Foundation Online – Too Basic?

We quite often hear from people studying using our online course asking for a more detailed explanation of how an aspect of amateur radio works, or commenting on the “basic” nature of Foundation. Where possible we’re happy to help, but it’s important to note that for our Foundation Online course, we only focus on the Foundation syllabus – what you’ll need to know to pass your Foundation exam and get started in the hobby. The hope is that, once you’ve got your licence, you’ll progress through Intermediate and on to the Full/Advanced licence.

It’s all a bit basic?

For many people, especially those with a grounding in RF and electronics, yes, but for others, passing Foundation is a challenge, and some of the concepts (if not encountered before) are alien.

Anyone with a decent grounding in any of the key disciplines (electronics, transmitters, RF, antennas, etc) will realise fairly quickly that what’s examined at Foundation is very simplistic, and doesn’t give a true representation of the subject. Electronics is a great example – it’s explained in under 4 pages, and typically only 2 electronics questions are asked in the exam. Things are brushed over, the drawings and detail is deliberately very limited. For many, it will leave questions unanswered. The intention of the Foundation level is to give a basic overview of the aspects that make up amateur radio. The expectation is that students will progress to Intermediate (which starts to look at construction and electronics in more detail), before moving to the Advanced licence.

Can I start at Advanced?

Those with a solid grounding in RF, electronics or physics can often get frustrated that they can’t just straight into the Full exam, and have to start with the basic Foundation. To an extent, this is true, but you can sit all three levels of exam close to each other (or even do them all in a day at some locations, such as the annual RSGB convention).

As a bit of background, until 2003, those looking to get into amateur radio would sit a City & Guilds Radio Amateur Exam (which is the equivalent of today’s Full/Advanced). There was only one level, and on average, it was a six-month course. Things were taught in a different way, and many of the traditional radio amateurs feel that the old RAE was the way to go – No simplistic drawings, only a detailed understanding of the theory. There were no practical tests, just a theory paper. Whilst many feel that this allowed the subjects to be taught in the correct way, the down-side was a significant reduction in the number of people sitting the exam and passing it. Most observers agree that if something didn’t change, there’d be no new blood coming into the hobby, and it would quietly die. So today’s three-level system was born, and looking at the numbers, the change has “saved” the hobby by encouraging people to give it a go. The decision to split from the old RAE still remains controversial.

You’re correct that the drawings and principles at Foundation are very basic, and in some cases misleading, and the RSGB are working on a syllabus review at the moment that will mean some changes to the course structure and material, to bring in some of the more advanced material into the lower levels.

I’m not sure if you’ve looked at the material for the higher levels in the hobby, but if you’re looking to progress to Full and want a more in-depth understanding, it may be worth you looking at the course material for Full. You can also get a feel for the requirements of all three levels here:

Hopefully that answers the two questions, and gives you a feel for why things are a little “basic” at Foundation.


Handy Links

Add a Comment

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