Syllabus Survey 2017: Why RSGB should make Foundation harder

In June 2017, RSGB launched a consultation into its proposed changes to the Foundation syllabus.

We’ve been running our own survey, to gauge opinions from the amateur radio community.

At the time of writing, 63 amateurs (36% of respondents) feel that RSGB should make Foundation exams harder. Why is this?

Survey results and feedback to our Syllabus Review summary clearly show a desire to keep the barrier-to-entry as it is, but it’s interesting to look at the reasons why so many existing amateurs want to see Foundation made more difficult:

Syllabus Survey: Should Foundation be easier or harder?
Syllabus Survey: Should Foundation be easier or harder?

My take?

At a time where we’re struggling to get more people into the hobby, doing anything to make it more difficult for people to get involved in the hobby seems counter-productive. So why does a reasonable percentage want to make that barrier to entry harder? Let’s look at the reasons given in the survey…

Survey Comments for “Make Foundation Harder”

The changes in the revised syllabus are welcome.
Regarding construction, the inference on the Essex Ham page is that construction is not permitted for Foundation which is not the case.
Kit constructed transmitters are already permitted but there seems to be uncertainty among some Full licensees about the regulations which in itself discourages Foundation holders from trying. Ideally Foundation should be permitted to construct transmitters using parts sourced individually as well as kits.
434 MHz transmitting payloads for High Altitude Balloons providing coverage of the British Isles operating in 434 MHz  have built and operated by untrained, unqualified and unlicenced children (age 15) – there have been no problems!
Trained, Qualified and Licenced Foundation holders should have far greater privileges than that. The changes proposed in Section 2 Technical Aspects may facilitate the removal from the licence of the unnecessary restriction on “non-kit” construction.
Its about time this happened, the dumbing down of exams, has been at the deterement of opperating standards and practices.
The step between foundation and intermediate has always been too large. The same can be said for the step from intermediate to full. I see the next step is to move things from full to intermediate.
no more block diagrams, more Q codes are good
I have seen a downwards spiral in technical ability so anything to increase newcomers ability is a good thing.
Not sure of the need to introduce the additional electronic elements are required but additional training around operation (esp SDR and DV)  and safety can’t do any harm.
There has been too much attention given to getting people in quickly over the last few years. Having a harder foundation will make for longer courses, better bonding between students and the hobby and a strong sense of achievement for those that pass.
I think it’s because the jump from foundation to intermediate is a big one.   Ask any of the members and local FL operators about to take the intermediate, and I reckon they’ll agree.

You can’t make the intermediate easier, as then you have a massive step up again to the advanced, and at that level, it would be more harmful still.

Basically, as I see it, they’re correcting a problem at the best level to tackle it.

The foundation was too easy, and lacked many syllabus areas that the FL holder actually needed. 

SSB in block diagrams was missing.. 

there was nothing on ionospheric layers….

Nothing on EMC mobile…. 

important Q code coverage was missing… 

a lot of material safety advice is now present… 

Morse only was an anomaly, and it’s good to see data modes and SDR usage added.

Make it harder to pass FL – also those people who have held a FL or IM licence for more than 5 years without progression must re test every 5 years or lose licence.
Charge everyone a fee for the licence.
Quite surprised listening to many Novice licensed Amateurs, Basic Fundamentals seem to be devoid from the syllabus.
More needs to be included to give the necessary basic technical ability to operate and set up and operate.
also believe there should be varied access to bands but not everything. Access should be in stages increasing as you work up to full license .
repeater and net practicals needed
Still much too easy!
whilst the Foundation exam course requires some changes the proposed ones are over the top. I have frequently tried to bring to  attention of the RSGB the need
for the use of repeaters and the operating procedures that should be used when on air.Also that we require some means of instilling good manners as part of the course.
resistors in series and parallel is not a bad idea but why not just keep it to series then it could be incorporated into a revised DC circuit.
adding SDR radio to a foundation course is a retrograde step who as a Foundation holder is about to purchase a SDR unit and as a tutor for a small club I am not in a
position to purchase a SDR radio for my students to set up and run data on.
The addition of polar diagrams not a bad idea but who is to provide them as with a lot of these new proposals it is going to fall on the clubs and tutors to provide the
material that means that we will not get a consistent course from club to club the very foundation on which these courses were designed in the first place.
But if the RSGB is to provide the new resources to enable us to implement the changes I look forward to receiving my free Icom ic7300and lot of books on antenna theory
that I will require For each student.
One last point the New Foundation now book that will be required for the new syllabus looks to be an exercise to compile and will at the speed that the RSGB works would certainly not be ready for 2017
The hobby will survive only if it gains the respect it once had. Making the content of the Foundation more in keeping with material that is actually needed to start to use radios is to be applauded. Items that are foundational to construction etc., give a preview of the higher stages and an encouragement to strive towards progression. Currently in my experience we have a large contingent who are satisfied with 10W and so do not progress and yet do not really understand those things they need to do to stay legal and not cause interference and distress to others.
I hear many conversations between foundations licensees that convince me that the level is no where near enough.A recent one that made me cringe was a guy who couldn’t understand that when he moved his vhf aerial and it was lower than previously his signals were much stronger.Later in the conversation it transpired that it had been moved from the loft to an outdoor location!!! This is only one of many and as for stating that certain knowledge is not needed with only 10watts of power I know of only 2 in my area that abide by that.The big majority will admit,in private.that they use the output  power of the radio in use and I genuinely know of 2 with 1kw linears.All wrong but do Ofcom or anybody else have the bodies or finance to police it? Rant over and soapbox away!!!
I welcome any changes that make the FL licence more of an acheivement for people than it is today. In my view it is far to easy.
i agree with adding the extra intermediate parts to the exam as its far to easy and it gives them a better idea of amateur radio and what it is about
Foundation level is too easy hence the high pass rate.
The current Foundation syllabus does not adequately prepare new amateurs for general operation on the bands. My own club and most of the others I know of already go further than the syllabus at Foundation level. Since starting delivering training and coaching at all three levels, we have only had one person fail at Foundation giving us a pass rate of 95% plus. The proposed changes will no doubt change this, but people who put in a bit of work on the theory before the exam should not find it too much of a change. Where the changes will be seen in the pass rates will be in the two day “Foundation Factories” where there might not be enough time for some people to take in the additional concepts before the exam.
When I took my Foundation Exam, I thought it was relatively easy and I can understand why is should be made a little more difficult, with definitely more electronic and antenna theory. I’ve spoken to quite a few M6 and they often appear to be quite clueless with regards to electronics and basic ‘radio’ theory. I think this is a good move.
Yes, it’s been too easy for far too long.
The added technical side is a good thing, but mandatory digital mode testing is just makes me think Icom have slipped RSGB a few quid here and there. What next? Mandatory DSTAR(TM) purchase receipts?
Pointless exercise.  Foundation was too easy and intermediate level was actually no harder. The biggest leap was intermediate to full. They should move half the full syllabus to intermediate instead.
The current foundation level is way to low. I think it should only be allowed for children under 14 to take the current foundation level. 15 and above should take the intermediate minimum.

Procedures, protocols and practices has been lacking in the foundation ever since it’s inception and I welcome more, lots more training in that department along with more of everything else.

Don’t know what happened in the “olden days” but IT IS a technical/scientific hobby so we should be prepared to get stuck into that, That means you have to know maths and science basics (from school) before you start. It should be a bit hard otherwise, why bother. Look forward to going straight on with the intermediate. They should be part of the same course/exam.
Common sense,technical knowledge ,operating and knowing licence conditions are a must, but power levels should be foundation  35W
Intermediate 100w ,full licence 1KW ..
Radios bought or sold should have pink slips,and be a car, so you know who has what from where.
Stop this baofeng crew from getting unlicensed kit.
The Morse practical is simple and inexpensive to do and after all Morse is worth learning for lots of reasons. Making the syllabus longer means that the Foundation course and prep will be longer.
On the other hand the three tier exam should be reduced to two over the longer term  Or perhaps the nature of the exams themselves changed to have a modular content.
Doing exams online might well help too.
Foundation Syllabus at the moment is far to easy (in my opinion) and I would welcome the changes proposed   De G0xxx  Roy
Digital is just a mode of operation I think a good grounding in anilog would give foundation holders enough to start operating. They should then be able to gain knoweledge of digital through other means.  Better to concentrate more on electrical, operation, safety and licence conditions. More detailed knoweledge of digital should start at intermeadiate or even advanced. There are many resent that have recently taken their intermediate & advanced that ask questions on forums that they really ought to know so have failed to gain a true understanding in some cases of relatively simple concepts. I took my foundation in 2013, intermediate in 2014 & advanced 2016. I found the content throughout about right but would have liked a more in depth approach to some of the sections. I feel you only start to really learn once on air.


The consensus from 36% of our poll seems to be a feeling amongst that minority that standards have slipped since Foundation was introduced way back in 2003. Could it be that these comments are coming from licencees who had to spend months at local colleges studying to get a licence and would like to see a return to the days when it took six months of theory to get a licence? Back then of course, the exam was all theory (no practical content at all), and you could get a licence without touching a radio (unlike today where demonstrating compentance is mandatory)

Of course, getting a Full licence is harder today than back in the City & Guilds RAE days. Take a look at Getting a Full Licence – Then and Now

So, which direction will the RSGB take in respect of syllabus changes… watch this space…

Pete M0PSX


Related Links

Add a Comment

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