Beware Patent Bar Exam Study Advice

Recently it has come to my attention that there is a WikiHow page titled How to Study for the Patent Bar. I have been teaching a patent bar review course for the Practicing Law Institute since 2000, so I am something of an expert on the patent bar examination. I know a thing or two about how aspiring patent practitioners can and should proceed to study for the exam. I can tell you definitively that if you follow this Wiki advice you are guaranteed to fail!

The other principal lecturer in the PLI patent bar review course, and course creator, John White, put it like this: “If a person really follows this advice, they will be our student after 2-3 failed attempts. They will also be an emotional confused confidence lacking wreck!”

Hopefully we have your attention. You absolutely must be very careful when choosing which advice to follow. While free resources are tempting because the price is right, relying on what is free is a recipe for disaster on the patent exam.

Beware Bad Advice

It is hard to imagine that anyone seriously interested in trying to become a patent practitioner would follow advice found on a Wiki page. Who knows if the author and those who have edited the page know anything about the law, patents or the patent bar exam itself. Still, I thought I might take an opportunity to point out exactly why the advice on WikiHow makes you destined to fail.

First, there are 10 steps to passing the patent bar exam listed. If you actually followed the advice given you would probably need to spend in excess of 2,000 hours studying, much of it completely wasted. You still wouldn’t be likely to pass either.

In step 1 the author suggests that the would-be patent practitioner read all of the U.S. patent laws and rules. I wonder if the person who wrote this knows that patent litigation topics are not tested on the patent bar examination? I would guess not because if they did why would they suggest reading all the U.S. consolidated patent laws? The U.S. patent laws contain vast amounts of information that has never been, nor will it ever be, tested. So why spend time studying things that won’t be tested if the goal is to pass the exam and obtain a registration number?

Step 3 is to read the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), apparently from cover to cover. Obviously the author is unfamiliar with the text of the MPEP, or its length. It is almost laughable when the article says: “Read the manual carefully and make sure that you understand everything you read.” Oh… is that all there is to it? Well that is easy enough, right? Yeah… right up until you realize that the MPEP when printed out would drawf the size of the phone book from Los Angeles County, California! Furthermore, there are a great many topics in the MPEP that are simply not tested. Still further, there are topics within the MPEP that are emphasized while others are of far less importance. Treating the MPEP like everything is equally important for the exam is not only a recipe for failing the exam but is also quite ridiculous. Excepting that you can read the MPEP and understand everything without guidance is naive in the extreme.


Step 4, in part, recommends using the My Patent Bar website, which is extremely dangerous. The information provided on My Patent Bar comes from those who are also studying for the exam or who have taken the exam, some having passed and some having failed. I have reviewed My Patent Bar at times and find the information there to be confusing, misleading and sometimes flat wrong. For example, there have been numerous individuals report that they saw a particular question on appeals. They recount the question and gleefully proclaim the answer so others can be informed. The problem is they ALL are getting this question wrong! The problem is they are relying on Chapter 1200 of the MPEP to get the answer, which is out of date. The appeals rules were updated at the end of 2011, but Chapter 1200 of the MPEP has not been updated to include that information. The new appeals rules are tested, making Chapter 1200 of the MPEP rather useless for exam takers. This tidbit of critical information is not mentioned in the WikiHow. For more on this, as well as the question involved, see: New Rules, Old MPEP Make for Difficult Study.

Step 8 contains perhaps the most ridiculous suggestion given in the Wiki article. It is recommended to the reader that they should download the free PTO Patent Bar Exam Review Package from CNET. If you navigate through to the CNET page you see that this package of information is current as of 2006. Simply stated, if you study from this packet you will fail! There have been numerous and significant changes to the patent laws and rules since 2006. You simply cannot pass the patent bar examination using materials this old.

Not convinced yet because free is a hard price to beat? Well, the CNET package explains that it contains MPEP 8th edition revisions 1 and 2. Why would you ever want to even consider the 8th edition revisions 1 and 2 when you will be tested on the 8th edition revision 9? Revision 9 was published August 2012. Revision 1 was published February 2003 and revision 2 was published May 2004. Why would anyone who is at all serious use materials that are a decade old to take an exam that is constantly being updated and refreshed with new materials? If you study the wrong MPEP edition you have absolutely NO chance to pass the patent bar exam.

Finally, despite all of the bad advice that is presented, the most damaging aspect of the WikiHow advice is what it fails to say. Since April 2011 the USPTO has been continuously updating the patent bar exam, and has already announced that it will be updated again effective January 2014. There are many things that are tested that are not yet a part of the MPEP. For example, take a look at the Source Materials for the Registration Examination. If you are unfamiliar with the America Invents Act and the implementing final rules you really have little chance to pass the exam.

The best advice given by the WikiHow page is the last piece of advice: “PLI offers one of the most recommended live and home study Patent Bar review courses…” That is true, and why you should seriously consider taking the PLI course if you are interested in passing the first time!

What Should You Do?

So how do you study for the patent bar examination? If you were to take the PLI course I teach you would spend about 50 hours taking the course and then you should spend between another 100 to 125 hours studying. Our course is designed as an immersion course that will bring you up to speed on the topics, concepts and issues you need to know and are most likely to be tested on. After the course focus shifts to learning how to handle exam level difficulty questions you will receive on exam day.

To accomplish this we have what we refer to as Patware software, which mimics the computer interface you will encounter on exam day. We have many hundreds of exam level difficulty questions, including questions that cover all the newly testable materials since April 2011, with new questions and copious model answers and explanations being added all the time.

That is critical because when someone tells you to just study from the 2003 released exams they aren’t doing you any favors. Yes, those exams need to be taken and studied, but by now the exam you will take will focus on material designated as newly testable since April 2011. And think about it for a minute, the seminal case of our generation — KSR v. Teleflex — which fundamentally changed the law of obviousness, was not decided until 2007!

Spending time reading the MPEP is not a bad idea, but reading it cover to cover as suggested by WikiHow is ridiculous. There are chapters and sections that are clearly more important than others. Similarly, it may make sense to spend time reading some rules in the Code of Federal Regulations, but many are not tested.

The best strategy to pass the exam includes taking a patent bar review course and then charting a path post course that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses. Simply reading 5,000 or more pages of information and believing you will “understand everything you read” is fanciful at best.

For more information on the patent bar exam please see:


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Join the Discussion

4 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    October 19, 2013 02:19 pm


    I am a fan of Professor Janice Mueller. She manages address patent law in very approachable terms. While her book is not geared toward the patent bar exam it does very capably and approachably cover the field of patent law. If you want to learn more about the concepts, which will assist you when it comes time to focusing on the procedure material covered by the patent bar exam, I highly recommend her work. See:

    Best of luck.


  • [Avatar for Paul]
    October 18, 2013 11:30 pm

    This was a well written and informative article. I will most like be ready to take the PLI course next year, a couple of months out before the 2015 exam. I work full-time and I also have some Science prerequisites to fulfill. So, my question is what is the suggested and safest reading to study from until I’m ready to take the PLI course? I want to be able to start reading now in order to make sure I’m familiar with the type of information and of course because I will be studying minimally each week.

    Do you have a guide of suggested readings for the MPEP for people in the same situation as me, or are there other readings I should be focusing on?

    Thank you

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    July 31, 2013 12:49 pm

    patent leather-

    The number of articles that “Wiki you have to be kidding me” could spawn is really infinite!

    Good luck designing your patent with the right colors! Definitely high on any list! LOL.


  • [Avatar for patent leather]
    patent leather
    July 27, 2013 09:12 pm

    That’s funny, Wikihow should be “Wikihow not to.” Some more hysterics:

    “How to name a patent” – “#2 Design your patent. Decide what you want your patent mark to look like. Choose colors and ornamental characteristics. Try out several designs before you make a final decision.”

    “How to protect your ideas without a patent” – “#6 Do not allow public use of your idea.” – LOL, I’d love to learn how to do this without a patent.