The first time you listen to a major contest, you may hear nothing but chaos; there is little (if any!) separation between adjacent stations, QSO's are terribly fast and brief, QRM abounds, and you can't make heads or tails of exactly what information stations are exchanging. Under these conditions, how could you possibly enter the fray? On this web page, we'll introduce you to the basics of contesting to help you understand what's going on and to give you the confidence to make a few contacts yourself. Then, on the Contesting Tips web page, we'll give you some pointers that will help you hone your contesting skills and really begin to enjoy "radiosport"!
The goal in most contests is to compile a high score by contacting as many stations as possible and as many multipliers as possible. Multipliers are typically countries, states, zones, prefixes...just about anything the contest sponsor wants to designate for a particular contest. The final score is usually calculated by multiplying your contact points times your multiplier total. As a casual contester, your personal goals may be quite different. You may simply be using the contest to find new countries or states, to help other contesters by giving them a contact and multiplier, or your may just want to see how your station and antenna are working. In any event, your participation is welcome by serious contesters because without you, they couldn't achieve their goals!
As is true with all other ham radio activities, the most important thing you can do before making your first contest contact is to listen carefully to other stations. What at first appears to be chaos is actually a rhythmic, highly structured process. Stations quickly and efficiently establish contact, exchange required information, sign off with each other, and move on to the next contact.