In reply to G0CQK:
When the Morse test was administered by BT you had to read plain language English for three minutes at 12 wpm followed by figures at a slightly slower speed.
This qualified you for a “Class A” amateur radio licence, but was totally useless for preparing you to use CW on the air beacuse you could not read mixed latters/figures, so could not read a callsign. You had to have further tuition in order to prepare for a live QSO.
The Morse test passed on to RSGB and I was appointed Chief UK Morse Examiner in 1991. The Novice licence was introduced in 1992 with a requirement for a 5 WPM Morse test. I introduced a simple “rubber-stamp” QSO format Morse test using “Farnsworth” spacing with a character speed 12 wpm and longer gaps between characters to give extra thinking time which reduced the overall speed to 5 wpm. Successful candidates were then capable of going straight onto HF and using their CW skills to build up speed.
The following year I changed the 12 wpm to a similar QSO format (much wailing and hows of protest). This was not Farnswoth because by this stage candidates had to be capable of reading hand sent Morse from a variety of “fists”. However, successful Novice candidates had no problem because they were already familiar with 12 wpm characters and had reduced their thinking time by on-air QSO’s.
You are quite correct in thinking that Morse with a character speed of 5wpm sounds completely different to 12wpm. The brain has to start all over again and this was the reason for the so-called 10wpm “barrier”.
Hope this answers a few questions.
I retired from the post in 1999