Exam Element Credit

As of 21 Jul 2014 the FCC authorized partial exam credit for expired General, Advanced, and Extra class license holders. ARRL has complete details on these rules changes including the forms of documentation that are acceptable.

On this page I'll document the exam credit each license class provides effective 23 February 2007. First, a little history about the Technician class license.

Without a doubt the Technician operator license has received the most changes of any license in recent history. Prior to 21 March 1987 all Technician holders had passed Element 3 which was the same written test for both the Technician and General licenses. That changed with Novice Enhancement and Element 3 was split into two Elements with 3A becoming the Technician written exam and 3B the General exam.

14 February 1991 is another memorable day for the Technician license as it was on that day that passing a Morse code exam was no longer required for obtaining a Technician class license. However, from that date onward any Technician holder who passed a Morse code exam automatically received the Novice class HF (High Frequency) privileges. Later, the FCC made this an official license by issuing the Technician Plus to those operators.

Now, life for Technicians becomes much simpler as they have the same HF priviliges as Novices and Technicians with HF had prior to the adoption of WT Docket 05-235. All Technician operators have the same priviliges effective 23 February 2007. See the ARRL Band Chart.

For other license holders things have not changed as dramatically.

Exam credit

Here are a few guidelines to follow when trying to determine your exam credit. Keep in mind that this list applies to the licensing structure after 23 February 2007 for holders of pre-23 February 2007 licenses.

Common exam credit:

Current license

The most obvious proof of exam credit is the license you currently hold. It grants you credit for all current elements required to obtain the license class shown, no more.


A CSCE, or Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination, grants you credit for only those elements indicated on it. Most CSCEs grant credit for elements passed when not enough elements were passed to merit a license upgrade. CSCEs are valid for 365 days (not necessarily 1 year!). Ordinarily, this works out so that a CSCE issued on 15 April 1998 would have been valid through 14 April 1999. Now that we are past 29 February 2000, a CSCE issued on 15 April 1999 is valid through 13 April 2000.

Expired License

An expired license only grants credit for all elements required for the license class shown, no more, only if it is within the two-year grace period unless it meets one of the following criteria:

Credit for specific exams:

Written element credit

Current licensees receive exam credit dependingon the license held. There is at least one date that Technician license holders will want to note.

Extra Class licensees

You've already "passed them all" so just smile and get accredited to help at the next exam session, okay?

Advanced and General Class licensees

You will receive exam credit for Elements 2 and 3.

Technician Class licensees

You will receive exam credit for Element 2.

Note! If you can show proof of holding a Technician license or have a CSCE showing an upgrade to Technician dated prior to 21 March 1987, you will receive credit for Element 3 and if you currently hold a Technicians, or it is expired within the two-year grace period, you get exam credit for Elements 2 and 3. You may now upgrade to General by supplying proof to the VE team and paying an application fee. The ARRL has more information at Exam Element Credit Rules and Instructions. Pay close attention to the section titled Pre-1987 Technician License "Grandfather" Element Credit, which covers this situation very well.

Novice Class licensees

You will receive no written exam element credit.

The following table summarizes the previous two sections and shows the upgrade path available.

Examination Credit and Upgrade path from 23 February 2007 and later
Specific Groups of Amateur Examination Credit Received Upgrade to Technician Upgrade to General Class Upgrade to Amateur Extra Class
Currently or previously licensed (now expired) Novice Class operator. (License may be expired more than two years) No Credit Element 2 Elements 2 & 3 Elements 2, 3 & 4
Currently licensed (or license expired less than 5 years) FCC-issued Commercial Radio-telegraph operator. No Credit Element 2 Elements 2 & 3 Elements 2, 3 & 4
Currently licensed Technician operator (or license expired less than two years) and licensed after 2/14/91 Element 2 N/A Element 3 Elements 3 & 4
Currently licensed (or within the 2-year grace period for renewal) Technician Class operator and licensed between 3/22/87 and 2/14/91 Element 2 N/A Element 3 Elements 3 & 4
Technician with expired license (more than 2 years) and licensed between 3/22/87 and 2/14/91 No Credit Element 2 Elements 2 & 3 Elements 2, 3 & 4
Currently licensed Technician Plus operator (or license expired less than two years) and licensed after 2/14/91 Element 2 N/A Element 3 Elements 3 & 4
Currently licensed (or license expired less than two years) Technician class operator and licensed as Technician on/before March 21, 1987. Element 2 & 3 N/A Now Qualified (attend exam session with proof) Element 4
Previously licensed (now expired more than two years) Technician Class operator licensed on/before 3/21/87. Element 3 N/A Element 2 Elements 2 & 4
Currently licensed General or Advanced Class operator (or license expired less than two years). Element 2 & 3 N/A N/A Element 4
General, Advanced, or Amateur Extra Class operator with license expired more than 2 years. No Credit Element 2 Elements 2 & 3 Elements 2, 3, & 4

Note: Element 2 = Technician written exam, Element 3 = General written exam and Element 4 = Extra written exam. All applicants must be able to prove that they are currently licensed or were licensed as of the specific date indicated above.

Obtaining proof

Several times on this page I have referred to supplying documented proof. In all cases a current license gives you credit for elements already passed and translate to the current elements outlined above. An expired license that was issued before a given cut-off date serves as proof in some cases. In other cases a CSCE may be used as proof as follows:

  1. Dated less than 365 days ago

    A CSCE issued less than 365 days prior to the exam session date serves as proof of elements passed. In general a CSCE older than 365 days has expired and the element(s) shown on it must be re-taken.

  2. Proof of upgrade for Technicians

    There is one special case where a CSCE older than 365 days may be used:

    1. Holder upgraded to Technician before and license was issued after 21 March 1987 for Element 3 credit.

    This exception involves cases where an upgrade was earned before the cut-off date, but the paperwork lag time resulted in the license being issued after the cut-off date. In no case would a CSCE showing only element credit and not an upgrade to Technician be valid.

Now, you might be wondering, what do I do if the proof I need has been discarded or lost? Good question! Fortunately, the FCC suggested that proof could come from a call-book or by writing the FCC or its contractor that can do record research for you. Let's look at these in turn.

For a call-book listing to be valid proof it must either show that it is from a book printed prior to one of the cut-off dates or it must clearly show the issue date of the license in question. A simple listing with no clearly visible dates will not be acceptable.

As a convenience to the ham community, QRZ.Com has put a copy of their 1993 CD online at http://www.qrz.com/search1993.html. Keep in mind that this will only be helpful in determining the license issue date so long as the license wasn't modified after a given cutoff date.

The FCC, upon request, will provide verification of your license issue date. Also, their contractor BCPI will perform the same search for a fee. Again, the ARRL Exam Element Credit Rules and Instructions page comes to the rescue. Read the section titled Valid Forms of Exam Element Credit for Pre-1987 Technician Licenses carefully on how to request documented proof.

Providing proof is the burden of the applicant, not the VE team nor the VEC. We will carefully review all documents you supply as proof of exam credit. If we lack confidence in a document, we may need to discuss the matter with the VEC or request that you obtain documentation without the discrepancy. Such action will require us to hold your application until the matter is resolved. If you are uncertain about a given document, feel free to contact me at any of the ways listed on the exam page and I'll be happy to help you if I can.

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Original content Copyright © 1997-2023 Nate Bargmann NØNB n0nb@n0nb.us
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This page last modified
February 9, 2017
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