Prometric’s Policies and Procedures for the Patent Bar Exam – What You Can and Can’t Do on Test Day

Getting there

This being a day-long exam, you’ll arrive at the test center in the morning.  Try to arrive early – if you do, many test centers will let you begin the exam early.  Keep in mind that not all people at the Prometric center will be taking the Patent Bar Exam.  In fact, you’ll probably be the only one.  For this reason, it’s important to realize that people will be coming and going throughout your exam. Prometric will have a set of earmuffs at each testing station, should you choose to use them. I was permitted to bring my own earplugs into the exam.

When you arrive you’ll be asked to show ID, you’ll sign in to the exam center, and you’ll be assigned a locker to store your personal effects. Hats, jackets, and even the contents of your pockets need to be placed in the locker.  You are permitted to wear a sweater into the examination room, but if you get too hot, you won’t be allowed to remove it unless you get up, sign out of the exam room, place it in your locker, then sign back in.  Keep this in mind, as it could sap you of several valuable minutes on the exam.

Signing In

After your belongings are secured in your locker, Prometric will take your photo, they’ll take your fingerprints, they’ll have you sign your name again. They will even ask you to turn your pockets inside out so they can verify that you aren’t trying to sneak anything in to the exam room.  I think this last step is a bit overkill, and a pretty ineffective measure to deter cheaters, but hey, that’s how they roll.

You won’t be permitted to bring anything into the exam room except for your ID, locker key, earplugs, and 2 pencils and 4 sheets of paper that they’ll issue to you.  (You can’t use your own pencils or your own scratch paper.)  When you are done with the exam, they will collect this scratch paper, so don’t go writing out a grocery list or anything. You won’t get to keep it.

Oh, you’ll also be video recorded the entire time you’re in the testing room, so don’t do anything crazy.

The Exam

You’ll enter the exam room, sit down at your computer, get comfy, then hit the “Begin” button whenever you’re ready.  The first thing you’ll encounter is a tutorial in which you’ll learn to use the Prometric system.  You get 15 minutes to complete the tutorial. A timer will be counting the 15 minutes down in the corner, but you don’t have to use the whole 15 minutes – you can end the tutorial at any time.  If you can use a computer, you probably don’t need the tutorial, so I would recommend using this 15 minutes to prepare an answer sheet and a time chart on your scratch paper.

Once the tutorial has ended, you’ll hit another “begin” button to begin the actual exam.  You have three hours to complete the first section, and you aren’t permitted to stop the timer.  You are able to mark questions that you’d like to come back to later, should time permit.  Here is a demo of the Prometric Exam Software that you’ll see on test day. The actual exam is not in a browser window, it is in a full-screen application. You won’t even see the Windows Start Bar.

Once you’ve completed the first session, the timer will expire and another timer will start – this timer will count down a 1-hour break that you can use in any way you choose.  Go get lunch, run around the block, pet your dog, whatever.  Just be back and signed back in within an hour.  You don’t have to take the full hour break – if you’d prefer to work straight-through, you can begin the PM session immediately.

The PM session will be identical to the AM session.  The question numbering starts over at 1, and you’ll again have 3 hours to answer 50 questions.

When it’s all over

Once you complete the exam, you’ll have to answer a short questionnaire about your exam experience.  You’ll then be informed of your “preliminary” results – If you passed, the computer will tell you that you’ve preliminarily passed.  If you failed, the computer will tell you that you’ve preliminarily failed, and will tell you your score.  Note that you will not receive a score if you’ve preliminary passed – instead, you’ll spend your whole life wondering how well you actually did.

Before you leave the test center, the Prometric person will hand you a hard copy of your preliminary results. You’ll get the official results in the mail from the PTO, about one week later.


If you receive a preliminary pass, even though it’s an unofficial result, you’ve passed the exam.  I have never heard of a person receiving a preliminary pass only to be told later that they’ve failed the exam.  However, the opposite is not true – if you receive a preliminary failing score, you might be later told that you’ve passed the exam.  This happens because the PTO, from time to time, throws out bad or confusing test questions.  It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Don’t get your hopes up, though.

And if you’ve failed, so what? No one will ever know except for you and the Prometric person who hands you your (preliminary) exam results. And maybe some data entry person at the USPTO who isn’t going to remember your name anyway. Again, who cares? You can take the exam again in just 30 days. No one cares that you failed the first time. In fact, no one will ever know.

I hope I’ve answered all of your questions about test day.  If not, feel free to drop me a line.

Good Luck!

Here are a few more tips for test day

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