Foundation Syllabus Survey Now Closed

Apologies folks, but we’ve had to close our Foundation Syllabus Survey. Although this is no longer available, we’re happy to bring you the results, for the record.

Syllabus Survey - Now Closed
Syllabus Survey – Now Closed

Why pull the survey?

RSGB LogoWe received an email from a member of the RSGB Exam Standard Committee (ESC) on the 8th of March 2019. This claimed that the questions posted were “badly constructed” and “a bit misleading”.

In response, it was pointed out that the questions were clearly signposted as ‘syllabus questions, aimed at tutors’, not ‘real-world exam questions’. The ESC was sent the reference links to the RSGB Syllabus, pointing out that the questions were almost word-for-word simple “recall” statements as written in the Foundation syllabus.

We’re still waiting for their response as to which questions (when compared to syllabus wording), they felt were misleading. Whilst we wait for their response, feel free to judge for yourself below.

A secondary reason for closing the survey, is that a member of one of the RSGB ESC’s sub-teams, decided for some reason to post a full set of answers to the questions on Twitter, effectively rendering ongoing results invalid.

Your Scores

The current pass mark at Foundation is 73%. We asked 12 questions based on the 2019 Foundation Syllabus. 311 amateurs took the test.

Percentage hitting the 73% Foundation Pass Mark
Percentage hitting the 73% Foundation Pass Mark
Passes (>73%) 8% (25 of 311 amateurs)
Average Mark 40%
Average for trainers 48%
Average for Foundation 33%
Average for Intermediate 35%
Average for Full (RAE) 45%
Average for Full (Post-2004) 47%

Survey Questions and Answers

Here are the questions we asked, with the appropriate section from the 2019 syllabus…

1. When are you required to identify your station? On change of supervisor

Syllabus 1A5 – “Recall the requirements for station identification. Note: For the purposes of the examination this includes identifying when there is a change of: frequency, mode or type of transmission, including change of digital protocols, supervisor, or Regional Secondary Locator.”

Results: Only 19.2% of amateurs got this one correct. 64.7% wrongly selected that a callsign had to be given every 15 minutes.

Note: This requirement is not in the Ofcom Licence section covering identification, Section 13(1). This is arguably not applicable in the case of being under supervision on a club callsign, and is likely to be a licence problem for the supervisor (normally a higher level than Foundation), not for the person being supervised.

2. The sum of voltages across a number of resistors in series equals what? The supply voltage

Syllabus 2C2 – “Understand that the sum of the voltages across a number of resistors in series equals the supply voltage.”

Results: Better scores here, with 75% getting the correct answer

3. According to the Foundation syllabus 2019, the RF range that candidates have to remember is what? Below 30kHz to beyond 3000MHz

Syllabus 2E2 – “Recall that radio frequencies can range from below 30kHz to beyond 3000MHz.”

Results: Only 33% could recall the range. 38.5% wrongly selected  “Below 300kHz to beyond 3000MHz”

4. What best defines a digital signal? A stream of finite values at a specific sampling interval

Syllabus 2F1 – “Recall that digital signals are a stream of finite values at a specific sampling interval.”

Results: 68.9% got this correct

5. What best describes a secondary battery? A battery with a reversible process

Syllabus 2J1 – “Understand that a rechargeable (secondary) battery has a reversible chemical process.”

Results: Only 49% identified that a secondary battery is rechargeable. 33.1% opted for the answer of “non-rechargeable”

6. When RF and AF are modulated together, the new frequencies produced are referred to as what? Sidebands

Syllabus 3A3 – “Recall that when radio frequencies are modulated (mixed) with an audio frequency the new frequencies that are generated are called

Results: Answered correctly by 58%

7. In an SDR, what enables signals to be sifted into separate frequency components? A mathematical operation 

Syllabus 3M1 – “Recall that a mathematical operation enables all the signals to be sifted into separate frequency components.”

Results: 38.1% got this correct

8. What best defines loss in feeder? The conversion of RF to heat 

Syllabus 4A2 – Recall that some RF energy is converted to heat in feeders so they exhibit loss.

Results: 43.9% got this one

9. Gain is measured in dB and is normally expressed relative to what? A half-wave dipole

Syllabus 4C3 – Recall the gain of an antenna is normally expressed relative to a half-wave dipole and measured in dB

Results: A controversial one. 49.7% got this, and it’s kicked off an interesting debate amongst tutors (dBd vs dBi)

10. What should you do before installing a rig in your car? Answer: Check compatibility with the vehicle’s electrical and management systems, seek professional advice, and check with your motor insurance provider

Syllabus 6F1 – “Recall that it is the vehicle owner’s responsibility to ensure that any radio installation is compatible with the vehicles electrical and management systems and does not affect vehicle safety. Recall that the fact of the installation may have to be disclosed to the vehicle insurers. Recall that professional advice should be sought for all vehicle installations.

Results: 52.9% got this as an “all of the above” question

11. What must you do before setting up an RF earth? Contact your District Network Operator

Syllabus 8A2 – “Recall that the District Network Operator responsible for the physical supply to your premises must be consulted before making changes such as an RF earth.”

Results: Hmm, only 19.2% got this one. 33% thought you needed to connect an RCBO (Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Over Current Protection), but most amateurs  (44%) opted for “Check ICNIRP guidelines”. In case you didn’t know – ICNIRP stands for the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

12. A circuit has a 12V battery, an LED with a typical current of 20mA and a 470ohm resistor. What would the addition of another 470ohm resistor in parallel with the existing resistor do to the current in the LED? It would double

Syllabus 10B2 – “Demonstrate that connecting another resistor of the same value in parallel with the existing resistor results in a doubling of the current
in the LED. Explain the reason to the tutor.”

Results: Just over half got this correct (51.2%).

Note:This item formed part of a new Foundation practical designed to introduce resistors in series & parallel at Foundation. It’s now been dropped from the syllabus, following lobbying from clubs including Essex Ham.


Survey Stats

399 responses were received. After filtering those without a licence, and those who only partially-completed the survey, 311 responses were received by the closing date (8th March 2019).

  • Licence class: 62.9% Full, 21.3% Foundation, 15.8% Intermediate
  • Trainers: 102 responses were from those active in UK training

Respondent Views

We asked: “Do you think that it is necessary for newcomers to be able to answer these 12 questions correctly before they can be allowed to get their first licence & use a radio unsupervised?”

  • No: 51.3%
  • Yes: 26.1%
  • Unsure: 22.58%
Yes, this is necessary Percentage of group who say “yes” And their average score
Foundation 24.2% 34%
Intermediate 30.0% 40%
Full (RAE) 30.4% 45%
Full (Post-2004) 19.3% 47%
Trainers 25.5% 48%

Not in Syllabus until Intermediate

Did you know that the RSGB feels that Foundation candidates don’t need to know about Q-Codes, Nets, Awards, Contests and working satellites? The 2019 Syllabus sees these as Intermediate-level material..

Nets Intermediate 1C1:  “Understand the licence requirements for net operation”
Q-Codes Intermediate 7E1: “Recall the meaning and the reason for use of the Q codes: QRM, QRN, QRO, QRP, QRT, QSB, QSL, QSO, QSY, QTH.”
Working Satellites Intermediate 7G1: “Recall that satellites orbit the Earth at heights above 250km, and understand that most amateur satellites are moving in relation to the Earth and will only be above the horizon at certain times.”
Intermediate 7G3:  “Understand that amateur satellites can only be used when they are above the horizon at both the sending and receiving stations, and that the movement of the satellite will cause frequency variation, known as Doppler shift, on the received signal, which must be allowed for when selecting operating frequencies”
Awards Intermediate 7A4: “Recall that there are awards available for achievements which include: working continents, countries, islands, prefixes, locator squares and that variations may include certain frequency bands or low power.”
Contests Intermediate 7A4: “Recall that amateur radio contests require the exchange of information such as signal report, serial number and location. Recall that contests often have sections for different bands, power levels and modes.”

Related links

Your views?

Newcomers entering the hobby dropped by 9% in the last report. Will harder exams at Foundation and Intermediate reduce this even further? Or do you think we need to increase the bar to make the hobby more theory-based?

Do you think our questions were “misleading”? Or is what’s been asked in the syllabus to blame for the 8% pass rate on this survey?

Do you agree that Nets and Q-Codes are an “Intermediate and above” part of the hobby, and not anything to ask M7s about? 

Please add your thoughts below…


  1. Are SGB-Kidding 10 March 2019 Reply
  2. M0IDA 10 March 2019 Reply
    • Roy Douglas 11 November 2019 Reply
  3. g3zhi 11 March 2019 Reply
  4. Baz Cartledge 11 March 2019 Reply
  5. Dave Baxter 11 March 2019 Reply
    • Pete M0PSXAuthor 11 March 2019 Reply
  6. MM0HDW 5 October 2019 Reply
    • Darrin Strachan 19 April 2020 Reply
  7. Steve 15 October 2019 Reply
  8. ray ellery 15 August 2020 Reply

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *