Why I Wish I Would Have Taken the Patent Bar Exam Earlier

I purchased the PLI home-study course in May. I watched the 40-some-odd hours of lectures over the next month, and was told at the end that I should spend another 150 hours studying for the exam. Seemed daunting, but OK. It also seemed reasonable. After all, this is difficult material, and there is a lot of it.

I put in the time, and finally got around to scheduling the exam in October. I passed on the first try. So hey, hats off to PLI, their course is great.

Still, I wish I would have taken the exam a lot earlier. I wish I wouldn’t have spent all of those extra 150 hours studying. The reason? Because there’s no penalty for failing the exam, other than having to pay $150 to take it again. Had I given it a shot, I may have passed in July. Even if I didn’t, I would have at least come away with an idea of which areas were currently being tested, and I probably would have passed in August.

There’s no penalty for failing, other than having to wait a month to retake the test.

And paying another $150, of course. But they don’t average your scores together like some standardized tests do. If you fail, you get a clean slate to try again. So not only will no one ever find out that you failed, but no one cares.

Looking back, I feel like spending the $150 to take the exam in July would have been a good gamble. Had I taken the test after studying for only 20 hours, I may have passed, and saved myself 130 hours of time. Had I failed, sure I’d be out $150, and I might have felt a little crushed, but at least I’d know what the test was going to throw at me. I could have boned up on those areas and taken the test again in August, and I probably would have passed.

You don’t get points for scoring high.

If you pass, you’ll never find out your actual score. All you’ll ever get is a notification that you’ve passed. So who cares if you score a 70% or a 100%? No one. Because no one ever finds out. Not even you.

No Satisfaction

I enjoy taking tests. I like to study, and I’ve always studied excessively so I could over-perform on standardized exams. But you can’t over perform on the Patent Bar exam. All you can do is get a "pass." I’m telling you right now, forget about spending those extra hours, it’s not worth it. There’s no point.

The current Prometric exam is much different from the sample tests you’re accustomed to.

The MPEP is gigantic; you can’t expect to memorize the whole thing. All you can do is learn the structure, and learn how to search it efficiently. Taking the test (and failing) will give you an idea of which areas you’ll be expected to know when you re-take the exam 30 days later. It will also give you an idea of how you perform under pressure, and how efficient your search techniques really are.

Yes, there are repeat questions, and you should know the old exams inside and out. I’d estimate that I got maybe 20 repeats, and another 10 questions or so looked familiar from my time spent at MyPatentBar. But the other questions were brand new to me, and most were concentrated in a few specific areas. Had I known these areas when I was studying, I could have better managed my time.

I’m not saying that you should run out and take the Patent Bar exam without studying. Not at all. Take the PLI course, and afterwards, work through the old exams. Get accustomed to looking up each question in the MPEP, even if you already know the answer. But don’t go overboard. If you’re getting 90+% percent on the old exams, you’re ready. You may even be too ready – you only need a 70% to pass. If you consistently score 70 or above, why not give it a shot?


  1. Thanks for the info! says:

    I am going to do the PLI live course this summer. However, I have 20 free days in May and I really want to do nothing but study for the patent bar and then, if I pass, I don’t have to do the live course and I can start job hunting all the earlier. If you had 20 free days, how would you best attack it?

  2. admin says:

    I think that’s a good idea, particularly if you’ve already taken a patent law class and have some familiarity with the underpinnings of patent law.

    First, I’d get a good outline. You can get one for around $20 on eBay. I think having an outline is important because it’ll serve as a road map to the MPEP and will highlight the important sections. (700, 2100, 1800). There are a bunch of free resources out there too, like mypatentbar.com. They’re useful, but a bit unorganized. I think you’d save yourself a lot of time by just buying an outline to use as a starting point.

    Second, take sample tests again & again until you know them by heart. Get used to looking up answers in the MPEP like you will on exam day. The test is really about knowing half the answers by heart and knowing where to look for the other half. Old exams are available from the PTO website (in PDF format) for free, or you can purchase our patent bar simulator software for $30. Our software mimics the Prometric exam pretty closely, right down to how you’ll be accessing the MPEP on exam day.

  3. [...] 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. [...]

  4. Tom says:

    Just FYI, there’s a lot of incorrect information here. If you fail the exam, you have to re-apply to the USPTO and pay all of the fees again. You can’t just re-schedule within the original window at prometric and get away with paying only their $150. You have to pay the USPTO their $240 for processing and exam administration again, and wait on them to OK you before scheduling again with prometric. Therefore, a 30 day timeframe is somewhat unrealistic. That would likely involve overnighting your new application the same day you failed, being approved within 29 days, and then prometric having an opening the next day.

    • Brett says:

      I agree with Tom. Failing is costly.

      Question…Don’t you also have to submit any supporting documentation with your new application as well? (e.g. transcript) That takes time and money too.

      • Brett says:

        I see now you don’t have to submit supporting documentation if reapplying within a year. moderator please remove all my comments. thanks.

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