|For 70 years the US government prepared and administered amateur exams, but due to budgetary constraints and personnel cutbacks, the FCC discontinued these operations. Congress enacted legislation in 1982 which allowed the FCC to accept the volunteer services of amateur radio operators to prepare and administer Amateur Radio Service examinations.
The FCC then created two levels of exam administration, the Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) and the Volunteer Examiner (VE). The VEC acts as an administrative liaison (or coordinator) between the FCC and the VEs who administer the tests. The FCC directs the entire Amateur Radio testing program through 14 VEC organizations, but the W5YI-VEC and ARRL-VEC account for about 90% of all examination sessions.
A bank of test questions controlled by the amateur community forms the question pools used for all amateur license exams. Only VEC-accredited amateurs having a higher class license than an applicant may administer written or telegraphy examinations. Any qualified General, Advanced or Extra Class radio amateur may participate as a VE as long as their license has not been suspended or revoked. (see
97.509) All VEs must be approved (or "accredited") by a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator. (see 97.521) Ham testing is now administered by teams of three or more VEs from the private sector rather than government employees. The FCC no longer administers amateur (or commercial) radio examinations of any type.
The exam results are forwarded by the VE team (along with the appropriate application forms, license photocopies and attachments) to the VEC who screens the applications for completeness and authenticity. To speed things up, W5YI-VEC teams may be authorized to electronically submit the application data of new (first time licensed) applicants to the W5YI-VEC Office. (More on this later.) After review of the electronic documentation, the VEC then electronically submits the application data to the FCC Universal Licensing System and a license is granted.
W5YI-VEC coordinates US amateur exams in almost every state, some US possessions and in a few other countries where the required VE team can be formed. We were the first national-in-scope VEC, although the FCC now permits any VEC to conduct testing anywhere. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) was the second national-in-scope VEC to be accepted, and several smaller organizations were accepted as VECs as well.