Tips for the Patent Bar Exam from MSL Alumni

If you’re interested in becoming a patent agent or attorney, then you need to cross off one major to-do: take and pass the Patent Bar Examination. You don’t need a JD to take the exam but you do have to meet certain educational requirements in order to register. Once you have done so, setting up a date and time for the exam is fairly easy. It’s offered year-round via computer at test centers across the country and on a date and time chosen by you. Applicants can also take a paper examination in July at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. You can find out more about the exam here.

How does one prepare for the exam, though? We asked three MSL alums–Amy Garber, Jimin Jeong, and Henry Yu–who have all successfuly passed patent bar examination for their insights.

1. Why did you decide to take the exam?

“I had been interested in patent law since high school, when a mentor of mine told me about the patent career path. She was a Chemistry Ph.D. turned Patent Attorney and was the breadwinner in her household.  At a young age, I saw that the patent profession bridged the gap between technology and law, and I was fascinated by that. I graduated with an Bioengineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and set my goal to take the patent bar shortly after.” — Amy

“It’s a license! Even though I can prepare or analyze patent applications without it, I can’t  list my name on the patent application as an agent/attorney without having taken the exam.” –Jimin

“One reason I decided to take the US patent bar is that, as a patent engineer in Taiwan, I had to deal with lots of application or litigation cases in the US. I started to think that there might be some positive impacts to my career if I passed the US patent bar exam since my job duty encompassed US patent cases. Employers could also see that I have extra qualifications that other employees might not have. Second, the US patent bar exam is more straightforward than the Chinese patent bar exam or the Taiwanese patent bar exam. The US patent bar exam does not have litigation questions, for example. Also, the US patent bar exam only has multiple choice questions. Even if I didn’t understand a question, I could just pick an answer, right? Third, the US is the leader in the IP field. Almost everyone wants to apply for a patent in the US.” –Henry

2. How did you prepare for it?

“I purchased a book and studied on my own.” –Amy

“I purchased an online patent bar preparation course (e.g. Omni Prep & Ultimate patent bar study), and studied for two months. There are many other study materials besides Omni, like PLI, bulls eye, etc. Additionally USPTO provides 2000-2003 test materials on their website. Those helped a lot as well.”–Jimin

“One, I practiced by taking old exams. Two, I purchased an online course called “Patbar”, which has a summary of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. Third, I made my own notes when reading these materials, which enhanced my memory of important content. Fourth, I surfed a web forum where many people shared their experience of preparing and taking the exam.” –Henry

3. Was it more or less challenging than you expected it?

“Less, but I studied hard.” –Amy

“I can’t say the exam is extremely easy or extremely difficult. But taking a 6-hour exam requires a lot of energy and concentration. It was challenging, though. If you have a clear understanding of each of the MPEP chapters, you’ll surely pass it.” –Jimin

“It’s hard to say. I thought it would be less challenging since there are only multiple choice questions and I already had some basic knowledge about the US patent law before and after the MSL program. However, when I practiced on the old exams without reading the material first, I only got right about 30% of the answers. After I read the materials, I got about 50%, which is still far lower than 70%. Plus, studying the patent bar materials is extremely boring. I failed the exam on my first try. There are 100 multiple choice questions to be answered within 6 hours, which means there is only 3.6 minutes to answer each question. I got 67% of the answers right my first time around and I realized that the exam isn’t as easy as I thought. I started to prepare for the exam by studying material that I hadn’t read before my first-time taking the exam. I also took longer to answer each question the second time I took the test. The first time I took it, I was too nervous and afraid of not finishing all 100 questions and therefore couldn’t read and understand each question thoroughly. I passed the exam my second time. I found it less challenging than I expected it then.” –Henry

4. How has it helped your career?

“I have been a registered patent agent for over a decade.  I began my career consulting for the General Electric Global Patent Operation. The Director at the time was quite impressed that I studied for and passed the patent bar on my own. I believe he took a chance on hiring me partly because of that. Besides passing the patent bar, I had no patent experience what-so-ever, so GE had to train me from the ground up. I am grateful that they did.” –Amy

“It’s a license! That definitely helps my career.” –Jimin

“I have something that others might not have. In the US, I can be a patent agent with limited recognition before USPTO. If I work in other countries, and if an employer needs an employee who actually passed the exam, I will stand out as a candidate.” –Henry

5. Any tips for future test takers?

“Take as many practice tests as you can get your hands on!” –Amy

“10% of the questions are beta questions. They are not counted in your test score, which means you need to get at least 63% to pass the exam. Additionally, you may want to have a strategy like 3 minutes per question. Remember to read and search the MPEP. Practice, practice, and practice! Good luck!” –Jimin

“1. There’s no harm in taking the exam several times before passing it.
2. Reading speed and ability is important.
3. During the test, make a good summary of each question on scratch paper.
4. DO NOT drink during or before the test. There are no breaks once the exam begins. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
5. Choose a testing center near you so you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam on the day of your appointment.” –Henry


Interested in Patent Law? The Law School is hosting the Chicago Regional Seminar for IP practitioners on Friday, February 9. There will be a session for students focusing on the role of the patent examiner. Register here. On Friday, February 16 there will also be a panel discussion titled “The Patent Bar as a Gateway to a Career as a Patent Agent”. The event will be held in RB 339 at noon. 

One thought on “Tips for the Patent Bar Exam from MSL Alumni

  1. I was at a family dinner the other day and my brother brought up his interest in getting a registered patent agent. He is trying to make sure that he is getting the best help possible. I will let him know that almost 10% of questions are beta questions.

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