Learning the Morse Code

Learning The Morse Code from the NZART Website by Gary Bold ZL1AN


There are three words that help you to learn morse code:


To help you get the practise, here is Gary Bold’s free teaching software for learning morse for PC only, Windows 95/98 XP Vista and above systems at 549 kB in size.

Morse Teaching Software Filename: 
-549 kB

Last update 04-February-2008

Its just like learning to ride a bicycle. It’s far better to learn the Morse symbols by sound, and not sight! It is not a good idea to memorise a written table. Get an experienced Morse operator to send characters to you with an audio oscillator, saying each symbol after it’s sent. You want to recognise the symbols by their sound. Tapes are available which will teach you to recognise the symbols by their sound.

The ideal method to learn Morse is by use of a computer. Morse code training programmes are available –– see below for one of them.

Learn them at the same time–if learned later, they take a long while to become as familiar as the symbols. Learn each symbol at a speed of about 12 – 14 WPM, with long gaps between symbols. The gaps will close as you advance. When you have learned the symbols you can practice from a tape at varying speeds or at dub Morse classes.

Copying random, 5 character groups is good for reinforcing the characters in your mind and finding those that trip you up, but don’t practice only with these. Move on to plain language once you have attained reasonable proficiency.

The Morse test is a plain language one, and copying plain language is very different from copying random groups.

(NOTE: the Morse test is no longer an exam requirement. You can still sit the test if you wish.)

Make Morse a part of your daily life. When you walk down the street translate signs into morse, and sound them under your breath. At home, translate newspaper text into morse the same way.

Always keep yourself stretched out in your receiving practice. When you get to about 90 percent accuracy at one speed move up a little faster until you can manage accurately at about 6 or 7 words per minute (WPM) for the 5 WPM test or 15 words per minute for the 12 WPM International Requirements. You now have good buffer for the test.

Most people find it easier to print rather than write at first. Avoid anticipating what is coming next. Many mistakes are made during the test by those who wrongly anticipate the following character or word.

Finally, remember that Morse operators have their own international CW abbreviations which allow you to communicate easily with those in foreign countries. All CW hams know the basic English words for a good contact and you won’t have accent problems with Morse.

Notes on Morse Testing Procedures and Requirements

For More Information Contact The General Secretary at the Address Below

The General Secretary, NZART, Freepost 3565, P.O. Box 40–525, Upper Hutt.

An Example of Morse Test Procedures

Receiving Test

  1. The candidate is required to make a hard copy of a 3–minute plain–language Morse text sent at an overall speed of 5 words–per–minute.
  2. The text will contain letters and 7 numbers, but no punctuation, callsigns or amateur radio abbreviations.
  3. Morse text from a computer–generated source is preferred.
  4. If testing facilities permit, the candidate may choose the audio frequency and the Farnsworth speed.
  5. The candidate will be allowed at least one practice run to enable adjustment of signal volume and frequency to a comfortable level. If this practise meets the requirements it can be used as a test paper.
  6. The test may be copied using pen, pencil, typewriter, or word–processing software (the last two options are for candidates with disabilities that preclude writing normally). Code–reading devices or code–reading software are not permitted.
  7. The candidate may copy using a loudspeaker, headphones, or flashing light (this option is for candidates with hearing difficulties). Candidates should be expected to tolerate a low level of ambient noise during the test.
  8. The candidate will have 30 seconds for correcting the copy at the conclusion of the test.
  9. A maximum of 4 errors is permitted.
  10. If the candidate’s writing cannot be read by the testers, or altered characters are unclear, any text will be deemed correct if it can be correctly read back by the candidate.
  11. Five test runs can be permitted at the discretion of the testers.
  12. Where there is a repeat test, it must be from text that has not been sent to the candidate on any previous occasion.
  13. The hard copy written or typed test should be retained by the examiner for audit purposes.

Sending Test

  1. A standard straight key with a suitable audio oscillator will be provided by the testers. Candidates are required to provide any other device with which they choose to send.
  2. A candidate may use any sending device except Morse keyboard hardware or software. “Pump–action” straight keys, bugs and electronic keyers are all acceptable.
  3. The candidate is required to send a plain language text to the testing officer’s satisfaction.
  4. A pass will be awarded on the basis of the testers’ evaluation of the Morse sent by the candidate. The Morse need not be “perfect” so long as the testers can read it. A realistic judgement is to ask: “If this Morse was heard on an Amateur band, would it be understood by an experienced operator?”
  5. The sending test duration is at the discretion of the testers, but must not exceed 3 minutes. The test can be terminated early if the testers are confident that a candidate can send acceptable Morse.
  6. Five attempts at the sending test may be made at the discretion of the testers if the candidate presents simple faults (such as letters or words run together) that can be easily corrected on subsequent attempts.

Appendix: Technical details and Definitions

  1. ’Overall morse speed’ is determined using the Internationally–accepted ARRL definition ’12 words per minute means 5 dots per second’, where dots are separated by dot–spaces having the same length. So 5 words–per–minute is 2.083 dots per second. This rate enables the ’standard word’ PARIS, with accompanying word–space, to be sent exactly 5 times in one minute.
  2. ’Farnsworth speed’ is the speed at which characters are sent. This will be higher than the overall speed. Character and word spaces are adjusted so that the overall speed remains at 5 words–per–minute. Exactly 5 repetitions of the standard word PARIS, with accompanying spaces, must be sent in one minute.
  3. Character and word spaces are proportioned so that their ratio remains at 3:7 as for ’correctly–ratioed’ Morse.

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