Before the Morse code requirement was done away with, Morse code testing was done through the Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) system. Before that, the testing was done at a FCC test station. While I never tested at a FCC test station, I did take the 13 and 20 WPM test administered by a Volunteer Examiner (VE). The test was simply one side of a simulated QSO that lasted about 5 minutes. It included the senders call sign, the receivers call sign, a RST report, a name, a QTH, rig/antenna, and then some trivia. All the usual stuff that is part of normal QSO.

The person taking the test would transcribe what he/she heard on to the provided sheet of paper. Once the test was complete, the VE passed out a 10 question, multiple choice, test sheet. You were expected to select the correct responses based on the information you just copied. Your copy could be pretty sketchy and you could still answer many of the questions.

Once all of your paper work was handed in, the copy sheets were checked for "solid copy". "Solid copy" meant that, your copy sheet had one full minute of transcribed code, where all the characters were correct. A minute of "solid copy" meant 65 characters, without error, at 13 WPM, and 100 characters at 20 WPM. "Solid copy" was easier with the 13 WPM test, but was still very possible with the 20 WPM test. It just depended on how prepared you were. I passed both the 13 and 20 WPM Morse tests with "solid copy".

If there was not enough characters for "solid copy", the 10 question test was checked. You only needed to get 7 out of 10 answers correct. This helped a lot of hams that were border line at the speed they were testing.

My Learning Method

The method I used to increase my code speed is pretty simple. I started out by creating a series of "simulated QSOs" using a utility called Morse Academy. I then used WAVGEN to convert the audio files into WAV and mp3 format. Overall I created 10 "simulated QSOs" for 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, and 27 Words Per Minute (WPM).

With each "simulated QSO" there is an associated .key and .tst file. The .key file is a transcript of the "simulated QSO" and the .tst file is an example test. I then converted the .key and .tst file to a HTML file for inclusion in the test area below. The HTML files can also be use with a browser.

I then created a cassette tape with several "simulated QSOs", at a speed that I felt comfortable with, like 11 WPM. I would then listen to the tape two, or three, times a day for about 15 minutes. I would copy down the code and then check it against a text transcript. Once I was copying the tests at about 90 percent, I would create a new tape with "simulated QSOs" that were 2 WPM faster. That doesn't sound like a big increase, but it is. At first you feel like you have been struck dumb. But after a day or two of listening, it doesn't seem so bad. A few more days and your ready for another speed increase.

I would continue with this method until I reached the speed I wanted. For me, that was 25 WPM. Once I was copying the tapes at 25 WPM, I knew I could pass the 20 WPM Morse Code test for Amateur Extra, and did.

Note: This is not the method I used to initially learn the Morse Code characters. This is only the method I used to increase my receiving speed, so that I would pass the required Morse Code tests. As far as I am concerned, it doesn't make any difference how you initially learn the Morse Code characters. What ever method works for you, is the correct method. Please don't email me arguing about which learning method is better than another.

Morse Code Tests

This section provides access to 120 pre-recorded WAV files. Each WAV file is a different simulated QSO. There are 10 each at 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, and 27 Words Per Minute (WPM). That's 120 tests total.

Each simulated QSO is about 5 minutes in length. The 5, 7, 9, and 11 WPM tests are the shortest and only contain some basic information. But as the test speed increases, so does the amount of information in the test. To allow you to prepare, each one starts with a string of Vs ( V V V   V V V ). That helps you get your tempo started and allows for the adjustment of the volume.

In the areas below, select the speed you would like to work at and the test number. A audio player will then be loaded with the file that matches your selection. Press the play button when you are ready to start copying.

To check your work, click on the "Show the Text" button. The text for the test you selected will be shown in the small window below. Just use the scroll bar at the bottom to view the entire message. The top part is the answer key for a test that you might have seen when Morse testing was part of the license test. At the bottom is the actual text of the text, with important information highlighted.

Note: Each time you select a new speed, or test number, any visable text will be hidden.

Select CW Speed:
05 07 09 11
13 15 17 19
21 23 25 27
Select CW Test:
0 1 2 3
4 5 6 7
8 9
Speed: 5, QSO# 1
Code Test Downloads

There are 12 ZIP files available for download. Each ZIP file contains 10 code tests at the speed indicated by the name. There are three files for each of the 10 code tests. A ".mp3" and ".WAV" audio file and a self contained ".html" file that contains the text from the test. The ".mp3" files can be loaded onto any MP3 player or they all can be loaded onto a CD or DVD for playback on any system. Each ZIP file will expand to between 40 and 60 MBytes.

Test Size: approx. Test Size: approx. Test Size: approx.
5 WPM Code Tests 22.6 MB 7 WPM Code Tests 17.6 MB 9 WPM Code Tests 15.9 MB
11 WPM Code Tests 13.2 MB 13 WPM Code Tests 19.6 MB 15 WPM Code Tests 13.2 MB
17 WPM Code Tests 15.6 MB 19 WPM Code Tests 14.3 MB 21 WPM Code Tests 14.2 MB
23 WPM Code Tests 18.1 MB 25 WPM Code Tests 17.6 MB 27 WPM Code Tests 16.3 MB

Morse Code Characters
Morse Characters Morse Puncuation
A·− J·−−− S··· 1·−−−− .Period·−·−·− _Underscore··−−·−
B−··· K−·− T 2··−−− ,Comma−−··−− 'Single Quote·−−−−·
C−·−· L·−·· U··− 3···−− /Slash1−··−· :Colon2−−−···
D−·· M−− V···− 4····− +Plus·−·−· ;Semicolon-·−·−·
E· N−· W·−− 5····· =Equal | Break−···− $Dollar Sign···−··−
F··−· O−−− X−··− 6−···· ?Question··−−·· Warning·−··−
G−−· P·−−· Y−·−− 7−−··· (Open Paren−·−−· Error········
H···· Q−−·− Z−−·· 8−−−·· )Close Paren−·−−·− Repetition (i i)·· ··
I·· R·−· 9−−−−· "Quote·−··−· @ @ Sign3 ·−−·−·
0 −−−−− !None at Present AC run together or simply AT
See Note 3 Below
(1) "/" also 'Fraction Bar' (2) ":" also 'Division Sign'
(3) To keep up with the times, the IARU has proposed adding a new character -- the commercial "at" or @ symbol -- to permit sending e-mail addresses in Morse Code. The draft new recommendation proposes using the letters A and C run together (·−−·−·) to represent the @ symbol. This is pending approval. Meanwhile simply send "AT", today's hams will know it means "@".
Crib Notes

One of the key items, when operating on the air, is to keep calm. But that isn't easy to do if you, all of a sudden, don't remember what comes next. In my case, I have been using CW for a long time. But I have a problem recalling words. Not big or complicated words. Just every day words. This happens to me in normal conversation. I'm talking and then, all of sudden, I draw a blank. It's most annoying.

So I solved that issue by keeping a set of index cards close at hand. The cards contains hints on things that I might need to send. The following are example index cards, that include information I might require, while you are in QSO. These cards may not contain things that you might need. But that isn't the point. The point is that Crib Notes are fair to use. You just fill in the things that you might consider important.

The deck on the right contains eight Index Cards. You can have dozens of cards, but there is a point where their benefit is exceeded by the complications of finding the right one when you need it. Eight cards is about maximum.

If you click on any of the Index Card headers, that card will be brought to the front. If you have these cards right next to you, while you are operating, it's an eaxy task to select the right one and find the information you need.

I have them ordered according to how I will need them. The first card, "QSO START", gets me started. Once I get past extablishing the contact, I might move to the second card, "RIG/ANTENNA INFO". And it continues on from there. I always have the information I need at my finger tips.

The last card, "K7MEM CW - Morse Code Send/Receive Program", is information on running a program on a computer that sends and receives Morse Code. At the top of the card are the Function Keys, that are used mainly for configuration. The Shifted Function Keys are for Macros that can be sent automatically. The program also has all of the configuration information listed on the screen. But it's easier to see when it's right in front of you on the cards.