Exam Tools Sessions

This section applies to exams administered with the use of ExamTools (ET) in various methods, fully remote, in person with tablets, or with the use of GradeCam.

We have tried to describe most of the procedures that have worked for our teams in the past. Of course, each team may make adjustments to suit their particular circumstances. For example, if you have many VEs present at a session, you might want to organize the operation differently than when you have only three. All VEs participating in a GLAARG VE Session have to be accredited in advance by GLAARG – due to the simplicity of our workflow, we have no way to use non-GLAARG accredited VEs in a GLAARG session.

Your Responsibility as a VE for compliance with FCC’s Part 97 Rules

You, as a VE, are personally responsible for compliance with the FCC’s Part 97 rules applicable to Conducting VE Sessions. Nothing in these notes should be construed as excusing you from that compliance. Your privileges as a VE and the reputation of GLAARG VEC are at risk if you fail to comply with the laws governing VE Sessions. Ref: Part 97(Subpart F), available on the NCVEC.org website.

VEs and Certifying VEs

There is a difference between a Volunteer Examiner (VE) and a Certifying VE. The Certifying VEs are the three VEs that sign Form 605. The VE-in-Charge (Part 97 calls this the “session manager”) may delegate authority for various tasks to other qualified VEs but they cannot delegate their accountability for the task – see Part 97.509(i). Non-certifying VEs may execute delegated tasks, such as registration, grading, or proctoring exams.

Technician Class may not administer examinations for any class of license. Certifying VEs must remember that they are granted examination administration privileges based on their class of license. General Class may only administer Technician Class examinations. Advanced Class may only administer General and Technician Class examinations. It makes no difference that an examinee fails the examination – it is the Administrative Task that the Certifying VE is signing.

Environment, Examiner-in-Charge, Disruptions

A successful session begins with having a quiet environment and examiners who are pleasant, yet firm, courteous at all times, and at ease when dealing with the public. The public can be very trying at times and examiners must keep their temper and deal with problems quietly and rationally.

The Examiner-in-Charge is just that — In Charge!  They will settle disagreements, quietly and aside, between examiners and with the public. They might need to frequently caution their fellow VEs to be quiet during examinations. We hams dearly love to talk and tend to get carried away at a session.

Applicants who are disruptive and/or fail to obey reasonable instructions should be ejected and must forfeit their fee. Applicants who are observed cheating should be called to the attention of the Examiner-in-Charge ejected from the session, and a note describing the details and the VE#s of the observers when uploading the session to the VEC. The VEC will forward the case to the FCC’s Enforcement Branch.

VE Manual

All VEs should have read and keep up to date with the GLAARG VE manual, latest edition. The manual can be found here.

Session Summary

We have divided the Examination session into five segments:

  1. Registration
  2. Examination
  3. Grading
  4. Signatures Required
  5. Upload the paperwork to the VEC.

Segment 1 – Registration:

Before the Exam:

Advertising Your Session

Obtain Session ID

Session Setup

Some teams create spreadsheets to keep track of VEs and Examinees who are committed to attending their sessions. You can export the Applicant List from ExamTools which includes PINs, email addresses, license classes, call signs, and more. You can use that to create a mailing list to send out the Zoom invitations and to send invoices for the exam fees.

Invite VEs to the your session. For small sessions, this can be just a blind-copy (bcc) email message. Please do not expose email addresses to everyone. For larger sessions, you might need to use a mailing list program. Avoid getting tagged as a spammer. Also, note that bulk emails can be tagged as spam. Posting your session on the GLAARG Groups.io for VEs to RSVP and obtain the zoom links is common. If you do not have a GIO channel and Discord and need to have it setup, please reach out to webmaster@GLAARG.org.

Invite examinees to the your session. For remote or hybrid session, for security, we usually do this only a day or two before the exam, so the zoom links don’t get into the hands of anyone except the examinee. There are other security precautions to take with Zoom, like generating a unique password each time. Please observe all the security precautions for using Zoom.

Add the VEs that RSVP’d to the Session Manifest. You can do that in advance of activating the session, but you can’t do anything without having VEs added to the session. You can assign roles after the VEs are added to the session.

Activate the Session (generally during VE arrival or before applicants arrive)

For remote or hybrid sessions, start the Zoom session early to coordinate with VEs before letting the examinees into the Zoom session. Larger sessions will require more time. You can conduct all the exams in the Main Room, or use breakout rooms. Some teams have created a Welcome Room, Pre-check Room, and Exam Rooms. Note: without breakout rooms, you can only test about 3 examinees per hour.

Have the Host bring all examinees into the Welcome Room (first into the Main Room, then move to Welcome), or leave them outside the Zoom meeting in the Waiting Room. In both cases, prioritize the examinees by noting the order in which they joined the Zoom Meeting and rename them so you know everything you need. One way is PIN First Last Exam—example: 1234 Norm Goodkin E. You might also indicate a side camera or anything else your VEs should see. Another way is just to use the PIN, and notify the applicants that they can shorten their waiting time by joining later, according to their PIN.

At the Exam Session:

1.1.     Applicant ID

The applicant must produce a government or school photo ID that will prove to an examiner’s satisfaction that he or she is the person he or she says. Some states may have electronic IDs. You may find Driver’s Licenses that appear valid on the face but when you turn them over they are either blank or have no magnetic stripe!  The name on the ID should match the ET registration which will be sent to the FCC. Do not make notes, screen capture, or video recordings of any kind relative to the numbers or other data on the ID – it is illegal.

1.2.     Examination and/or Administrative Fee

The examination fee is $10 unless under a qualified waiver.

GLAARG does not charge paperwork or administration fees.  An administrative action is a change of address, name, or renewal. Renewals can only be processed if the date is within the renewal window of 90 days before the expiration date to 2 years after the expiration date.

We do not do renewals for Vanity Calls. The applicant must go online to the FCC site.  If a non-vanity applicant comes to a session and takes an examination and fails, and if his license is within the Grace Period for renewal we will process his renewal as a part of the examination fee – no additional fee is required.

Collecting payment: Send invoice through GLAARG’s PayPal, use the PayPal link on our website, or collect cash.

1.5.     CSCEs – Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination

A CSCE is good for an element credit for up to 365 days from the date it was issued.  A CSCE is used if their call sign has not appeared in the FCC database yet and wants to upgrade.  The CSCE has another function – it allows a successful applicant with an existing license to use his privileges newly earned at the session by adding a Temporary ID after his call sign: “/KT ” for a Novice upgrading to Technician, “/AG ” for General Class privileges, “/AE ” for Extra Class privileges.

An applicant must supply a copy, and show the original of their CSCE if their license has not yet been issued in order to upgrade. Upload the copy to the portal submission. 

Please consider adding “For CSCEs issued by ExamTools, there is an easy way to verify the authenticity of the CSCE should there be any question. At the very bottom is a URL. “To check the authenticity of this CSCE visit https://exam.tools/validate/xxxxxxx”

Segment 2 – Examination

Examination Area

No one is to be permitted in the examining area except the applicants, examiners, and representatives of the FCC or VEC. No exceptions! Be aware that the FCC may send in a “ringer” to take a test and observe the procedures. On occasion, the VEC may send in a representative unannounced.

ARRL “Official Observers” have no standing in the GLAARG VEC Program and may be excluded at the discretion of the Examiner-in-Charge.

2.1             Announcement of Exam Procedure

Announce whether you will be allowing retests.  Make sure your VE team will stay the extra time.  Let the applicants know how much time they have and that there will be an additional exam fee.  If applicants are to be allowed to retest at the session it must be announced before the examination starts and all applicants must be offered the opportunity. If the applicant elects to retest, he must pay an additional fee and must be given a different test version.

We charge the additional fee to discourage retesting because we have found that most applicants who retest are not successful the second time either. We permit only one retest so we do not waste our VE teams’ time.

You can announce this to the whole group before you hand out exams, or if you allow people to start once they have registered, then you have to give each applicant the same information.  We would recommend that you finish registration, and then do the examination.  You may do what works for you, but make sure that there are three (3) VEs proctoring while one is doing registration.  You would then need four (4) or more VEs.

Let applicants know that if they leave before they are finished with their exam they will forfeit that exam. If they return they must be given a new exam with a different version.

Remind applicants to NOT WRITE on the EXAM BOOKLETS.

Have all desks and tables cleared of all papers, books, cell phones, and notes.  Calculators may be used if a VE checks that nothing is in memory.

Cell Phones, PDAs, Pagers, Smart Watches, and the like are to be turned off and placed out of sight.

2.2.              Handing out exams

GradeCam exams, you may pre-fill out the top of the answer sheet with the applicant’s first and last name, the PIN #, Element, and exam number or you can have the Applicant fill it out for GradeCam sessions.  It is imperative that it is legible! When the applicant is finished with the exam, they should turn in the booklet, answer sheet & work papers to the designated VE or a tray on the desk.  You do not want examinees disturbing the grading process.

If one of the VEs has to leave the examining room, leaving less than 3 VEs, all test activity must stop until they return.

If the candidate passes their first exam and wants to take the next higher license, they should let the VE know when they register.  Make sure the candidate passes before being given the next grade on the exam.  For example, if they pass the Tech, then they may take the General, if they pass the General they may take the Extra.  But make sure the candidate has studied and is ready to take those exams.  You don’t want to waste your team’s time having them guess.

GLAARG’s policy is that the applicant must pass the lower exam before they may take the next level.

When an applicant wants to leave the room during a test, the examiners will retrieve the test papers and give them a different version when they return. The Examiner-in-Charge (Session Manager) should make this clear to all before the examination begins.

During the exam, VEs who are not engaged in a task should be circulating around observing.

Under-13s, Under-18s

If you record the session, please get the parent’s approval if the examinee is a minor (under 18).

Verify that for under-13s, the parent has completed the COPPA form during Registration. If they say they have, you can take their word for it.

If the under-13 doesn’t have a student ID or passport, the adult can vouch for the identity of the minor. Our preference is to see a school ID card.

It’s not a requirement for the parent to be in the room during the exam for under-13s, but it’s permissible. Please admonish the parent to stay back and have no interaction with the child during the exam. Explain that any interaction might cause for the VEs to invalidate the exam and terminate the session. The VEs can use their own judgment as to whether or not any interaction is cause for invalidating the exam.

Kiosk Mode for GLAARG Fire Tablets: Information for Session Managers using GLAARG Fire Tablets in Kiosk Mode

2.3.              Question Pool Disputes

Applicants are expected to have studied the question pool. Examiners must not discuss questions or interpretations of questions with the applicant. They may address problems of readability or typographical errors, but these are extremely rare. VEs may read the questions and answers to examinees if they have difficulty reading.

Correct answers are the correct answers given in the Standard Question Pool for the element, no matter how the applicant may argue otherwise. The pool answer to a question is always more correct than its distractors (incorrect answers.)

Segment 3 – Grading

For GradeCam exams, make sure that the top of the answer sheet has the applicant’s name, the PIN #, and the element filled in on their test booklet.

Depending on the number of examiners present, the VE team can elect to grade the exams as they come in or wait until the end of the examination session. Grading is an example of a task that can be delegated to non-certifying VEs by the VE in charge.

The VE-in-Charge is responsible for notifying the applicant whether they have passed (by giving them a signed CSCE) or failed.  This should be done discretely and privately for those that have failed.

Common Question: What did I miss?

It is up to the Session Manager’s discretion to tell the examinee how many questions they missed and which questions. Sharing questions may compromise exams if GradeCam exams are not uniquely generated. If fully remote or tablet, then you may give out their results more freely. You may not tell anyone else whether or not an examinee passed or failed.

After the exam:

Segment 4 – Preparing to Upload to VEC via Portal for FCC filing

4.1              Form 605

After testing, the applicant is either qualified for the same license they entered or a higher one. Unless the applicant wasn’t licensed before the exam, they are qualified for the same class license as they had before the exam.

Signers of Form 605 must have the proper class license for the highest exam administered:

  • Element 4 must be administered by Amateur Extra.
  • Element 3 can be administered by Amateur Extra or Advanced.
  • Element 2 can be administered by any accredited VE.
4.2.              Sending the CSCE

In ExamTools, once the applicant and the three (3) Certifying VEs have signed, the Session Owner must mark each examinee Complete. Once all applicants are signed and completed, then Finalize the session.

Make sure every successful applicant has received a CSCE, this can be done through ET once the applicant is marked complete. CSCE may be emailed to the applicant if there is an issue of an applicant not receiving it from ExamTools. It is a requirement that every successful applicant be given a CSCE – that is the responsibility of the Session Manager. You may print the CSCE for the applicant as well.

Segment 5 – Preparing the Expense Report (Form 208) to the VEC

Fill out the expense report (Form 208) and upload it with the VEC archive (download from ET once the session is Final), and supporting documentation, if necessary, to the Portal.

If you collected cash during in person sessions, Session Managers can send cash through Zelle to GLAARG’s bank account without fees. There are alternate ways of depositing cash collected. Please check with the treasurer if you need other available options.

When in Doubt, Ask!

This document covers most of the situations we’ve encountered over the years. If there is anything else you are hazy about, don’t hesitate to call, send an e-mail, or reach out to the Session Manager channel on Discord. It is best not to guess.

Remember, the information above is a guideline for a successful session. The procedure can be rearranged to fit the individual circumstances of the environment and personnel. It is helpful at the end of a session to gather your team together for a debriefing. Make a note of the things you need to do differently and thus be prepared for a better session the next time.

If you have a question about whether something you want to do is legal or not, call Adrienne for a reading on it.

This is an update of the document written by R.C. Smith on January 1, 2009.  Smitty is now a Silent Key.