Earning ARRL’s Worked All States award in 12 months or less

Worked All States. It’s the first significant milestone for a radio amateur after passing the General Class exam. No matter what your gear, it’s an achievement that can be earned in a year or less if you play to win.

Here’s how.

Every state has its own QSO Party, a weekend where there’s an organized effort to make as many contacts with stations in that state as possible. MSUARC member, Joe Levine – W8JRK is one of the best at grabbing the rare ones and racking up contest points. He recommends participating in as many QSO Party’s as possible. Here’s a link to a complete calendar.

Contesting, what we hams call “Radiosport”, is a great way to fill out your Worked All States (WAS) list. WA7BNM maintains an up to date calendar of contests. It’s a helpful resource to find out where the action is. For example, the ARRL Sweepstakes is one of the premiere annual activities where everyone seems to be on the air at the same time. There are versions for both voice and CW enthusiasts. And it’s great fun!

Two contesting strategies contend. One is to plant yourself on a frequency and keep calling “CQ Contest”. Another is the hunt-and-pounce method, where you spin the dial and pick off the stations you need.

Many use the ARRL’s Logbook of the World for contact confirmation. LOTW data counts for all ARRL awards and saves the hassle of having to send QSL cards in for verification. LOTW has a learning curve and there are several steps necessary to set up an account, so make that one of the first things on your to-do list. For generations, “PSE QSL TNX” has been printed on thousands of QSL cards, a request for written confirmation from the station you’ve worked. Learn how your contacts prefer to confirm by visiting their page at QRZ.com and follow their wishes. I typically send a QSL card to everyone I talk with as a courtesy. Like hand-written thank you notes, this practice stands out and can get you special attention in return. It can be hard to do in a contest situation where you are logging dozens of QSOs, so it’s ok to focus on the states you need, remembering that LOTW is still the easiest path to award documentation.

Beyond contesting, there are several other ways to build your WAS portfolio. Dave Ledford – W4JL, earned his Triple Play Award in a year and nine months. Writing on the 100 Watts and a Wire Facebook page, Dave advises to keep an eye out for special events like the 2016 National Parks On The Air, where many are already active. Check out nets like the Old Man International Sideband Society and the 3905 Century Club. Visit their websites, and listen first to get a feel for the “netiquite”. With regular participation, you’ll quickly become a confident participant.

Looking for a band opening to a particular part of the country? PSK Reporter can help. This site aggregates signal reports from receivers around the world to help you find the best frequency to make that key contact. If you’re on the air digitally, you can also see how well your signal is getting out. You’ll be surprised how few watts it takes to communicate with the world. Learn more about low power QRP operation here.

If you have just a few states left to bag, QSW.ME can get the job done. It’s a tool you can use to set up a scheduled contact with a specific area and can be perfect for filling in blanks. Once you get involved there, you may find that your location is needed by others, too.

Most importantly, read all rules for every contest or award program. Some are specific about when and where you can operate. Checking all the boxes in advance can smooth the pathway to your goal.

Veteran DXers agree that two fundamental traits are required to reach any radiosport goal: Get on the air and be patient. With time and tenacity, you’ll knock out your WAS award and be headed to DX Century Club.. and beyond.