Ofcom Consultation: How this affects the exam syllabus

The 2023 Ofcom Consultation is likely to result in a change to the RSGB exam syllabus, with a knock-on effect on trainers, clubs and online courses.

On the 7th of August 2023, the RSGB ran a live panel discussion where this topic was covered. To assist tutors, here is a summary of the points covered:

Tony Kent G8PBH from the RSGB Exam Team gave a brief presentation on the likely impact to the syllabus should the Ofcom consultation items go through:

When would the syllabus change?

It’s expected that a draft of new syllabus (v1.6) will be published on the RSGB site by the end of September / Start of October 2023. This would be updated in January 2024 based on the consultation results. As per the current Ofcom timescale, it’s expected that new exams would start from 1st April 2024.

Syllabus v1.6 Slide
Syllabus v1.6 Slide – click to enlarge

How will the changes affect the syllabus?

The following summary was given:

  • Licence Conditions: Removals/additions to directly reflect Licence variations and changes to schedule
  • Technical Aspects: None
  • Transmitters & Receivers: None
  • Feeders & Antennas: None
  • Propagation: None
  • EMC: None
  • Operating Practices: Possible small changes
  • Safety: Where references to power
Syllabus v1.6 Slide
Syllabus v1.6 Slide – click to enlarge

Examples of possible changes were also presented:

Syllabus v1.6 Slide
Syllabus v1.6 Slide – click to enlarge

Tony Kent also confirmed that there are “no plans to put more stuff in Foundation”, and that the next update would be minimal to reflect Ofcom changes.


Is there a plan to simplify the Foundation and Intermediate Syllabus?

Essex Ham asked: “In previous years, the RSGB has made the amateur radio exams increasingly more difficult, citing Ofcom as the reason for this. With Ofcom now looking to relax rules and make the hobby more accessible, will the RSGB Board consider directing the RSGB Exam Group to review the Foundation and Intermediate syllabus to support easier entry and higher progression?”

Essex Ham RSGB Question

The Board response was essentially “not our problem” as they have no influence over the Exam Group under the RSGB/Ofcom agreement. The Exam Group response was that there are no plans to do anything beyond Ofcom consultation changes.

The position appears to be that when Syllabus 2019 was brought in, the pass rate didn’t drop, so RSGB don’t believe that they made the exam harder. It’s well documented that material was brought down from Intermediate to Foundation increasing the scope and size of the syllabus, so this apparent denial of making the syllabus more difficult is interesting. We’d hope that syllabus decisions would be based on content and relevance, not just pass rates! Yes, pass rates have gone up, but since online exams have come in, people are studying in different ways (mostly at home, not at clubs) and people are only taking exams when they’re ready – hence the increased pass rate.

As for simplifying the syllabus… the answer is “no”, mainly due to resource constraints (“syllabused out”!). Tony suggested that maybe in a couple of years time there might be a wider review of the syllabus.

Open book exams?

A question on this was asked. It’s been discussed by the RSGB, but presents challenges. It’s “under consideration”, but there are issues

Open question banks?

It’s “under active consideration” and the current solution is to issue more mock questions from the active question bank. There is a split opinion on whether or not to share the active question pool.

Our thanks to Examinations Standards Committee Chair Tony Kent G8PBH for the detailed responses.

Want to hear more?

The full panel discussion can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOyYkHror8g

If you’re a trainer and have any thoughts on the proposed changes – please comment below – and don’t forget we’re running an Ofcom Consultation Survey to gather views.

One Comment

  1. clive tucker 19 August 2023 Reply

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