Finding Books and Study Materials for the Theory Exam

Question pools:

The written “theory” questions found on all tests come from a common “question pool”. Only those questions that are found in the pool are permitted to be used on exams. The question pools are publicly available, and you can access them directly on the web. (See link to NCVEC in the next paragraph).  The questions are prepared and approved for use by a national committee made up of representatives from all the VECs, or Volunteer Examiner Coordinators, nationwide. The Anchorage Amateur Radio Club is officially recognized by the FCC as a VEC.

One place you can find the question pools is the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) web site. You can visit the NCVEC web site to find the question pools.  click here 

You will need to have “Acrobat Reader” on your system to view the graphics (wiring drawings and charts) that are part of some questions. If you do not already have this plug-in on your system, it is available for free via download. You can, of course, print the questions via your local printer for later use.

License Manuals:

Caution!!  If you decide to purchase or rent a license study guide, make sure it is for the currently active question pool.  The questions pools are updated every 4 years on a regular cycle.  However, not all pools update at the same time.  

You can check the NCVEC web site:  click here   to determine the active dates for any particular pool. has several of these books available in Kindle format, and some can be either rented or purchased.  

  Most people preparing to take the test for a new license, or to upgrade an existing license, prefer to use a “license manual”. License manuals are typically arranged so that each book covers one of the “elements” that make up the complete series of exams. The most popular study materials are published by 2 sources. They are:

ARRL (American Radio Relay League): The ARRL offers several different publications. The ARRL book series are very well written, offering substantial amounts of additional information with each group of questions. This additional material is designed to help the student gain a more complete understanding of the “why” behind the questions. You can telephone them (toll free) at 1-888-277-5289 to order books, or you can go directly to the license manual section on their web site. click here for ARRL study guides.   In addition to the license manuals, they also offer tapes (and CD’s) to assist in learning and improving Morse code skills.

Gordon West Publications: Gordon West, WB6NOA, has earned substantial respect among the ham community for his clearly written and “to the point” study guides. The Gordon West series of books are preferred by some students because they have a sharper “focus” on the questions (and their answers), with less of the added fine detail found in the ARRL books. Descriptions of some of the Gordon West materials can be found at the W5YI group web site. click here

Another good source of license manuals is  They carry most current titles in stock, and are a good alternative to ordering from other sources.  Here is a link to their web site:   click here

Video tapes:

The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) offers a video course for Technician / General licensees. This course consists of 3 video tapes, and runs for a total time of about 12 hours. This course is priced at about $150.00. While the course is intended to assist an instructor, some individuals have used it to successfully pass their written exams.

Ham Radio classes:

Formal classes are offered from time to time. Typically, these classes meet 2 days per week, usually in the evening, and run for 4 to 6 weeks. Check with your local radio club for classes in your area. When we are aware of an upcoming class, we will list it under “sources”. below.

No classes nearby? While many people feel comfortable with the structured learning environment of the classroom, it is definitely not a requirement that you attend classes to gain new or upgraded Amateur Radio license privileges. It is entirely possible to study alone or in a small group, using nothing but one or more of the license study guides offered by the various publishers, and successfully pass your exam, usually on the first try.

On-Line education: The ARRL and other vendors offer on-line and CD-ROM based instruction for all classes of amateur radio licenses. Here are some links that may be useful:

On-Line Practice Exams: There are a few web sites that offer on-line practice exams. One of the best is offered by a fellow in Wisconsin, amateur radio station AA9PW. He operates this free service as AA9PW.COM. Here is a link to his web site:

On line practice exams use the same questions as the “real” exams. Each practice exam offers a random selection of questions, and scores each attempt as you proceed. The questions are drawn from the same master pool of questions. The exam you receive for your actual exam will use a sub-set of questions drawn at random from the master question pool. 35 questions for the Technician and General exams, or 50 questions for the Amateur Extra Class license. As soon as you can regularly score 80 percent or above on the practice exams, you are ready for the real thing. Look at the bottom of this page for exam session locations and times.

Sources of study materials:

Study materials are generally not available locally, and must be mail-ordered. Occasionally one of the local bookstores will have some publications, but they do not stock them with any reliability. In any case, be absolutely certain that the study materials you are using are for the current question pool! The question pools are updated every 4 years, and there are generally enough changes that using an obsolete pool (and obsolete study guides) will probably result in your failing the exam. If you have any question about which pool is in effect, you may visit the NCVEC web site at  to verify the effective dates of any pool.

A good source of study guides is   click here

Another source is the W5YI group   click here

Study materials can also be ordered directly from the ARRL    click here


Anchorage area: Depending on demand, from time to time Technician and or General classes are sometimes available. Such classes are usually held in the Spring or Fall. Also, occasionally offered are accelerated “2-day” or “2 weekend” cram classes.  These classes are intended for beginners (Technician class license applicants), but occasionally are held for higher license classes as well. The exact days of the class are not known at this time. Check the AARC main web site for class information and updates.

Fairbanks area: No classes are scheduled at this time

Kenai-Soldotna area: No classes are scheduled at this time

Palmer-Wasilla area: No classes are scheduled at this time

Juneau area: No classes are scheduled at this time

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