Why Didn’t I Pass the Patent Bar? I Studied Hard!

If you’ve failed the patent bar exam, USPTO statistics show that you’re not alone. Each year, more than half the people taking this exam don’t pass it.

Although many review companies would like you to believe their particular review course makes all the difference, buyers of each can still go on to fail the exam.

Most people who take the exam purchase a study tool or review program, because studying from the MPEP with no guide at all is basically crazy. You won’t know what’s tested and what’s not tested without a review program, so it’s really well worth your time and investment.

Why Do People Fail This Exam?

After running the PES Patent Bar Review since 2001, I can say with certainty most people enrolled in our course fail the exam do so because they go into it unprepared. A few years ago, we established a system to track our clients’ scores across our review course—and by reviewing the statistics, we determined it is very rare for anyone to complete our course and not pass the exam.

From time to time, we get an email from a client who failed the exam; usually these are polite, since they realize they went into the test unprepared. We ask if they’d like us to log in as them, review what they did, and help them put together a plan for what to do next. And when we do so, we find in these situations the client has typically completed less than half our course—and sometimes they completed none of it!

What Can Our Company Do to Help?

We’re happy to help, no matter where our clients are at. Since most are reasonable about passing the patent bar exam and the expectations required to do so, we can typically put them on a better path. Each one wants to take this exam and pass it, and our clients are usually very happy we’re there to help them.

Stages of Failure, First Steps to Success

There are three levels at which we may determine clients’ preparation led to failure to adequately prepare for the patent bar exam.

  1. They simply didn’t complete enough of their review course—whether they used ours or enrolled in another—to stand any chance of passing the exam.
  2. They got close to being prepared, but simply weren’t quite there.
  3. They really did complete enough of their prep course, but still didn’t pass.

Scores and Points; Guessing and Luck

Before going through each of these stages, we should first address the issue of scores. Upon completing the exam, those who achieved a score higher than 70% will be informed they’ve passed; no more detailed information is given. However, those who fail receive their score as a percentage.

There are five answer choices for each question. Therefore, out of 100%, it’s possible to get about 20% simply by guessing. Actually, one can get a slightly higher score with this method if you factor in the ten beta questions. So, really, you can get a score of about 25% on average just by randomly selecting boxes on the exam. If you got less than 25%, you were either really unlucky or you fit into the group tripped up at stage #1.

If you just weren’t able to put in much time or you studied completely distracted, it’s possible you may not have known the answer to a single question—the questions are quite difficult and the material is complicated. Without a real effort to study, not getting above 25% is entirely probable.

The point here is you can’t always tell which stage you’re in simply by your score, because you could have just been lucky in guessing.

Stage #3: Those Who’ve Done Enough, But Aren’t Done Yet

For most people, if they got to stage #3 and really did complete enough of any given course, they probably scored 60% or higher; often they are just a point or two from passing.

If you’re at stage #3 with the PES Patent Bar Review, you’ll know this immediately. The Score Keeper tracking application will indicate in green that you passed, for every quiz and practice exam we recommend you take.

For other courses, there may or may not be a way to tell if the course has been completed successfully. You’ll have to find out from them. If you watched every video they offered, reviewed all the text supplied, and answered each practice exam question, then you would appear to have completed the course. In this case, you should have passed, but sometimes things happen.

If you’re at stage #3 and didn’t pass, hopefully you got really close. You might have not quite grasped a section of the MPEP. You might have gotten nervous. You might have been having a bad day. You might have gotten a lot of questions over an area you either glossed over or skipped.

I’d suggest making a note of what you struggled with on the day of the exam. Which topics do you think you missed? You might want to consider paying for a review session, then study a little more. Go into the exam room well rested and better prepared next time, and hopefully you’ll pass .

Stage #2: Make Note of the Gaps and Review

People at stage #2 might have completed most of a course (for example, at least 70% of a course). Maybe they took almost every quiz and practice exam we cover in our program. Perhaps they took notes, too. But they didn’t get through it all.

I’ve seen people go through everything except the section on 35 USC 102, which covers prior art. That’s not a section you want to skip. If anything, going over that section multiple times and skipping other sections would probably make better use of limited time.

At stage #2, you need to plan to go through what you skipped on your first try. In addition, keep notes on what you thought was most difficult. Review all that material. It’s probably also worth it to do a review session at this stage.

Stage #1, Redux: Start Again

Last is stage #1. This is where as mentioned above, maybe you didn’t complete anything or just passively read the text and watched the videos while distracted. Perhaps you decided not to answer many or any quiz or exam questions in our course.

You will be at stage #1 if you only made it through half a course or less. Go through the rest of your chosen course, whether ours or another, and work on the material you thought was most complicated. You can’t review what you don’t yet know, so you probably won’t get much out of a review session at this stage until after you’re done with the course.

Our course is based on a 3-step program. Step I covers the fundamentals of patent law; by itself, this part is not meant to get you up to speed for passing the exam. Several clients have gone through only Step I and took the exam only to fail.

In our course, Step I provides the foundation, the preparation to prepare, but it’s not meant to be the only preparation you go through before taking the exam. Life can get in the way of preparing for the exam though. So if you find yourself in this position, with the 90-day window coming to an end, you can attempt the exam and then immediately after, resume studying with the course by moving onto Step II.

Staging a Come-Back

You can definitely come back from any of these stages to achieve a passing score. Our best advice is to think of your first attempt as a stepping stone, figure out what you missed, review, and try, try again.