Tips for Test Day

The Patent Bar Examination is a tough test. You’ll need to know the material very well to get a passing score. And even if you do know the material well, you may simply have a bad day, “blank-out,” or get so caught up on a single question that you’ll blow your time allotment.

I passed the Patent Bar Examination on the first try, after using PLI’s home-study course and spending a few months studying old exams on my own time. I do wish that I would have taken the exam earlier, but that’s another story.

Here are a few tips for maximizing your performance on the Prometric version of the Patent Bar Exam.

You get a 15 minute tutorial at the beginning of the examination.  Use it to set up an answer sheet and time chart.

At the beginning of your Prometric-administered exam, you’ll get 15 minutes with which to learn how to use their testing system. If you’ve ever used a computer before (and I know you have because you’re reading this article), you don’t need it. Instead, use that time to set up an answer sheet on your scratch paper, and use it to create a time-chart so you can measure your progress throughout the exam.

First, create an answer sheet for the morning session by writing the numbers 1-50 vertically on your scratch paper. Then create a second answer sheet for the PM portion of the exam, again using the numbers 1-50.  (The numbering will start over at 1 for the PM portion.)  You don’t get a second tutorial before the PM portion, so you’ll have to make that sheet now.

Now, at the top of your page, create a time-chart so you know about which question you should be on at any given time. There are 50 questions per 180 minute period, so you have about 3.5 minutes per question. To make the math simpler, I estimated that I should be doing 3 questions every 10 minutes.  So my chart looking something like this:

4 – 2:50

7 – 2:40

10 – 2:30

13 – 2:20

17 – 2:10

You’ll note that at the rate of 3 questions every 10 minutes, you’ll finish the test with 30 minutes to spare.  You may prefer a more exact method of time counting.  If so, have at it.

Keep in mind that you won’t be permitted to wear your watch in to the testing room, so you’ll have to be accustomed to keeping time using the 3:00 hour countdown clock that’s in the corner of your test screen.

The PDF version of the MPEP contains titles in the drop-down chapter listing, but you can’t use keyboard shortcuts

The good news: When accessing the MPEP, you’ll choose the chapter you want to browse from a drop down listing that contains the section number and chapter title. So, for instance, you’ll see “1200 – Appeal.” Of course, you should know the chapter names and numbers pretty well at this point, but it’s handy to have the title right there next to the number.

The bad news: You can’t use any keyboard shortcuts. No “CTRL-F” to find. No F3 to find again. This isn’t huge problem, but it might take some getting used to if you’re a heavy keyboard shortcut user like me.

You can’t “flip back and forth” between the MPEP and the test with ALT-TAB, nor can make the exam any smaller than full-screen. You can, however, drag the MPEP around on top of it.

It works like this: The examination window is full-screen. You can’t resize it, and you can’t move it. When you hit the “MPEP” button, the MPEP viewer will pop up on top of the test window. It’s often useful to see both the question and the MPEP at the same time, and it doesn’t look possible. But it is. All you need to do to see both on your screen at the same time is drag the MPEP towards the bottom of the screen. With careful positioning, you should be able to see most of the question and the top portion of the MPEP page at the same time.

If you click back onto the exam, the MPEP will disappear. Don’t worry, though – hitting the MPEP button again will bring the MPEP back up, positioned in the same place on the screen that you left it, and displaying the same chapter you were last viewing.

Remember this – MPEP 706.02

Even though you should really know 35 USC 102 by heart before you take the exam, it’s easy to forget the particulars, particularly when under stress. For this reason, remember that 102 is reprinted in full at 706.02. Additionally, the answers to most questions dealing with 102 can be found in the sections immediately following 706.02. It’s a great place to start any search.

And speaking of searching…

Did you know that most of the questions on the Patent Bar Exam use verbatim language from the MPEP? It’s true. If you find yourself struggling over a “which of these is/isn’t in accord with Patent Office practice” type question, pick a few key words out of each answer choice and search the relevant MPEP section. More often than not, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.

If you don’t know the relevant section, 700 and 2100 are great places to start. The vast majority of your test questions will be taken from these two sections. Also know that 1200 is usually relevant when the question deals with appeals, and that the PCT section is 1800.

On my particular exam, I had an inordinate amount of questions from 300 (Ownership and Assignment) and 400 (Representative of Inventor or Owner). Be sure that you’re familiar with the the MPEP Table of Contents so you know where to look.

One Comment

  1. [...] 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, and can end it at any time. A timer will be counting the 15 minutes down in the corner.  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. [...]

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