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General Radiotelephone Operator License

The General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL) is required to adjust maintain, or internally repair FCC licensed radiotelephone transmitters in the aviation, maritime and international fixed public radio services.  It is required to operate any maritime land radio station or compulsorily equipped ship radiotelephone station operating with more than 1500 watts of peak envelope power and any voluntarily equipped ship and aeronautical (including aircraft) stations with more than 1000 watts of peak envelope power. 

The GROL also conveys all of the operating authority of the Marine Radio Operator Permits (MROPs).  These are required to operate radiotelephone stations aboard vessels weighing more that 300 gross tons, that carry more than six passengers for hire in the open sea or any coastal/tidewater area of the United States, aboard certain vessels that sail the Great Lakes, and to operate certain aviation radiotelephone stations and certain coast radiotelephone stations.

The GROL is issued by the United States Federal Communications Commission for the lifetime of the holder.

Getting the GROL

The qualifications for the General Radiotelephone Operator License include:

  • Be a legal resident of (or otherwise eligible for employment in) the United States.
  • Be able to receive and transmit spoken messages in English.
  • Pass a written examination.

About the Examination

The examination consists of two parts:

  • Element 1 - Basic radio law and operating practice - The basic radio law and operating practices with which every maritime radio operator should be familiar. To pass, an examinee must correctly answer at least 18 out of 24 questions.
  • Element 3 - General Radiotelephone. Electronic fundamentals and techniques required to adjust, repair, and maintain radio transmitters and receivers. The exam consists of questions from the following categories: operating procedures, radio wave propagation, radio practice, electrical principles, circuit components, practical circuits, signals and emissions, and antennas and feed lines. To pass, an examinee must correctly answer at least 57 out of 76 questions.

The actual examinations for the GROL draw their 100 total questions from a pool of over 1,000 questions.  The full multiple-choice questions, along with the correct answers, are published by the FCC.

How to Prepare / Study

While there are several ways to prepare for the General Radiotelephone Operator License, perhaps the most effective method is to purchase and study the following book:

  • GROL Plus - General Radiotelephone Operator License
    GROL Plus provides the information needed to study for and pass the examinations for the Marine Radio Operator Permit (MROP), the General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL), and the Radar Endorsement for the GROL.

Several community colleges have preparation courses and there are also some commercial study courses available.  However, everyone I've tested used the above study guide and all passed with flying colors!

Online Practice Tests

FCC License Test Preparation
Provided by Technical Services Limited, this site provides short free practice tests.  There are more comprehensive practice tests for a fee.

Where to Take the Examination

FCC license examinations are given by the following Commercial Operator License Examination Managers (COLEM):

BFT Training Unlimited
The FCC examinations are given by BFT's Elkins Institute Division at over 150 locations.  The GROL exam runs $75.

Electronic Technicians Association International
ETA has nearly 500 examination sites throughout the country and charges $50 for the GROL exam.

International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians
The ISCET has nearly 200 sites where the FCC license examinations are held.

LaserGrade Computer Testing
This computer testing specialist has over 380 sites.  They charge $90 for the GROL exam.

Marine Technical Institute
With test sites in fifteen states, the fee for the GROL is $50.

National Association of Radio Telecommunications Engineers
NARTE has over 160 sites and charges $40 for the GROL exam.

National Radio Examiners
NRE provides testing for both commercial and amateur licenses at nearly 300 locations.  The fee for the GROL exam is $70.

Sea School
Sea School offers the FCC license exams at over 280 locations.  The fees range from $25 to $55.

Do you already have the General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL)?  If so, please let me know how you prepared for the examination!

Mike Powers, your guide to everything about Radio


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