It’s mid-January. Exam stress is rising. About two months from now, more than 2,000 candidates from close to 40 different countries will take part in either the EQE pre-examination or one or more of the four EQE main exams that are organised by the European Patent Office (EPO). These exams, especially the four main exams, are not easy. Only 2 in 5 candidates manage to pass all papers in their first attempt. Passing these exams is only possible with proper preparation. Following some courses is highly recommended for all papers. Thoroughly studying the (case) law and practicing a large number of old exams is unavoidable.
In 2012, the EPO introduced the pre-exam with the aim to better prepare candidates for the difficult main exams. As I already discussed in an earlier article, the pre-exam appears to serve its purpose. The overall pass-rates went up and candidates who prepare and score well in the pre-exam have a considerable better chance to be successful in their first attempt on the main exam.
Following a discussion with the EQE committees during last year’s tutor meeting, I decided to dive a little bit deeper into my database with EQE results and to give my EQE statistics website a little update. In addition to the relation between pre-exam score and pass rates for the full exam, I decided to visualise the relation between pre-exam results and the subsequent score on the first attempt at each individual paper. It was the expectation of the EQE Paper D committee that the correlation would be most visible for their paper. Let’s see how that turns out.
In the diagrams above, you see for each paper, the proportion of people scoring above a certain amount of marks, given their earlier score for the pre-exam. Not surprisingly, certainly not when considering their higher success rate in the full main exam, candidates with higher pre-exam scores do better in all main exam papers. Interestingly, the correlation is not the same for all papers.
As the EQE Paper D committee already suspected, the predictive power of the pre-exam is highest for Paper D (legal advice). This may be because similar skills and knowledge are tested, but it could also mean that the D exam is just a little more predictable than the other three exams. With hard study and thorough preparation, you can score well in the pre-exam as well as for Paper D. For the other papers there are more factors that play an important role, such as understanding the invention, finding all the hints and writing down a proper claim or line of argument. Especially Paper A (claim drafting) results are spread widely. A good pre-exam is a nice start, but writing a proper claim in the limited amount of time you get for that appears to require some additional talents that are not really tested in the pre-exam.
What is also interesting to see is that, for all papers, the relation between pre-exam and main exam scores is strongest for the best performing candidates. It looks like a relatively low score on the pre-exam may work as a wake-up call for some candidates, while hardly any high performers decide to take it too easy with their preparations for the main exam.
And how do these statistical insights benefit this year’s EQE candidates? I’m sorry. They don’t. I can only advise you to study hard and practice a lot, but I would have done the same without this new information. If you’re sitting the pre-exam, it may be useful to realise that you don’t only study to pass the first hurdle. You’re laying a foundation for the bigger hurdles that need to be cleared next year. For the main exam, you will have to prepare well enough to make it into the upper half of all four diagrams. Even when you scored 85 or more marks for the pre-exam, you still have to make sure that it will be other people who are going to populate those relatively empty lower right corners in these diagrams.
Joeri Beetz 15 January 2019
[This article was originally published on LinkedIn – link]