Thursday, June 3, 2021

EQE 2022 - preparation and top bugs that need to be fixed

EQE 2022 has been announced (OJ 2021, A44), and it has been confirmed that the EQE will be online, it may be taken at any suitable location, and WISEflow will be used again. The exams will take place over two weeks: 
  • Tu 08 Mar 22 - D Exam / Th 10 Mar - A Exam
  • Tu 15 Mar 22 - B Exam / Th 17 Mar - C Exam / Fri 18 Mar - Pre-Exam
No details yet on which other software will be used or whether changes will be made in the room and workspace restrictions. But based on EQE 2021, taking an exam is likely to require: 
  • an exam browser, such as LockDown Browser
  • continuous AI-assisted camera and sound invigilation, so you must be visible in the webcam field of view for long periods
  • online invigilation, such as Zendesk

So, EQE 2022 candidates can already plan ahead:

  • Keep an eye on the EPO’s EQE pages for updated details: EPO e-EQE page, EQE Notices & Downloads, EQE FAQ's
    • don't read through all the details from EQE 2021 - much of the info was provisional, a lot is repeated, and it is likely to change or be consolidated
  • At least one mock should be expected in Jan / Feb. Reserve the time and take part - you must use these opportunities to test your system, and to check for individual problems with your hardware/ software
  • Think digital for taking the exam: 
    • a key skill is now typing speed. Take an online typing course and get a comfortable keyboard / mouse
    • become less dependent on paper. Get comfortable reading work documents electronically, especially PDF.
  • Look for resources that support working digitally
    • websites that allow questions to be viewed and answered digitally, such as Practice EQE
    • EPC and PCT books which are digital – a few, like EPC.App and PCT.App can even be annotated digitally and printed. 
  • But be prepared to have your references availableon paper. During EQE 2021, access was provided to the electronic resources on the EPO website only, but it is not yet clear what will be available in 2022.

There were many issues in 2021 with the new exam platform. These are my top bugs that must be fixed for EQE 2022:

  • Digital highlighting of exam pages
    • this was not available at all for exam pages. Some highlighting was possible for the own answer.
    • it is essential when reading off a screen to be able to keep your place, to note things you have used and/or things you need to use
    • candidates should not be wasting their time copying large parts of the exam to their answer just to apply highlighting
  • Copy/paste into the answer without losing formatting
    • copy/paste was possible, but some or all formatting was often lost,
    • this was especially poor with Apple computers
    • candidates should not be wasting their time reformat excerpts
  • Side-by-side previewing of exam pages, allowing correct copy/paste and highlighting
    • copy/paste was only available between different tabs
    • candidates should be able to answer in the same way that they are used to when working digitally
  • Too-limited digital External References during the exam
    • the EPO website was available, with searching
    • this must be extended to include WIPO to avoid every candidate printing out 2000 pages of the PCT Applicant’s Guide
  • Zendesk automatically logging out during the exam
    • candidates had to keep checking every 20 mins and logging back in
    • this should not be necessary.
  • Camera and microphone, once tested, should function throughout the exam
    • many candidates were interrupted by Zendesk during the exam because LockDown Browser had disabled their webcam. the camera tested during startup of LockDown Browser should not be disabled.
    • there should be an automatic warning if the camera and/or microphone is unexpectedly not working

Other improvements needed for EQE 2022:

  • lnclude an optional "digital exam desktop"
    • so that candidates can prepare PDF's and upload them for use during the exam
    • some EPC/PCT books are already digital, and many recommended EPO / WIPO references are only available digitally 
    • allow searchable text of such PDF's, as you have in real-life, for all digital references. Being able to search broadly does not help as much as you think. Only with knowledge can you search quickly and precisely to pick out what you need.
  • Find a more effective way of communicating with candidates than e-mail
    • where follow-up questions can be posted. For example, a forum, Twitter, or Telegram chat groups 
    • be more open about how the exams will be adapted to the platform
  • Provide a technical helpdesk and forum 
    • to solve network and access problems well before the exam
    • especially for company networks and laptops, where candidates will not have Administrator rights.
    • run an early beta test using a large number of external candidates and/or tutors to iron out the bugs
  • Don't make it harder than it needs to be for those with En/Fr/Ge as a 2nd language. 
    • Since 2017, an extra 30 mins was added to each Main Exam so that mainly non-native speakers would have more time. But this is no longer enforced, and it is clear from the 2021 B and C Exams that this time has just been absorbed by more material. 
    • So, have a non-native review team for each exam from the countries who have a good language level, but not the highest. Sorry - no Dutch, Swedish or Danish etc. doing the English :-). They also need to test whether the exams can be made in time.
  • For exams that are split, like the C Exam, subject-matter must be properly separated between parts
    • The length of the current exams can be reduced by removing overlap and repetition. For example: 
      • A Exam: reduce subject-matter, focus mainly on independent claims, and provide less prior art.
      • B Exam is not realistic with client giving you claims. Go back to the old format, reduce subject-matter, only include a few claims, and provide less prior art.
      • C Exam has much repetition in attacks. Include fewer claims, and provide a lot fewer documents.

19 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for the addition. Did many candidates actually press this by accident during the exam and lock up the browser?

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    2. This happened enough to me during practice that I taped a tack onto my windows key and my alt key to train me to stop using it. Luckily, I only hit alt-tab once during the main D exam and didn't get kicked out.

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    3. (Original anonymous); Not, fortunately in the exam, but couple of times in the mocks. So I "managed" to control myself very well in the Exam. :) I also realized in the mocks that the external resources is the issue which caused for me the use of alt-tab. I.e, transfer between "PDF reader" (= external resource) and "Word" (= answer sheet). So without external resources there would not be any problem with alt-tab!

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    4. Particularly if you have more than one external resource open - the risk is even greater.

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to provide comments and suggestions regarding the e-EQE. I think these are some great suggestions and one can only hope that the EPO will at least consider them.

    Another suggestion is to setup flows for the past papers (at least for the most recent ones) so that candidates can actually practice doing old papers in WiseFlow. One paper and sheer not enough (+ one Mock paper). One can try to mimic the WiseFlow/LockDown browser interface when practising old papers, but it is just not the same. For instance, I completely forgot that when using copy&paste even within the editor that formatting is lost. This was a very painful realisation during the exam, when I had nicely formatted some section to have an easier time structuring my answer but then needed some parts in a different place and all the formatting was gone. Not fun.

    Regarding Paper B, the amendments proposed by the client should be clearly indicated. For instance, I worked from the client’s claims and only realised towards the end of the exam that actually not all the amendments were properly indicated. Not a very fun experience either. Also, in this regard, a strike-through function is essential. Indicating deleted subject matter by [ ] is impractical.

    I am very concerned about the EPO’s apparent lack of understanding how unsuitable the chosen software for the EQE was. Not being able to neither print the entire paper nor annotate it/highlight parts in was terrible. This year’s EQE completely failed its alleged purpose of testing whether candidates are fit to practice. In daily practice, one does have the possibility of printing documents such as instructions from client, prior art etc. It is possible to make notes in a separate document while reading and then use those notes again e.g. in a side-by-side view when drafting or use a split view in word or whatever.

    The only exam that was okay to do in WiseFlow was paper D. So that would have been fine, had there not been the incident of providing the exam paper only in German….

    Without any major improvements to the current software, I am not even going to sign up for 2022 as I do not want to spend another year of pointless studying if I anyway know that I won’t pass as I simply can’t work with a system that does not allow to compare documents in an efficient way and that also does not allow for highlighting/annotating of documents when no printed copies of the documents are available.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the additions. I agree - the lack of recognition and the lack of any announcements makes me worried that nothing will change this year.
      The EPO does not have a great track record in designing user interfaces or making their own software products easy to use.
      It is also worrying that there has been no official announcements about the passing rates for Pre-exam. I realise that individuals have been informed directly, but without the results file that Joeri Beetz used to analyse, we have no idea whether there was any influence due to WISEflow.

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  3. Paper C is a nightmare for me. It is impossible to practice under the current conditions. I practiced 11 C exams straight up using the time limit and didn't score less than high 60's on a single one of them.

    Splitting the exam into two is not a simple matter of doing two mini-Cs. There are too many definitions and common general knowledge that is needed from C-1's prior art to ignore it in C-2. I don't understand why they are testing if we can look at priority dates and added subject matter two seperate times.

    If I failed (likely), I will resit it in 2022. The only way I can think of to practice it is to reduce my practice time to 5 hours and hope for the best.

    Maybe someone else has a better suggestion on how to practice a split C without EPO's guidance on how to change the old exams.

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    1. It would be great if they could provide a clear outline well before the exam.

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  4. Does anyone know when the results of 2021 are available?

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    1. July apparently. It's just cruel. Every time I think of getting the results I feel physically sick.

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  5. I just don't understand how the EQE committee works. The eEQE 2021 was, on the whole, a disaster. That is a fact. So I wonder why Pete has to do the homework for the committee. (Don't get me wrong, Pete, I as many others are totally grateful for your support). They seem to be silent, and we assume they are objectively listening to these chats.
    The eEQE 2022 is for me personally high risk, since nothing so far gives me confidence that it will be less-disasterous than eEQE 2021. My lawfirm has said I can sit this one out if I have no confidence in the integrity of the exam, which currently, I do not.

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  6. I don't understand the silence either. Traditionally they have been secretive about all aspects of the EQE. It was less of a problem when they arranged everything, the exams were relatively stable, and no big changes were anticipated.
    But now candidates have to arrange almost everything. And there are an infinite number of office/computer configurations that could be applicable. It is a lot more important to build confidence, especially when there is a lot to improve.

    To get anything changed in time, it has to be agreed now. I have submitted my comments informally, and they have got a lot of feedback from candidates through the surveys, but everything is invisible. Public discussions can help set priorities for changes, and provide additional support for implementing difficult changes.

    There not even Pre-Exam statistics yet, and no EQE survey results either.

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  7. I fully agree with Anon June 8 that the eEQE 2022 is high risk. I will not take the e-EQE again in 2022 unless some major improvements with respect to the system and the adaptation to the papers are made.

    The silence from the EQE committee/EPO is worrisome and does not install any confidence whatsoever, that improvements will be made to have a fair e-EQE 2022.

    I very much appreciate that the task of transforming a paper-based EQE to an e-EQE in such a short time frame was not an easy one. Nobody expected it to be perfect, but lack of understanding/appreciating the issues/limitation of the system chosen was and still is the problem. I am utterly disappointed in how the EPO has handled the e-EQE. I also miss some sort of statement/comment from the epi. I appreciate the epi’s effort of modernizing the EQE until 2024, but what about the candidates who would like to take the EQE in 2022 or 2023 and would like to have a fair exam?

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  8. I feel badly let down by the EQE 2021 papers and I know I'm not the only one. The whole thing this year was disappointing and the papers were clearly not adapted to the new online format. The mocks have very little or no correlation to the real exams.

    I don't think the EQE committee realises that many candidates had to take their own holidays to do the mocks.

    Overall, I didn't feel the EQE 2021 was a success. The paper spilts,hiding parts of the paper,allowing some text to print and the wiseflow platform created a very confusing and unpleasant experience.

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  9. The timing of the exams were clearly unreasonable. Many candidates ran out of time for B and C. Paper A was far too confusing along with B and C as well. Not good. Doesn't give me any confidence for future years.

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  10. It feels like the committee have moved the EQE goal post this year. Much more difficult than previous years, Papers(apart from D) were not well equipped and prepared.There was a lot more burden on candidates. They need to simplify the online exams.

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  11. Papers A and C were difficult and a nightmare for me. Paper A - I just found very confusing as there were contradictory and poorly worded statements. I believe a lot of candidates on here and other blogs also found it confusing.

    The split in Paper C created so many problems for me. I ended up reading the prior art twice and it was very confusing reading the documents without the full picture of the claims and description. It is completely unadequate and not fit for purpose the current online Paper C.

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  12. As the results of the eEQE looms, I am getting nervous. Not due to the fear of failing - I know alreayd that I have definititely failed - but due to having to consider next steps once my results are official. Like Anon of 8 June, I too have no faith in the eEQE 2022. Tips such as "learn to speed type" are simply ridiculous to me. Would you ask a trainee pilot to learn karate because the flight sim used for the exam malfunctions repeatedly and karate training will enable him to keep his balance whilst the flight sim throws him about the cockpit? Better to say, wait until the system is repaired than to risk a fail due to factors out of one's control. Once the results are in, I will seriously consider my future in this career path, although I really love all things patents! :-(

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