Updated 26 Feb 21
Updated 23 Feb 21 after Mock 3
Updated 21 Feb with comment on software under ItC 14 and ItC 32.Fri 19 Feb, EPO published the updated Instructions to Candidates (OJEPO Feb 21), and a related Code of Conduct (19 Feb 21) on the official EQE page. All candidates need to read the latest version:
- ItC 43 is an End User Agreement where you implicitly confirm agreement by taking an exam
- It seems likely that you will need to explicitly accept them as well before the exam (like the UK PEB exams)
- Also read the Data Protection Statement (v2 - undated), on the same page so you know who is retaining what data, and your right to access, rectify, erase and receive your personal data, as well as restrict its processing or object to the same. Reference is made to the EPO Guidelines for Protection of Personal Data (Apr 19) which is on the Data protection & privacy page.
- In general, personal data is deleted max. 30 months (2.5 years) after exam, or after appeal.
- Chat content is retained for 120 days (4 months), facial images, audio and biometric data deleted after 6 months, but if suspected misconduct or appeal, EPO will make a copy and retain for max. 30 months (2.5 years).
- Disclaimer: these are my general impressions, and will not cover all individual cases. I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If you are worried, then talk to your mentor or contact email@example.com
- The intention of these rules is to provide a framework to sanction anyone who seriously breaches the rules or tries to cheat.
- If you do your best to comply with the spirit and letter of all the regulations and instructions, there should be no problems.
- But different to in-person exams, potentially suspicious behaviour will be flagged by AI software. All the audio / visual / computer / network / keyboard / mouse inputs from each candidate are analysed after the exam (ItC 36, 37) and compared to other candidates (approx. 1000 for PE and approx. 2400 for some main exams). Decisions are not taken solely on these flags - the flags and the data collected will always be reviewed by the responsible EPO/epi members and they will contact you first. They also have your answers, how you answered, the speed and order of answering, and Zendesk chat interactions for analysis and comparison.
- And different to in-person exams, if you accidentally breach an instruction, you may not be warned. The invigilators can see real-time some of the data, but they will mainly be using video and audio (ItC 25), and mostly occupied with major issues and emergencies (which includes being unable to do the exam because the Browser is locked). So, if you are not contacted by an invigilator, that does not mean that no issues were detected by the system.
Measures you can take to create evidence
- You can expect that the rules will be interpreted in good faith, but the evidence being used is based on the data collection and AI. By complying with all the rules, you are the only witness.
- You will forget a lot of details because of the stress, and it may be several week before you are contacted. So, put yourself in the best position to support being unfairly flagged.
- But don't go crazy - these are just all tips I could find. At least do something - any evidence is better than none. And hope you don't need it.
- Comply with the spirit and letter of all the regulations and instructions, before during and after the exam. Even if you think them trivial.
- Report any issues or conflicts with regulations BEFORE the exam, prepare alternative solutions, and test your system as much as possible.
- Keep your mentor updated on all the problems, and make sure they know the exact circumstances you are taking the exam. Preferably, they should also see it, either in person or by video chat. If the mentor agrees, record the video chat with a time and GPS stamp. Or with photos with time and GPS stamp.
- Before each exam, before you put your phone away, make a video with time and GPS stamp of the room, desk and computer. Include your point-of-view as you will take the exam, 360 degrees around, up and down. Under the desk, on top of the desk. Behind the monitor. Explain what everything is, and how they comply with the requirements. Mention anything you removed to comply with the requirements. Also include the ID you will be using. If there are glass walls and windows, show that they are covered. Show where the doors are, and what is on the other side. Pictures are also possible, but a video is stronger. If possible, include a witness or get someone else to film you. It should only take 5 - 10 minutes.
- Put your phone out of the room (you don't want it to accidentally ring). Preferably, give your phone to someone else to keep during the whole exam.
- Don't record video and/or audio during the exam as this itself is a breach of the rules.
- During the exam, if something happens that could be flagged, report it in the invigilator chat and make a note on paper so you don't forget. If you interact with an invigilator, note the name on paper.
- Tip from candidate: you can email a transcript of your Zendesk chat (before end of exam) by clicking on three dots on bottom right and entering your email address. It gives you a full timestamped history. But if you or the invigilator leave the chat, then the next contact will create a new transcript which has to be requested separately.
- AFTER the exam, report any issues that happened during the exam as soon as possible.
- If have made notes on paper or annotated printed pages, store them safely and scan them in.
- Store the unedited videos, photos and files somewhere safe.
- Optionally, you may want to timestamp the files using a third party. Use the same facilities to create proof as for copyright, trade secrets and rights of continued use against patent infringement:
- Create a SHA-2 hash fingerprint yourself using truetimestamp.org. They have their own register of certificates (free)
- WIPO Proof - store the files yourself unaltered, no file size limit, create and register a digital fingerprint, store the fingerprint yourself (20 CHF)
- i-DEPOT - upload up to 100MB of one or more files (any format), create and register a certified pdf, BMM retains it for 5 years, you can download a copy (EUR 40)
- DON'T send the helpdesk all your videos and files.
- If something did happen, consider requesting a copy of the data they collected as described above (although it can take up to 3 months)
- If you are accused of suspicious behaviour, don't just send all your videos and files and hope for the best. Talk to a colleague or mentor. You will need to respond seriously, offering to supply selected parts of the evidence. Handle it like receiving a "cease and desist" letter.
Instructions to Candidates - OJEPO Feb 21 (but don't rely on me - read it yourself :-)
- I saw some questions about interpretation - some of the sections seem a little unclear when read alone. I have tried to give my opinion below.
- Some provisions use "must" and some "should", so you can see the black/white boundaries. But take them all seriously - "should" provisions may be used to compare you to other candidates.
- Realise that the exam is mainly governed by the REE (last version OJ 2019, supplement 2 found on the EQE notices page), implemented by the IPREE. IPREE 19 refers in turn to the ItC.
- REE and/or IPREE will likely also be amended to update language, so keep checking the EQE notices page
- IPREE R.19 (2019) indicates possible sanctions for not following the ItC and/or instructions from invigilators (not necessarily attempts to cheat):
- (1)(a) deduction of marks, (b) marking of only part of your answer, (c) no marks, (d) disqualification from PE / ME for a given year.
- (2) not literally applicable anymore, but suspension during exam seems possible. Likely to be updated.
- IPREE R.20 (2019) indicates possible sanctions for fraudulent behavior (considered attempts to cheat):
- sanctions of IPREE R.19, and/or
- refusal of registration and/or
- refusal of enrolment for forthcoming and subsequent PE / ME's
- ItC 08 - do not use your name or initials in your answers. Done to ensure anonymity. You do not need it - your answers are coupled to your candidate ID, and WISEFlow automatically makes a cover sheet.
- ItC 09 - as with in-person exams, report any issues as soon as possible
- ItC 10 - new = the option of asking for extra time if late (although no examples are given). As with in-person exams, take steps to ensure you are ready to start on-time. Now you also have to make sure your room and system comply. Even if you are taking it at home.
- ItC 11 - email complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org regarding conduct as soon as possible, but no later than end of day of the exam. See also ItC 39.
- ItC 12 - read the latest User Guide and e Requirements for the e-EQE 2021 on official e-EQE page
- ItC 13, 14 - this appears to cover a lot, some of which candidates cannot directly control. "All documents related to the e-EQE" seems vague as new documents appear almost daily. At least comply with the "all due care" standard - set up everything according to the official instructions, report any issues or conflicts BEFORE the exam, do your best to get issues resolved and/or prepare alternative solutions, test the system as much as possible, report any issues during the exam as soon as possible afterwards. ItC 39 gives you 24 hours after the exam to report things out of your control.
- I am also missing that the Examination Board / EPO is responsible for providing a stable, well-tested,
bug-freeonline examination platform and exams. And that they are responsible for timely providing accurate and comprehensive information to install, use and remove the software, and to prepare their exam environment. Also something about timely responses to questions about these issues. These are factors influencing compliance by candidates.
- ItC 17 - you need to show your ID while taking the entry image. And have your ID available for the whole exam, just in case.
- ItC 18 - well-lit is related to facial recognition. Clarification that no prohibited equipment may be "within reach".
- ItC 19 - Zendesk chat must be activated during the whole exam
- ItC 20 - as well as the limitations due to using a computer, the old in-person restrictions apply - no phones, no digital watches, no calculators etc.
- ItC 21 - microphone is listening the whole time for noises that could indicate that other people are present. In the last webinar, they said that if someone comes in, send them out immediately. I also advise typing it in the chat what happened, and reporting it after the exam.
- ItC 24 - "rotating the camera" seems to suggest that internal webcams are not allowed. But I think they mean up/down rotation.
- ItC 29 - reading this literally means that you cannot copy the questions or parts into your answer. I don't think that is the intent - this seems to be a Non-Disclosure Agreement (sounds like a D2 case ;-) and mainly intended at anyone leaving before the official end of the exam. See also CoC A.1(2)(ii).
- So, you should treat the printable and non-printable parts as confidential. Working within the system, you can copy parts of the exam in your answer, as explained before in all the official documentation.
- After the exam is finished, the system will release a copy of your answers, which may contain parts of the exam.
It is unclear whether this should also be treated as confidential and for how long. I don't see any advantage in publishing this. I would also wait until the EPO publishes in the compendium.
- It is also unclear when ItC 29 ends.
Applying the NDA principle, once the EPO publishes the exam in the compendium, you can freely discuss everything. Whether it ends automatically after the exam is unclear.
- In one of the webinars they said that the ItC changes are only those expected when changing to online - before, you could take a copy of the paper with you after the exam, and you could discuss.
- CoC A.1(2)(ii) specifies "during the EQE".
I would also wait until the EPO publishes in the compendium. So, if you leave early, don't post anything online until the end of the scheduled exam time.
- ItC 31(a) - for PE and 2xD1 parts, no unscheduled breaks. During the in-person exams, a lot of candidates used to use adult diapers to maximise their time working on the exam. Something to seriously consider (not a joke - I will be using them as a benchmarker)
- ItC 31(b) - unscheduled breaks are expected to take no more than 3 mins. Don't stress if you go over, but come back as soon as possible. Again if there was a reason for taking longer, type it in the chat. During the in-person exams, people used to sprint to the toilets. Not mentioned here, but don't take any exam materials or notes with you. Also don't come back with any papers.
- ItC 31(c) - "offline" may relate to the AI. It is as if there was no internet connection.
- ItC 32 - it is unclear if "problems" includes technical problems.
- I am also missing that the Examination Board / EPO is responsible for providing a timely response to questions through the invigilation. This should also include helping with technical issues during the exam. These are factors also influence compliance by candidates - durung the exam, you are not allowed to search the internet or ask anyone else.
- ItC 34 - exam invigilator passwords also fall under "NDA". You are also not helping others - if someone uses it. It will be clear from their chat record that they did not get it from Zendesk.
- ItC 36, 37 - so even some months after the exam, this can be investigated. Only one example of a suspicious event is given - "suspicious looks in a particular direction". See above - this can be determined weeks or even months after the exam. Data can be retained for up to 2.5 years, longer in appeal. CoC A.2(2) indicates that you can be awarded a FAIL retroactively.
- ItC 38 - it appears that in some instances, you may be given a warning.
- ItC 39 - this appears to reference force majeure situations. To be reported within 24 hrs after exam by email to email@example.com. See also ItC 11.
- ItC 40 - 42 - mainly relevant for resitters. If you do not withdraw in time (OJ 2019, A98), you are awarded fail and 0 marks, replacing any earlier marks you had for that paper (possibly relevant for compensation). It is also counted as an attempt, so the exam fee may be higher next time. ItC 41 mentions "fails to appear" counts as deemed withdrawal, but I am not sure what it means - never having logged-in to WISEFlow, never having clicked on the flow, or something else?
- ItC 43 - implicit End User Agreement
Code of Conduct (19 Feb 21) - (but don't rely on me - read it yourself :-)
- CoC A.1(1)(vi) - seems to suggest that no other materials at all are allowed. This cannot contradict the REE. It is referring to the online system where you can ask the www.epo.org domain and the EPO legal texts. You should not try and get to other sites.
- CoC A.1(2)(ii) - see ItC 29 above.
- CoC A.2(2) - you can be awarded a FAIL retroactively. See ItC 36, 37 above.
- CoC A.3 - reminder that 3rd parties like European Patent Attorneys and EPO employees are already subject to a professional code of conduct. For example, EPA's can be fined up to EUR 10000 or deleted from list of professional representatives indefinitely.