Ham radio “Q” codes are short codes used to communicate with other ham radio operators — also known as hams. Similar to the acronyms used in text messaging, Q codes can help you shorten longer messages. All ham radio users should learn these codes to effectively communicate with other hams.
A lack of Q code knowledge also can lead other hams to view you as inexperienced. To avoid that perception, keep reading to learn more about these useful codes.
Why You Should Learn Q Codes
Ham radio Q codes are standardized codes hams use to communicate with each other. They make it easier to send common messages.
Similar to how people instantly recognize the acronym ETA as shorthand for “estimated time of arrival,” Q codes do the same for ham radio jargon.
Key Reasons for Using Q Codes:
- To Standardize Lingo
- To Ask Questions
- To Provide Answers
- To Communicate Faster
- To Communicate More Clearly
- To Reduce Confusion
- To Reduce Distortion
Key Reasons To Learn Q Codes:
- To Communicate Like an Experienced Ham Radio Operator
- To Better Understand Other Hams
Read our guide to learn more about HAM radio and HAM Radio Communication
How Do Q Codes Work?
Q codes use three-letter codes that all begin with the letter Q. Each code has a unique meaning that hams can use to ask a question or provide a standard response.
QRA is the Q code for asking: What’s your station name?
To answer, you’d reply: QRA [station name].
Notice how much easier this is than saying, “My station name is [station name].”
How to Use Q Codes
Using Q codes takes a little practice, but, before long, you’ll spout them off naturally like any other experienced ham radio operator.
Follow these steps when learning Q codes:
- Memorize some common Q codes. The list below provides a good starting point.
- Mimic how other hams use Q codes. Listening to others on the radio or on scanners will help with this.
- Practice until you use them unconsciously. Joining a ham radio club or simply practicing enough will help you master the use of Q codes.
Common Q Codes
Hams commonly use a variety of Q codes in almost every ham radio interaction. Learning these codes will clue you in on the conversation and help you master Q code communication.
|QRA||What’s your station name? The name of my station is ___.|
|QRG||What’s my exact frequency? Your exact frequency is ___ kilohertz (kHz).|
|QRH||Is my frequency varying? Your frequency is varying.|
- QRA: What’s your station name? The name of my station is ___.
- QRG: What’s my exact frequency? Your exact frequency is ___ kilohertz (kHz).
- QRH: Is my frequency varying? Your frequency is varying.
- QRI: How’s my transmission tone? Your transmission tone is ___ (1-Good, 2-Variable, or 3-Bad).
- QRJ: Are you receiving me badly? I can’t receive you, you have a weak signal.
- QRK: What’s the clarity of my signal? The clarity of your signal is ___ (1-Bad, 2-Poor, 3-Fair, 4-Good, or 5-Excellent).
- QRL: Are you busy? I’m busy, please don’t reach out to me now.
- QRM: Is my transmission being interfered with? Your transmission is being interfered with ___ (1-Nil, 2-Slightly, 3-Moderately, 4-Severely, or 5- Extremely).
- QRN: Are you experiencing static? I’m experiencing static ___ (use the same 1 to 5 scale as for QRM).
- QRO: Shall I increase power? Increase power.
- QRP: Shall I decrease power? Decrease power.
- QRQ: Shall I send faster? Send faster (___ WPM).
- QRS: Shall I send more slowly? Send more slowly (___ WPM).
- QRT: Shall I stop sending? Stop sending.
- QRU: Do you have anything for me? I don’t have anything for you.
- QRV: Are you ready? I’m ready.
- QRW: Shall I tell ___ that you’re calling? Please tell ___ that I’m calling.
- QRX: When will you call me again? I’ll call you at ___ hours.
- QRZ: Who’s calling me? You’re being called by ___.
- QSA: What’s my signal strength? Your signal strength is ___ (1-Scarcely Perceptible, 2-Weak, 3-Fairly Good, 4-Good, or 5-Very Good).
- QSB: Are my signals fading? Your signals are fading.
- QSD: Is my keying defective? Your keying is defective.
- QSG: Shall I send ___ messages at a time? Send ___ messages at a time.
- QSK: Can you hear me between your signals and, if so, may I break in on your transmission? I can hear you between my signals, break in on my transmission.
- QSL: Can you acknowledge receipt? I’m acknowledging receipt.
- QSM: Shall I repeat the last message I sent you? Repeat the last message.
- QSN: Did you hear me on ___ kHz? I heard you on ___ kHz.
- QSO: Can you communicate with ___ direct or by relay? I can communicate with ___ direct (or by relay through ___).
- QSP: Will you relay to ___? I’ll relay to ___.
- QSR: Do you want me to repeat my call? Please repeat your call.
- QSS: What working frequency will you use? I’ll use the working frequency … kHz or megahertz (MHz).
- QST: Here’s a broadcast message to all amateurs.
- QSU: Shall I send or reply on this frequency? Send a series of Vs on this frequency.
- QSW: Will you send on this frequency? I’m going to send on this frequency.
- QSX: Will you listen to … call sign(s) on … kHz or MHz? I’m listening to … call sign(s) on … kHz or MHz.
- QSY: Shall I change to another frequency? Change to another frequency.
- QSZ: Shall I send each word or group more than once? Send each word or group twice (or ___ times).
- QTA: Shall I cancel message number ___? Cancel message number ___.
- QTC: How many messages do you have to send? I have ___ messages to send to you.
- QTH: What’s your location? My location is ___.
- QTR: What’s the correct time? The correct time is ___.
A Short History of Q Codes
The British government created Q codes in 1909 on maritime ships and in shipping ports. Adoption of these codes was especially important because many ship captains and crew members came from countries that don’t speak English. Using these codes made it possible to communicate across languages.
Early radiotelegraph services also adopted Q codes for much the same reason — to make communication easier between those who spoke different languages as well as in general.
Ham radio operators began to use Q codes in the early days of amateur radio and continue to do so today have remained in use since.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Q codes used for?
Q codes are radio shorthand for commonly asked questions and responses. Similar to the short codes people use in text messages on cell phones, Q codes also make communication easier — in this case, for ham radio operators.
What does the Q signal QRL mean?
Sending the code QRL is the same as asking if someone is busy. If you’re replying to this Q code or you’re just simply too busy to talk, you might respond by saying QRL. That will indicate you’re busy and can’t talk at the moment.
What are Q signals?
Q signals are short codes called Q codes that ham radio operators use to send someone a message without having to say the whole message. It’s an abbreviated form of communication.
What does QRZ mean?
QRZ is a Q code that asks the question, “Who’s calling?” Alternatively, ham radio operators use it to indicate that a particular person is calling. For instance, “QRZ [your name]” means “You’re being called by [your name].”
What does QRV mean?
QRV is the Q code to ask, “Are you ready?” It also can mean, “I’m ready.”