How to pass the Patent Bar without a course

I never wanted to be an engineer. But as long as I could remember, I did want to be an inventor.


The “Patent Registration Examination” (aka patent bar) is a 6 hour law exam available to any engineer with a bachelor's degree. After passing the exam, engineers become registered Patent Agents and thereby able to represent others in patent law matters. If you happen to have a law degree you would become a patent attorney.


The exam itself is a 6 hour long multiple choice computerized test with open book access to patent law documents. Pass rate hovers around 33% where many pass on the second try.


Many courses are offered and look very promising. When I first registered for the exam I was overwhelmed by the options. By far the most recommended and highly rated is the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) course which sells for about $2000. Featuring an exam simulator called Patware and an impressive test bank, the course promises a pass on the first try.


Although the material is high quality, the price is higher than I would like. The best hack i can recommend is to purchase an older used PLI patent exam study guide binder and supplement that with mypatentbar.com.

The study guide binder pictured here was for 2016. I was able to study its material to pass the 2018 exam. The study guide gives a chapter by chapter breakdown of the MPEP and highlights what will and won't be on the exam. There are also sections on claims drafting and practice questions to study.


On eBay I purchased  the binder for only $220 and read it cover to cover at least 4 times. I would guess that 2015 or 2014 editions would be equally good. You can't buy the study guide book alone from PLI because it is bundled with the full course. Try reading the comment section of mypatentbar.com to see if anybody is selling theirs.

I started studying in November and naively thought I would be ready for the exam within a month. After cramming for about five weeks I took the bar exam and failed with a 48%. I was massively ill prepared for the amount of memorization that would be needed to pass the exam. After failing i booked another exam four months later and figured I would have sufficient time to learn what remained. I passed on the second try.


I would recommend three months minimum to have a decent shot at passing the exam if studying daily after work and on weekends. Failing the exam is extremely helpful because you are able to schedule a review session ($200) and review your incorrect questions with explanations.

Here's a video logging the 7 months that it took me!


The exam is administered by Prometric. Prometric’s document viewer is laughable so I dedicated an entire section to using the outdated program at the very end.


Study tips
  1. Master navigating the mpep. I found myself referencing appendix R and L when I did not know where the material originated. Specific topics i recalled i referenced in their respective chapters.
  2. Dont rely on the MPEP for every question, if you must, reference as fast as possible. Try searching for exact wording inside the question for easy search terms. I felt like I used the MPEP for between 33-50% of questions.
  3. Memorie everything else in your study guide binder. 
  4. Check your pace every while (aim for question 16 by hour 1, 33 by hour 2 etc )
  5. If you fail the exam the first time around, schedule a review session with prometric. It's well worth the $200. 
  6. Mypatentbar.com has the previous exams and great discussions in the comment sections. This was a huge help to passing. I did all the old 2003 exams. 
  7. Memorize common law statutes. You should know their content well. 
  8. Don't read the MPEP like a book. Read the binder summary first then read the important sections within. 
  9. Try to study daily to keep the content fresh in your mind. I bought a tablet so that i could read the MPEP at my bedside before going to sleep. 
  10. I am a huge flash card fan. I used color coded flash cards where red cards where law statutes or codes, yellow were general tid-bits and blue are concepts i struggled with. 

Prometric tips
  1. When you click on a document and scroll down you won't scroll to the next page until you press the “Scroll page” button on the bottom left of the program. This is frustrating because you must click it every time it launches if you intuitively scroll between pages.
  2. The exam tells you how much time remains not how much has elapsed. 
  3. When you open a document the entire computer will freeze and take about 4 seconds to load. 
  4. When you use the find feature you cannot use ctrl+F, you have to click the “Find” button on the top middle and click it again to find the next reference. No keyboard shortcuts. You can configure to search upward or downwards. 
  5. When you close the document viewer and open it again while you are on the same question it will open again in the same document and page. It will reset on the next question. There is no way to minimize the document viewer, resize, or split screen. 
  6. If you get there early they will most likely admit you early. Don't plan on cramming inside. 

If you found this helpful bookmark this page and let me know when you pass. I'm hoping to meet other patent attorneys and agents!
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