Morse Aptitude

Your Morse Aptitude is your personal ability to learn Morse Code and some find it easier than others to learn. Most armed forces professional Morse operators would have taken a Morse aptitude test before they started learning, this is because the government did not want to spend lots of money training someone who was going to find it very difficult to learn. If you failed the aptitude test you were redirected to another occupation.

So what is the Morse Aptitude test and do you have to know some Morse Code to take it? The answer to the Morse question is NO! The test is to see if you can differentiate been two similar sounds, this generally consists of a pair of similar Morse characters sent with 1 second spacing at 20wpm and you have the choice of putting down either “The Same” or “Different” then there is a gap of about 5 seconds before the next pair, your are certainly not expected to say what character it was. In my own experience this test was conducted over a period of 10 minutes.

It would be alright to give a test to a new learner to assess their aptitude before teaching them, as you would have a reasonable idea if they were going to be OK or not. Sometimes it is kinder to tell them that they were going to find it very difficult to learn, letting them known it would be a very hard struggle and not worth the effort.

This now brings us into the quagmire of slow Morse, is the student struggling because of a low aptitude score or are they struggling because of they way they have been taught? I think that Colin M5FRA’s comment on my posting “Still Counting?” can answer part of this.

There is no need to think about giving up learning Morse, as I know a G4 station who failed the Morse Aptitude test in the forces, only to pass the 12wpm test later in life which proves determination can win through. The pity is that this station has only worked SSB since getting his Morse Ticket and has no intrest in using it.


9 thoughts on “Morse Aptitude

  1. It grieves me to say this but I think the premise of the Morse Crusade is wrong. It really seems like a good idea, but I think the notion of learning the characters at high speed with instant recognition is probably false. I can’t find more than one possible instance of someone actually learning the characters with Koch, computer programs yes, Farnsworth yes, Koch where? Who?. Here is the reality The promise of the Koch method seems to be an internet meme based on the press release for the N1IRZ book “Breaking The Barrier”.
    Since Koch is presented as the easiest, fastest, and best method to learn the characters, when a new guy fails with it (as he is almost guaranteed to do) he figures he has no aptitude and quits. The hobby then loses another potential cw op. If I’m wrong please show me the new guys that have actually LEARNED THE CHARACTERS with Koch. I’m not questioning the crusade to be mean, but rather thinking of the health of our hobby. I hope you give this some serious thought.
    Very best of 73 de Tom ab9nz, Mount Prospect, Illinois

    • Hi Tom

      It is nice to receive such a comprehensive comment to this post as all comments are always appreciated and can help to clear things up.

      The idea of breaching this subject was through personal experience as some people do not have an aptitude for Morse, they find that they are unable to differentiate between characters,just like some people are tone deaf. I should have been clearer in my post as I would set a limit at 15wpm characters as below that speed people tend to count dots and dashes which is a bad habit to get and they will never be able to use Morse if you have to count them. As I have stated in different posts on this website, I am not an advocate of slow Morse.

      I feel that the postings on the LCWO forum is a bad representation of the Koch Method and in fact the forum has the usual touch of bad and good advice. I give students personal advice by email to match their ability and some of the stories I am told of how they are learning was part of the reason I started the Morse Crusade. Bad or wrong advice can damage a prospectus Morse operator, good advice can really help them, but who do they listen too as there are lots of Morse Experts that don’t really know what they are talking about. On this tact, I have not really tried LCWO and do not know the pattern of learning from scratch, but do know of experienced Morse operators that use it to increase their skills.

      I tend to push the Koch Method on the website, but I learned Morse characters from the start at 18wpm with large spaces along with thirty other students, when I joined the RAF in 1965 as a Special Operator Telegraphy and certainly did not have any problems with it. I also recently have two students at my club who have started from scratch with the Koch Method and are improving all the time. I think the problem with using the Koch Method is not doing it properly and trying to rush things and not learning the characters properly before adding another one. I received an email from one amateur asking for advice as he wanted to take part in a CW Contest. I was shocked at the reply I received, after asking him how he was learning. He was learning using the Koch Method but instead of adding one character at a time he was learning 6 characters, them moving onto another 6 characters and by the time he learned them he had forgotten the first 6 characters. You can’t blame the Koch Method for that only bad advice.

      Although the Koch Method is generally pushed as a quick way to learn Morse, the learning is certainly down to the aptitude of the student, and that is why i do not believe in Morse classes as the slow learners will be holding back the fast learners so I prefer individual tuition. At this point that I must admit that I do not give tuition but do mentor students and give the advice and a lot of the time it is to slow down and relax and don’t push themselves but to practice every day and I have had a lot of success from mentoring through email.

      My whole ethos is to promote Morse and make it easier for the student to learn, i achieve this by giving advice on their learning regime and try and iron out any problems they are having. If you read Carl’s story I am meeting up with him at the National Hamfest and he is hoping to pass an 18wpm Morse Test.

      I hope that I have answered your questions, and I do appreciate any comments

      Best 73’s Ian

      • Ian, Thank for your quick and concise reply. My thought is that Koch is great for speed building but perhaps not so great for learning the characters. In my recent experience, after failing with Koch, I found learning the characters with a mnemonic system (Code Quick) very easy and actually fun. I didn’t face insurmountable plateaus and eventually achieved instant recognition and head copy with on air and computer practice. Although I’m not 100% on board the Koch bandwagon, I will say your open mind and dedication to the hobby and your hard work with the new learners is truly an inspiration.
        Very best of 73, de Tom, ab9nz

        • Tom, thank you for your kind words and I would be very interested how you failed in the Koch Method, as I may be able to point out how you failed which would be a good reference for others. I find that most people tend to struggle when trying on their own with no help or bad advice. Another bad point is when people either try to learn too quickly or try too hard and boggle their minds.

          I tell people that I don’t teach Morse as that is up to their determination and having a good regime for learning Morse and not to try and do it part time as it will not work. What I do is to give advice to them as an individual, which usually works out OK.

          Morse is fun when you start taking it in your head and their is a lot of enjoyment in using it, the problem is people want to run before they can walk and you have to go through the crawling experience to be any good.

          Very Best 73’s Ian

  2. I am another for whom Koch didn’t work. I wasted well over two years trying to get somewhere with it, but the whole “add a character, learn it, add another” progression just didn’t work for me at all. Each time I added a new character it broke the way I’d learned to recognise at least a few (and often many) of the previous ones. Eventually I figured out a few things about how I learn, and came up with a solution of sorts which was less bad for me than Koch by about a couple of orders of magnitude. It was to make an hour-long CD of pairs of Morse characters in predictable sequences (at 15wpm or so), and play it in bits again and again. It gave every character equal exposure, and made me learn the whole set at once. Am I any good at Morse? No, not really, yet, but I’m a lot better than I’d have been if I’d stuck at Koch.

    • I have had to read your comment a few times to try to understand what was happening as I find it difficult to understand why you found the Koch method difficult. To help me to better understand why it did not work for you could you tell me what the character speed and Morse speed was? I always advise 20wpm character speed and 12wpm Morse speed as this reduces thinking time which proves to be a handicap if you have time to think when taking the Morse

      • I tried a whole range of speed combinations, mostly on (which doesn’t interpret word speed in quite the same way as others), from 30/8 to 12/12. It didn’t make any difference. Too much gap between characters, and I deconstruct them. Too little gap between characters, and I can’t record them fast enough to check afterwards. From a writing/typing point of view, an effective overall steed around 12wpm was best.

        However, none of that got past the basic problem that adding a new character effectively broke my recognition of many of the ones I thought I’d previously learned. It was never N known characters and 1 new character for me when I added a character. If I was lucky, my recognition of half the characters survived the introduction of a new one. If I was lucky, I might then get to the 90% correct level with the new set in a month of daily exercises. More often, I wasn’t lucky, and it took longer. In two and a bit years I just about got lesson 15 beat. Then lesson 16 broke a whole lot again…

        • I don’t know how LCWO introduce characters so I can’t make any comment on that.

          Basically the Koch method reinforces the character you have learned while adding a new character, this reinforcement leads to instant recognition of the characters that you have learned.

          I recieved an email asking for help 2 years ago and I had to read the email six time to actually work out what he was doing wrong as he said he learned six characters at a time and when he had learned the next six characters he had forgottern the first six. The problem was that when he was on the second six characters he was not reinforcing the first six characters and that does not work as continual reinforcing of the characters is what the Koch method is all about.

          I wish you luck in learning Morse and hope that you can resolve all your problems

          • Yes, I understand that’s the theory behind the Koch method. All I can say is that, for me it didn’t work like that, and I’m not the only one for whom that’s the case. I guess careful analysis of the results in (if they were available) might reveal patterns of success and failure. From talking to others I’ve gathered that if Koch is going to work then the process is fairly quick, but it does not work for everyone. With hindsight I can see the signs that it was not working for me within two or three months of my starting the process. Unfortunately, I kept at it for another two years.

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