RSGB Syllabus 2019 Changes

1st SeptThe new RSGB syllabus for Foundation, Intermediate and Full comes into effect on the 1st of September 2019.

The changes will have a significant impact on UK training and exams, with the entry-level Foundation and Intermediate courses set to become harder from 2019.

Information is scattered across the Internet, so we’ve put this page together to keep things in one place.

Why is the syllabus changing?

Partly to update the syllabus to add in more relevant content, and partly because Ofcom allegedly commented in 2007 that the pass mark for the 2006 Intermediate was too high! Crazy, but according to the RSGB, that’s why!

There was a consultation in 2017. Essex Ham ran one too. Essex Ham’s showed that the majority of amateurs and trainers were against making Foundation and Intermediate harder. The RSGB disagreed. Essex Ham’s survey had significantly more responses that the RSGB’s own. Essex Ham’s results are public. RSGB’s are secret.

What will change?

The big headline is that Intermediate will get a lot harder – more formulas, phase, inductance, reactance, rectifiers, parallel tunes circuit ‘traps’, LUF/MUF, and much more that’s been dropped down from Advanced. The practicals also get more involved, adding to the work of volunteers at clubs, According to the RSGB, the pass rate is too high, so they need less people to pass.

Foundation‘s getting harder too. Resistors in series & parallel, plus technical content dropping down from the new harder Intermediate.

The positive, is that the Full should now be easier to obtain, thanks to the harder Intermediate.

It’s great that SDRs and Digital Radio are now included, and many of the changes are welcomed. Some have queried some of the rather odd choices. Use of Nets, the Q codes, contests, awards and working satellites, are all “Intermediate” activities going forward. Many feel that a newcomer is more likely to join a net, or need to give their “QTH”, than will need to calculate current flow across parallel components in their shop-bought rig. Also, the brand new Fioundation practical teacxhes data modes – but only RTTY and PSK31 (both largely obsolete!)

Looking to take an exam?

The new (harder) syllabus starts from the 1st of September 2019. The obvious question is – do you take your exam now, or wait? In our opinion, the RSGB has decided to make Foundation and Intermediate significantly harder to pass. Additionally, the extra material and practical exercises mean that courses will likely be longer. Some clubs have already indicated that they no longer be able to offer training, due to the costs and complexities around the new content. Here’s our summary:

  • Foundation: Our advice is to take your exam before September 2019. As of early July, there are still a few courses and exam sessions available around the UK, and the current Foundation exam and practicals are easier than what’s planned for September 2019 onwards
  • Intermediate: Our advice is to take your exam before September 2019 if possible, although time is running out. The current Intermediate exam and practicals are easier than what’s planned for September 2019 onwards
  • Full: This one is harder to answer. The September 2019 syllabus involves significantly more material than the current one, but there is better distribution between Intermediate and Full, so the new Full exam won’t be such a massive jump. There may be a potential knowledge-hole, in that if you have an Intermediate pre-September 2019, and sit Full exam post-September 2019, the Full exam may assume that you covered something in Intermediate that you didn’t when you sat your Intermediate. Life will be better for people moving from post-2019 Intermediate to Full, but may be complex for those caught between the changes

Your questions answered:

  • Will there be new books? Yes – they’re out! The new Full manual was released in August 2018, the Intermediate in March 2019 and Foundation in April 2019. They are available from RSGB. Existing books for pre-September 2019 are still available, but shouldn’t be used for any level after September 2019
  • Will there be an overlap? Yes. Between September and November 2019, delayed exams or resits using the old syllabus will still be possible. From December 2019, you can only take the new exams
  • Why is the RSGB making it harder to get into amateur radio? The official answer is that the syllabus needed to be brought up-to-date, new material (such as new modes and radios), to aid the transition between the three levels, and because Ofcom perceived back in 2007 that the Intermediate was too easy. We conducted surveys in 2017 and 2018 showing that the majority of trainers and amateurs supported bringing things up-to-date, but not to making the entry-level courses harder.
  • Will Ham Train be offering Foundation Online Course for the new syllabus? Our last course started in June 2019, and we’ll soon be taking a break from montly courses to assess the impact of making the new changes. We’re also still waiting on support material from RSGB that was promised back in 2018.

Are you a Tutor?

For the new Syllabus, go here: RSGB Syllabus 2019 – Here is a brief summary of changes:

  • Foundation: Increase from 130 to around 250 examinable points. New content (digital radios, SDR, etc), and large chunks of theory (resistors in series, gain calculation, etc) and safety dropped down from Intermediate. Practicals have changed slightly, now requiring a two-needle SWR and a manual ATU. Stays at 26 questions.
  • Intermediate: New content (digital radios, SDR, etc), and large chunks of theory dropped down from Full. 46 questions (increase of 1). Six new practicals added (oscillator, harmonics, filters, electronics), two removed (mains plug, diodes) and two made more complex (circuits, transistor gain)
  • Full: We’ve not reviewed this in detail yet, but initial impression is that more has been removed (or dropped to Intermediate) than has been added – There are some significant changes though.  Exam is now 58 questions (reduced by 4).

We’ve got some more detail here:

Tutor Training Material

  • What training material is RSGB providing to help us get ready? RSGB TEC (Training & Education Committee) was reportedly working on something, but TEC has now been disbanded. RSGB promised tools and support material to help clubs, but has u-turned on this. Many trainers and clubs feel that they’re now on their own
  • Will Essex Ham be offering training material (slides, videos, online course, etc) for the new syllabus? RSGB promised tools and support material, which we were waiting for. These are now not coming. This changes things, and so we are in the process of assessing the situation.

Want help and support? Join our new Trainers Discussion Group

RSGB Syllabus Review History:

  • May 2013: RCF Exam Committee agreed to start on a 3-4 year syllabus review, in conjunction with RSGB TEC (RCF EC report May 2013)
  • June 2014: RCF Exam Committee had started a 2-3 year syllabus review (RCF EC report June 2014)
  • April 2016: ESC and TEC still working on a new syllabus expected for publication in April 2017 (RSGB ESC report April 2016)
  • May 2017: ESC and TEC still working on a new syllabus. Draft nearly complete (RSGB ESC report May 2017)
  • June 2017: Draft version of new syllabus published for consultation (RSGB ESC Website)
  • May 2018: New Syllabus completed and approved by Ofcom (RSGB ESC report May 2018)
  • August 2018: Approved syllabus published, without supporting documentation (RSGB website 15 Aug 18)
  • September 2018: RSGB confirms that tutor support tools are being developed (Radcom Oct 18)
  • December 2018: Following pressure from clubs, RSGB drops LED practical from Foundation, and confirms they are developing Schemes of Work are a priority (Radcom Jan 2019)
  • January 2019: Syllabus Implementation Group (SIG) formed (Radcom Apr 19,p69)
  • March 2019: RSGB reports that trainers have offered to share training resources via RSGBTutors and the RSGB website (Radcom Apr 19,p69)

RSGB Syllabus Consultation

The RSGB released an 86-page draft syllabus review document in June 2017. Our own survey elicited over 275 comments (significantly more than RSGB’s own one), and we also run a tutor’s straw poll. Our own submission was made to RSGB, combining feedback from over 300 amateurs and trainers. Some links:

Essex Ham’s Submission to RSGB

Want updates from us about the RSGB Syllabus Review? Join our unofficial UK Trainers Discussion Group

Other Links