How Hard is the Ham Radio Extra Exam? (Answered)

Yes, Passing the Ham radio Extra exam and getting an Amateur Extra license is one of the highest levels of Ham radio proficiency.

This license unlocks unmatched privileges and helps Hams access what Technician and General class license holders can only think about.

So it makes sense why the Ham radio Extra exam is hard. In this article, I’ll discuss all about the Ham radio Extra class exam and how difficult it is.

The Ham Radio Extra class exam is the hardest of the 3 main exams, which also include Technician and General. It contains 50 questions, covering advanced operational and equipment topics. But don’t worry, as explained, even people with no experience have passed the exam with a near perfect score.

Since I don’t want you to leave this article worried, as well as full details on the difficulty of the Extra Exam, I have included some practical tips for you, to help you prepare for it.

So let’s dig in to the details of the Extra Exam…

What is the Ham Radio Extra Exam?

There are three categories or classes of Amateur radio licenses, the Technician class, General class, and the Extra class. And each of these classes has its own exams.

The Ham radio Extra exam is the test you have to clear before you can get the Extra class license. But you can only attend this exam if you have cleared the Technician and General class license exams before. 

You might be wondering why Hams go through the hassle of the Amateur Extra exam when they can access Ham bands just fine with their Technician or General licenses.

I’ll tell you why.

Why Do People Go for the Ham Radio Extra Exam?

The reason people appear for the Ham radio Extra exam is that they want the Amateur Extra license and gain access to the privileges that come with it.

The Ham radio Extra license opens a world of new opportunities for Hams.

Many Hams are attracted by the idea of DXing and establishing long-distance contacts by operating on HF bands. But these frequencies tend to get overcrowded and clogged, which often annoys some pro Amateurs.

The Amateur Extra license gives you extra room on HF bands to operate on. This comes in handy when other frequencies are too crowded to work on properly.

It unlocks all Amateur radio privileges and gives you access to the exclusive lower frequencies on the 80m, 20m, 15m, and 20m HF bands.

These segments on the HF band qualify as prime operating territory and require a greater level of Ham radio proficiency.

The idea of gaining access to these exclusive operating territories and climbing to the top rung of the Ham radio ladder makes the Amateur Extra license so appealing for Hams and the troubles of the Ham radio Extra exam so worth their while.

How Many Questions Are in the Ham Radio Extra Exam?

The Ham radio Extra exam has 50 multiple-choice questions. That’s 15 more than the 35 questions included in the Technician and General class exams.

These 50 questions are derived out of a pool of a whopping 700 questions. So you can imagine the depth and diversity of the nature of these questions.

The additional questions and the depth of the question pool contribute to the added difficulty and make the test as hard as it is.

But how hard is it? I’ll tell you in the next section.

What is the Passing Score on the Ham Radio Extra Test?

You can pass your Ham radio Extra exam by correctly answering 37 out of 50 questions. A quick math calculation tells us that the exam’s passing threshold is at 75%, which is similar to the Technician and General class licenses.

How Hard is the Ham Radio Extra Class Exam?

Do you want the scary part or the “less” scary part? read on to find out…

The Scary Part Of The Extra Exam

The Ham radio Extra class exam is significantly harder than both the Technician exam and the General class exam.

At least that’s what some people who have recently taken the exam say.

Being a gateway to the highest level of Ham radio operations, the exam covers some complicated Ham radio topics in more detail.

This exam includes questions about obscure rules and regulations regarding more sophisticated Ham radio operations. The Ham radio Extra exam also covers specialized operation practices, advanced electronics theory, and radio equipment design.

The fact that there are more questions in this exam, that too derived from a larger pool, only adds to the difficulty.

The Less Scary Part Of The Extra Exam

Having said all of what I have said above, the Ham radio Extra exam is not impossible to pass.

Sure, it’s a bit difficult. But if you are brave and confident enough to be a proud Ham, even when some people say Hams are losers, you should be able to pass the Amateur Extra exam.

To put you at ease, there are many helpful tips you can implement to make preparation easier for you. I’ll share them in a while.

If that isn’t enough, I have come across people with no technical background who claim to have passed the Ham radio Extra exam with a 98% passing score.

So, you should be able to pass the exam, even if your technical knowledge is not something you are proud of, given that you prepare well.

Personally, I think the difficulty of this exam, or any exam for that matter, depends on how you prepare.

If you do prepare well, the exam can be relatively easy for you. However, if you decide to just wing it, you may discover first-hand that the Ham radio Extra exam is no piece of cake.

You will have to study intently for a few weeks and remain dedicated to your goal of getting the Amateur Extra license to actually pass the Ham radio Extra exam.

Now, since we are talking about passing the exam, aren’t you curious about the passing score for this exam?

Helpful Tips To Pass the Ham Radio Extra Exam

As promised, here are some helpful and practical tips from expert Ham radio operators themselves to help you pass the Ham radio Extra exam:

  • Look for helpful online resources and study from them. is touted to be one of the best resources to prepare for the Ham radio Extra exam.
  • There are many male and female Ham operators/YouTubers who have entire courses to help study for this exam. Watch these courses. You can also get the ARRL Extra class license manual and prepare from there.
  • Attempt practice exams. These exams will help you see where you stand in terms of preparation. Continue taking these practice tests until you start getting a reliable passing score on them. And once you do, schedule your test, and get it over with.
  • There’s a lot of overlap between the topics covered in the Technician class, the General class, and the Extra class licenses. So, it would help a lot if you upgrade quickly and appear for the Ham radio Extra exam soon after your Technician and General class exams.
  • The license you get if you pass the exam is the same, whether you score 100% on the exam or barely pass with a 75%. So don’t obsess over perfection.
  • Don’t delay your test. Set a goal, prepare, and apply for the exam as soon as you feel ready.
  • Don’t let your brain fool you into thinking you can’t do it. Having a positive mindset and believing in yourself is as important as studying for the exam.

Remember, the aim here is to pass the test. You can learn the technical details better with hands-on experience once you have your license.

Final Word

The Ham radio Extra exam is harder than the Technician and General license exams. But passing it is not impossible.

With some time, dedication, solid preparation, and the right resources, you should be able to get your hands on the Amateur Extra license.

Just don’t let the difficulty of the exam intimidate you.

Wars are won in minds before they are won on battlefields. Tell yourself you can do it, and you will be able to pass your exam.

And if you need the motivation to study, just think of all the privileges this license unlocks. That should help you focus on your goal – to get the Amateur Extra license and access the exclusive HF bands.