quite a few existing VEs who have never participated in a remote exam session and hope they will step forward. General, Advanced, and Extra Class license holders are eligible to become VEs. If you aren’t a VE and would like to become a VE, the process is pretty simple:
- Apply here to be a VE: https://kl7aa.org/vec/become-accredited/
- Complete an open book examination based on Part 97 and our VE Guide
- Get set up “technically” to help with exams. Basically that means you need to be set up on Zoom, our Chat System, and our Examination platform.
If you have more questions about our VE program, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We do hope you will apply.
By the way, a VEC is a “body”, not a person. It is an “entity” that “coordinates” examination sessions. A Volunteer Examiner (VE) is a person, a member of the test team. Every VE is accredited by 1 or more VECs. However, accreditation by 1 VEC does not automatically make one accredited with another VEC.