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Friday, 19 February 2010

The EQE 'Pre-Exam' - want to have a go?

It's nearly that time of the year again for those wishing to become qualified European patent attorneys.  The 2010 exams will be held on 2-4 March in various places across Europe.  The IPKat wishes all those who are planning to sit any of them the very best of luck, and refers them to his post from last year about useful things to take with you (but do please remember to leave your digital watch at home this time).

(right: the only type of exam the IPKat is prepared to put up with)

Those who are not taking the EQEs this time round may be interested to know that, as from 2012, there will be a new 'pre-exam' that will have to be taken before the real thing.  The EPO have recently slipped out a mock paper for the pre-exam, which is available here in all three official languages.  The Examining Division have the following comments to make about it:
"This proposal includes legal questions and questions directed to aspects of claim analysis. The aim is to test legal knowledge and knowledge of the basic competences related to claim analysis such as novelty, inventive step (problem and solution analysis), “added matter” and clarity, needed for sitting papers A, B, C and D. 
The proposal has been prepared in multiple choice format. With this format for the pre-examination, candidates would not be required to formulate answers to questions, this being tested in papers A, B, C and D, but would need to select from among alternative answers to questions. To facilitate preparation of this proposal, the legal questions are based on paper D1 of 2007 and the claim analysis questions are based on paper A of 2004. 
Although the pre-examination is not relevant for candidates due to sit the EQE in 2010 and 2011, candidates for those years are welcome to try out the proposal preexamination.
The correct answers to the questions can also be accessed via the EQE internet pages.
It should be noted that this proposal has been prepared for evaluation purposes only and should not be taken as indicative of the actual form of the pre-examination to be introduced in 2012.
This Kat, who became qualified only last year, has had a quick look through the mock paper and, without the assistance of his much thumbed copy of Cees Mulder's book, was completely stumped by the first few questions. He can only hope that the real exam will be an open book one, as otherwise he thinks that only those with an eidetic memory would stand a chance. He was also slightly surprised at the new marking scheme, which seems to be partly based on the quiz show QI, since it seems to be quite possible to end up with a negative score.


Anonymous said...


I can't see where you got the impression that this is planned to be implemented as a closed book exam. Candidates were in any case free to take with them any documents they liked to the mock pre-examination.

I was amongst the happy (?) few who sat that mock pre-exam.

The first ten questions were essentially a rehash of D1 2007, but with the answers set in a multiple-choice format. I was initially disappointed as I had worked this paper on my own a few months ago, albeit without looking at the examiner's report, so I couldn't know whether my answers were utter nonsense or just plain nonsense. In the end I found this a worthwhile experiment. Even though I was somewhat familiar with the material, I did take time checking the articles and rules in my reference material before answering.

I felt disoriented by a couple of questions in that I didn't know whether I had to take the standpoint of the EPO and behave as a tame and potty-trained patent attorney, or select a real-world answer. A case in point was a question concerning the existence of interfering national rights (Art. 139 EPC). The answer which was deemed to be correct was that the applicant should file a country version of the claims adapted to these rights in addition to the other country versions for the 54(3) and 54(4) EPC 1973 document. In practice I've (essentially) never seen it done. In a written exam I would have written something about the EPO not being supposed to consider national interfering applications.

The second part was an old A-paper from 2006 or 2005 which I only knew from afar, it was that egg-opener thing. I felt the multiple-choice format to be artificial in that context, and perceived that the sequence of questions was a somewhat obvious progression - aha, this is where they want to check whether the candidate knows about Art. 123(2) EPC. The last questions are about assessing novelty and inventive step against two documents, and again I felt the choice of answer depended somewhat on which hat you were supposed to be wearing. But all in all I was satisfied by my result.

The EPO probably hopes to save money in corrections with this measure (that's its usual excuse in a lot of things it does lately), I'm not sure whether this will happen, I can imagine that borderline cases will still cause discussions and appeals.

Anonymous said...

Given the negative marking system, are you better off guessing or passing on a question if you don't know the answer, particularly if you can eliminate at least one question as incorrect?

Marking system:
+5 if correct
-2 if wrong
-1 if you pass

If you pass on a question you will always get an average of -1 marks per question.

However, if you guess the answers to 5 questions you'd statically get -3 marks (+5, -2, -2, -2, -2 = -3).
Which is an average of -0.6 marks per question (i.e. -3/5 = -0.6).
Thus overall you'd be statistically +0.4 marks (-0.6 - -1 = +0.4) better off by guessing on a question than passing on a question, even when you have no idea of the answer!

Admittedly, you'd still been down on marks when guessing blindly on questions, but you'd be even further behind if you simply passed on the same questions.

Obviously, if you can eliminate one or more answers as incorrect the situation improves:

When you can eliminate one answer as incorrect (thus making a choice between four answers):
In this situation you average -0.25 marks per question (i.e. for four questions: +5, -2, -2, -2 / 4 = -0.25).
Thus you are statistically +0.75 marks better off by guessing than passing (-0.25 - -1 = +0.75).

When you can eliminate two answers as incorrect:
In this situation you average +0.33 marks per question (i.e. for three questions: 5, -2, -2 / 3 = +0.33)
Thus you are statistically +1.33 marks better off by guessing than passing (0.33 - -1 = +1.33).

Finally when you can eliminate three of the questions as incorrect (i.e. a 50:50 guess):
In this situation you average of +1.5 marks per question (for two questions: +5, -2 / 2 = +1.5).
Thus you are statistically +2.5 marks better off by guessing than passing (1.5 - -1 = +2.5).

So if the above sums are correct(!), you are statistically better off guessing on any question than passing on any question, even when you have no idea what the answer is!

Anonymous said...

I have vague memories of 2012 being a transitional year, so anyone taking EQEs for the first time in 2012 will not have to take the pre-exam (otherwise there won't be any first time takers of finals in 2012).

I am imagining this, or is 2012 a transitional year?

Chris H said...

It's an interesting idea. I think it works as long as the incorrect answers are clearly incorrect and do not fall within grey areas as there is no room for discussion of subjective answers, especially in light of the negative marking scheme!

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