UK qualifying exams held successfully online for the first time

Candidates for the Patent Examination Board’s 2020 Qualifying Examinations took them remotely for the first time during the week of 12-16 October. 617 candidates took their Foundation and Finals examinations on a computer and uploaded their answer scripts to the purpose-designed PEBX system. Designated Contacts in firms managed the exam invigilation for 217 candidates. The candidates who sat their exams at home were invigilated by PEB invigilators in Zoom rooms.  

Once approval was granted by IPReg, PEB planned and successfully delivered the online examinations in less than 16 weeks. There is still considerable work to be done before the March results issue, including examiner standardisation, marking, results awarding and results processing.  

PEB will shortly be inviting candidates and Designated Contacts to provide feedback on this year’s examinations. The outcomes of these surveys will help determine whether PEB asks IPReg to approve the online model for future examination sessions.

Student Patent Attorney Joel Briscoe, Honorary Secretary of the student body the CIPA Informals, said that the online process was more complicated but that this was to be expected given the unprecedented nature of the situation both the PEB and candidates had found themselves in. 

He said: "After the huge disappointment surrounding the cancellation of the European Qualifying Exams last March, it was a huge relief to get confirmation from the PEB that the October exams would go ahead in June and the Informals really appreciate the hard work the PEB have put in to honour that promise. 

"We hope this is the start of a new era for the PEB exams and more development continues for online examinations in a way that streamlines the process for candidates and the PEB alike."  

Former CIPA Presidents Chris Mercer and Andrea Brewster were among those invigilating remotely.

Chris invigilated five of the PEB examinations, one each day last week. He said: “It was a pleasure to assist such polite and intense candidates. 

“They were, understandably, rather nervous, not only about the exams but also about the IT requirements. For the vast majority of the candidates I invigilated, there were only minor IT problems as far as I could see. It was interesting to observe the variety of rooms used for the examinations. I think that everyone was relieved that the organisation went so well. I hope the results go as well as the organisation.”

Andrea added: “I too was impressed by the candidates' professionalism and composure, by their willingness to engage with the new system and their patience as we all felt our way through the very different procedures involved.  They can feel very proud of what they've done: they are pioneers on a journey that will almost certainly take our profession into a more agile and accessible future.” 

CIPA thanks the PEB and the Institute’s own Head of Qualifications, Angelina Smith and Ruth Matthews (Qualifications Consultant) for their hard work in delivering the profession’s first ever online examinations under the time constraints and conditions imposed by coronavirus restrictions.