Getting Started in Amateur Radio: The Foundation Licence

The Foundation licence is your gateway to amateur radio. The course and exam that leads to the licence provides you with an exciting introduction to the hobby while requiring an acceptable minimum level of skill and experience.

Your Foundation licence is recognised by the UK communications regulator Ofcom, and entitles you to take a unique identifier called a callsign which will be used to identify you when you are transmitting.

Studying for your Foundation Licence

The table below contains links to printable versions of our course notes, for an embedded scrollable version of these documents use the menu at the top of the page "Training" – "Foundation" – "Topic"

Topic Number Subject
  Official Syllabus
  Introduction
1 Licensing Conditions and Station Identification
2 Technical Aspects
3 Transmitters and Receivers
4 Feeders and Antennas
5 Propagation
6 Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
7 Operating Practices and Procedures
8 Safety
9 Measurements and Construction are not covered at the Foundation Level
10 Practical Assessments (These have been waived during the COVID-19 pandemic)

With the advent of Remotely Invigilated Exams, and the temporary suspension of Practical Assessments at the Foundation Level, the RSGB have produced a series of 6 videos that demonstrate some of the elements covered in the course in a practical way. We have linked to these videos below which have been professionally put together by the RSGB in conjunction with the TXFactor team.

We encourage you to view these videos, particularly if you are self studying, as an alternative explanation and practical demonstration of the theory contained within the Foundation Course.

At the bottom of the page is a link to the individual segments if want to quickly locate a specific topic.

The Foundation Exam

Don’t be put off by the thought of having to do an exam. The Foundation exam is very straightforward and consists of multiple choice questions which you have to answer.

The Foundation examination is a multiple choice exam and consists of 26 multiple-choice questions each with four possible responses of which only one will be completely correct. You are permitted 60 minutes to answer the questions and the pass mark is 19/26 or 73%.

Subject Number of Exam Questions Percentage of Exam Questions
Licensing Conditions and Station Identification 6 23.08%
Technical Aspects 3 11.54%
Transmitters and Receivers 3 11.54%
Feeders and Antennas 3 11.54%
Propagation 2 7.69%
Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) 3 11.54%
Operating Practices and Procedures 3 11.54%
Safety 3 11.54%
Measurements and Construction
TOTAL 26 100.01%

Note that the Licence Conditions form the largest part of the exam with 6 questions, almost one quarter of the exam. It is therefore a good idea to try to get to grips with the Licence Conditions since if you can get to the position where you are sure of answering all 6 Licence Conditions questions correctly then you have a number of advantages:

  1. Firstly as the Licence Conditions questions are the first 6 questions you will give yourself a confidence boost for the rest of the exam; and
  2. If you are sure that you have scored 6/6 on the Licence Conditions you only have to score 13/20 on the rest of the exam which reduces the needed correct answers to 65% or roughly 2 out of 3.

What happens After the Foundation Exam?

If you have passed the Foundation exam you will receive an official result sheet confirming the pass from the RSGB.

The next step is to register your Foundation exam pass with the UK communications regulator Ofcom, who are responsible for issuing amateur radio licences. If you apply for your Foundation licence on the Ofcom website, your licence is free of charge. Visit the Ofcom website to find out more.

Once you have your Foundation licence and have chosen a callsign, you are ready to make your first transmission on the amateur radio bands; an exciting moment. You are now free to operate on the majority of the amateur bands, without supervision, up to a power of 10 watts. This does not sound like very much power, but once you have acquired experience operating your radio you will find it is enough to communicate anywhere in the world under the right conditions.

RSGB Foundation Videos

There are 6 segments overall and each segment is entirely self contained and can viewed in isolation. The 6 segments are available as individual short videos below:

Setting Up Your Station


How To Use An AMU or ATU


Making Your First SSB Contact


Adjusting Antenna Length To Obtain The Lowest SWR


Making Your First FM Contact


Using Modes Other Than Voice