Patent Bar Exam Format

The Patent Bar Examination is a 6-hour long, 100-question, multiple choice test designed to measure your familiarity with the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP).  It is a computer-based test, which means that you will not be using the ubiquitous fill-in-the-bubble sheets that you may be accustomed to. This presents a challenge for some who are used to marking questions in pencil, crossing off incorrect answer choices, etc. 

The exam is divided into 2 sections, a morning session and an afternoon session, each consisting of 50 multiple choice questions.  You’ll have three hours to complete each section.  After you finish the morning session, you will not be able to return that section, should you finish the afternoon session early.

The Patent Bar exam tests your knowledge of the MPEP.  The MPEP is a 3,000+ page manual that outlines the rules & procedures of patent prosecution. It would be impossible to memorize this entire document. Fortunately, the examination is semi-"open book,”  and you will be permitted to consult a searchable PDF version of the MPEP during the examination. But don’t get too excited about the open book format – time constraints make it difficult for someone unfamiliar with the material to receive a passing score. In fact, the Patent Bar Examination pass-rate is right around 50%.

To pass the exam, you’ll need to score 70% or higher on the graded questions.  I say “graded questions” because not all of the exam question are graded.  Of the 100 questions on the exam, 90 are graded, and 10 are "test" questions used by the PTO to evaluate possible future graded test questions.  This means that in order to pass the exam, you’ll need to answer at least 63 of the “graded” questions correctly.

The examination is administered by a company called Prometric. Prometric is a privately run company that specializes in computer-based testing.  After you receive authorization to take the exam from the USPTO, you will have 90 days to schedule your exam at a Prometric examination center.  This is good news – since Prometric has exam centers located throughout the United States, you will not have to travel to Washington, DC to take the exam, as was the norm in past years.

Here are a few details about the Prometric’s policies and procedures.

Here are a few tips for dealing with the computer based version of this exam.

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