In the autumn of 2020, IP Ability ran a survey about the accessibility of the patent attorney qualifying exams. Here, committee member Vicki Barker provides an initial summary of the results, and explains how IP Ability plan to use them to help future exam candidates.
In autumn 2020 we asked the patent community to share with us their experiences requesting adjustments for the PEB and EQE exams. We were delighted to receive 91 responses, with 68% of these from candidates sitting the exams between 2017 and 2020.
The motivation behind the survey was the increasing number of comments we at IP Ability were receiving suggesting that requesting adjustments for the examinations was a difficult and stressful experience for candidates. The survey results have confirmed this, and we were disappointed to find that many candidates were so discouraged by the process they did not even request any adjustments that could have helped and/or that they had been awarded for previous exams. So, what next?
Based on the survey results, we have a number of action points for 2021. Firstly, some candidates commented that finding the information they need to request adjustments is not always easy, so we plan to create a space on the IP Ability website with links to the relevant information. We are aware, of course, that reasonable adjustments may be required for trade mark exams and we will include links to these too.
To aid candidates requesting reasonable adjustments, we are intending to put together a document with “hints and tips” for requesting adjustments to help guide candidates and to make the application process less onerous. For example, we can use the experiences and comments from the survey to suggest the types of medical evidence that may be most persuasive when submitting a request.
We also intend to contact the examination bodies and work with them to see how the process of requesting and awarding reasonable adjustments may be improved for both sides. This is particularly important as the nature of the adjustments requested is likely to change as the exams move online. For example, our survey shows that, in the past, the two main adjustments requested by candidates were the use of a computer and additional time. With online examinations, we need to ensure that candidates who cannot use a computer for long periods of time and need to instead handwrite their answers are also accommodated.
Finally, if anyone missed our survey last year and would like to share their experience of requesting adjustments for patent exams with us, please email us. It would be especially helpful if people were able to share anything that could be included in our “hints and tips” document.