Have you ever listened on the air and heard someone ask for an “RST Report?”

Often you’ll hear the other station come back, “Roger.  I’ve got you FIVE by SEVEN,” or “FIVE by NINE.”

What are they talking about?  It is how radio operators ask “How’s my signal?”

The ‘RST’ report stands for Readability, Strength (of signal), and for CW (Morse Code) the ‘T’ is for Tone.  You wouldn’t hear someone in phone (voice) mode use a three-number RST report.  The number denoting the ‘T’ — Tone — would be omitted.

The RST report is subjective of course, based on the receiving station assessment, or opinion, of the readability, strength, and tone of a received signal.  But the first number indicates how well he can copy, or ‘Read’, the sender’s signal.  The second number is the ‘Strength’ of the signal as indicated by a signal strength meter or how loud and clear the signal seems to be to the ear of the receiving operator.  And the Tone is a measure of how crisp and clean the tone of the CW signal is.  The chart below will help you.  Print it out and have it handy until you are comfortable enough with giving RST reports without the need to refer to it.  You can also find it at http://www.sarcnet.org/activities/activity_rst_codes.html

RST Codes