UK patent exams update: Major changes to invigilation arrangements for candidates taking the exams in the office

The deadline for candidates to change the location in which they will be sitting their UK patent exams is this bank holiday (31 August 2020). Yesterday, this Kat was alerted by a Kat-friend to some major changes to the FAQs published on the PEB website. Many of these changes relate to the arrangement needed for candidates taking the exam at their office.

The changes to the FAQ have been helpfully summarised on the Yellow Sheet. Importantly, for candidates sitting the exams at their firm, there must be a "designated contact" in the room to invigilate the exam. Importantly, the designated contact must be free from conflict of interest. The FAQs have been updated to provide further information of what is considered "conflict of interest", in particular:

'Examples of “working closely” with a candidate include, but are not limited to, currently or previously line managing, supervising, mentoring or training the candidate. However, there are likely to be many other situations where a conflict of interest arises, particularly if social relationships exist outside work.'

It seems that conflict of interest as defined in the FAQs will be difficult to avoid for small firms, with few senior attorneys, or large firms, in which many candidates will be taking the exam and the invigilator will need to be conflict free in respect to all of the candidates.

Advanced patent law revision
Another crucial update in the FAQs is that candidates will now be able to sit the exams together in a conference room, provided that the appropriate social distancing rules are followed. The use of glass offices will also now be possible.

The change to the arrangements seems to follow from the decision of the PEB to drop the use of third party proctoring software (IPKat: UK patent exams update: Proctoring system will no-longer be used, but exams still to go ahead with "simpler" invigilation system). The FAQs indicate that the latest changes were made on the 21st August, although it seems they only became available online a few days after this. Either way, there is very little time for candidates and firms to finalise and confirm arrangements (e.g. to appoint a designated contact) before the 31st August cut-off for designating your exam venue. The PEB have also now taken the instructions to candidates off the website (they are "currently being updated"). It is not clear when we should expect these to re-appear.

Thus, it seems that many candidates would be grateful for more visible communication from the PEB, given how tight some of the deadlines are. In order to facilitate better communication, IPKat invites the PEB to send any significant information on the 2020 exams directly our way, so that IPKat can update our readership as quickly as possible. Emails to IPKat ( will reach us.

Stay tuned to IPKat for further updates.

26 Aug 2020 update: The updated Information for Candidates has now been updated, see here.
UK patent exams update: Major changes to invigilation arrangements for candidates taking the exams in the office UK patent exams update: Major changes to invigilation arrangements for candidates taking the exams in the office Reviewed by Rose Hughes on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 Rating: 5


  1. The FAQ's were also updated to say that everyone should use a "clean" computer, that is not connected to the firms systems. Does anyone have any idea what this about? I have no idea?

    Are they worried someone will look up a previous OA response for inspiration? I'm not sure how this would help with the finals exams given the facts are different.

    What i think they are trying to avoid is people storing notes on their computer? Which could easily be overcome by the invigilator actually doing some invigilation instead of everyone having to buy new, unused computers? and again, notes wouldn't even help for FD2 - 4.

    Also, IT issues are not grounds for extenuating circumstances, so if the PEB think i'm going to use a computer that is "new" i.e. never used, never saved a document on it, for the first time in my exam... they can jog on...

    Overall i think this method of invigilation is better, seems like most people i speak to want to do it in an office in case internet connection is lost, so why not have an invigilator like normal. Sensible decision.

    1. I agree that this is a sensible decision by the PEB. Doing invigilation online is hard enough, and its best to leave that to the people that really need it. Not the people doing it in offices who, if my experience is anything to go by, have plenty of people offering to invigilate.

    2. I am just a bit concerned, what happens if there is a local lockdown for people doing it in the office.

      From looking at the local lockdown rules, it appears travel for work has always still been allowed, so i think people could sit it in the office anyway. But on the off-chance it is not, what happends then?

      People signed up to do it in the office, wont have had a practice using zoom, and presumably they wont even be sent a zoom link?

  2. For some smaller firms it is likely that any designated contact will have a "conflict".

    In that case those people should put systems in place so that, if their conduct is ever called into question, they can prove their innocence. Like a video camera. Not hard.

    PEB can't explicitly approve every designated contact/trainee combination.

  3. It appears that the PEB is operating on the working assumption that there will be candidates and employers who are as dishonest as the day is long - and that the rest of the profession assume the same.

    This is a sad reflection on the PEB mindset, and if they think that of us, why should the public have any higher regard?

    That the proposal grossly discriminates against smaller firms is just the icing on the cake.

  4. It seems silly that the burden is put heavily on the candidates. From a small firm, I have 1 attorney available. Who else is going to invigilate.

    1. How many other trainees are there? if it just you, you could use the virtual invigilation while sitting in the office.

  5. It does appear that PEB are very fond of banding about 'Malpractice' for the most tiny infringement of …..this week's ….rules. Now of course they will in turn blame IPReg for placing these restrictions upon them, (and IPReg might be minded to blame CIPA to complete the circle for good measure). Trust and commonsense are what is needed with these exams- there will always be some way for someone to cheat or game the system - you just have to hope that the majority are good people (which I believe they are).

    What struck me in the latest FAQ was the use of email when it comes to scanning - I know my firm's printer scanners work by emailing the copy to your work email address - there is no alternative.

    Me suspects that PEB have a substantial holding of shares in computer companies by the looks of the way trainees and firms are forking out for new IP equipment. My bill has amounted to over £400 in equipment already, that's on top of the £900 exam fees which of course are being used to hire venu…. oh wait.

    1. Yeh i have no idea why you can't open your email to collect the scanned document. our firm's scanner sends straight to email...

      So each person needs a new computer and an individual printer & scanner.

      Very strange.

  6. Does anyone at the PEB think through their actions?

    I remember talking to an FD4 examiner, and when confronted with the fact that there was an ambiguity within the claims the advice was to consult the description (fair enough), and then there was an inconsistency within the description... so how does a candidate resolve this ambiguity... by using their CGK apparently... but most of the people aren't mechanical engineers for a reason. Classic PEB- FD4.

    Seems like the inability to think anything through is widespread.... in next weeks FAQs candidates have been banned from breathing air directly for potential malpractice reasons. Candidates need to buy scuba kit.

  7. PEB want to run exams remotely but have zero trust in the candidates or the invigilator.

    That is the reason why all these ridiculous demands are being issued.

    I think someone from IPREG needs to speak up and actually say what limitations they have put on the PEB, because i imagine making candidates wipe the hard drive after each exam (that's the only way it will be "clean") and making them buy a printer scanner is not one of them.

  8. This is why nothing will ever change with patent attorney education, because the attitude that candidates will always cheat is ingrained into anyone that has any post-qualification contact with the PEB, including the ex-PEBer who is now reviewing the education system it seems.

    Faced with this, nothing will ever change until this "revolving door" is stopped and there is some diversity of opinion instead of a PEB parrot.

  9. I'm NOT sure why PEB keeps complaining how hard it is to move the exams online. If they have listened to the feedback and their members, they would have made these changes years ago. I hope PEB will actually start listening and change the exams. Every other profession has adapted and changed accordingly.

  10. There's been another update very late in the day today:

    1. I have just taken a look at this- it is completely unclear to me- how long is each exam now? I note that we not have to scan our documents within exam time- but I cannot see what this is? For FD4 time is absolutely critical.


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