Reflections of the Patent Bar Exam
Recently I took and passed the United States Patent & Trademark Office Registration Exam. It was my second attempt. It is a daunting experience but manageable with some occasional misery in the mix. The paper exam is offered once a year, but the computer exam can generally be scheduled and taken Monday through Saturday at Prometric testing sites.
The exam consists of one hundred questions, divided into two three-hour sessions with an hour break. On both exam attempts, I encountered about seven questions I recognized from old exams. These made for easy points and proved to be a great time conserver. Ten of the questions are beta questions that do not count toward your score. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing which questions are beta questions.
I needed about 150 hours of solid study, course, and practice exam time to adequately prepare for the exam. After mastering the applicable law and rules, it was critical for me to answer as many past test questions as possible. I set as a target completing at least 400 practice questions. I also found it extremely important to review all the questions and understand why I answered correctly or incorrectly. You may answer a question correctly but for the wrong reason, which makes it important to read each answer option and fully grasp the reasoning behind the correct answer.
This is especially so because a number of questions are multi-layered making them very difficult. Be careful not to hone in on a single issue.
The exam is open book to extent that relevant documents are available on a pop up screen that closes after each question is answered. Trying to look up answers before completing all the questions will likely result in disaster due to the time consumed in going to the source materials, even if you know the precise place in the source materials to find the answer. Some questions may only be a sentence long while others are several paragraphs.
I stress, it is, or at least for me, it was absolutely necessary to complete all the questions before trying to look up answers. I suggest taking several half and full day practice exams with the goal of averaging 3 minutes per question. If you can reach the 3-minute goal, you will have half an hour left to look up answers in the source materials. Some questions may be close calls and you pick an answer, but keep going to finish all of the questions. Only then should you go back to find the right answer. The extra time allows you to pick up some easy points.
There have been some improvements to the computer exam. For example, it now allows you mark questions, identifying questions you have not answered or striking out answers to narrow your options. This was a tremendous help when, after completing the questions, I went back to look up answers during that final half-hour.
While the exam is limited to a finite number of testable areas, it is upgraded often. New, testable material appeared between my first attempt and just over a year later, on my second attempt. This material included International Design Registration and new Supreme Court cases.
Your best shot to pass this exam is to enroll in a review course. First, the course will narrow and organize the material you need to study and understand for the exam. Second, the course provides valuable study guides and preparation materials that would not otherwise be accessible to you. The course will also help focus your study and provide strategies to make your efforts more efficient. Taking a live course can be even more beneficial because lecturers are available to answer your questions and enhance your understanding in a way a static video cannot. I took the preparation course offered by Practicing Law Institute (PLI). It is my understanding that PLI has a much higher pass rate for first time takers compared to the overall pass rate for all takers in recent years. Without PLI, the pass rate has averaged less than 50%.
My process of studying involved reading all the PLI materials, completing all the exercises and viewing all the online lectures. Following this, I attended the live weeklong program in Chicago (offered in other cities as well) and thereafter spent 2 to 3 hours per day studying, with a day or two off per week. I then studied 8 hours per day for 3 days prior to the exam, reviewing materials and taking practice exams.
It paid off! If you are planning on taking the exam, just be dedicated to the process, pace yourself and good results will follow.
This was a guest post by: William E. Nowakowski that originally appeared HERE.
About The Author:
William E Nowakowski is of counsel to the Buffalo, New York law firm Kloss Stenger & LoTempio upon admission to the Patent bar he plans, with a biology background, to redirect to his practice to patent and trademark law. His current practice areas include litigation, commercial, real estate, and debtor/creditor relations. Mr. Nowakowski previously was in private practice in Buffalo and Washington, DC. His experience includes having served as outside counsel to the Erie County Department of Social Services and formerly was District Tax Attorney for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Mr. Nowakowski is admitted to practice in all New York State Courts as well as the U.S. District Court for the Western District. In addition, he is admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit and District Court for the District of Columbia.