e:EQE Discussion Paper – Modernizing in an evolutionary way

e:EQE Discussion Paper – Modernizing in an evolutionary way

by Till Andlauer -
Number of replies: 0

The various opinions in this discussion forum indicate to me that the EQE has in fact been seen quite positive as it was in the past. This may prompt for a modernization in more evolutionary that revolutionary way.

For making the exam a bit more modular and progressive without increasing the required work of drafting papers and without throwing the balanced system all over, papers A and B could just be allowed to be taken earlier, e.g. after two years together with the pre-exam or the pre-exam could be allowed to sit already after one year of training.

For reducing the artificial character that candidates spend large amounts of time to learn methodologies of scoring the easy marks in the exam rather than to learn what is needed in practice, the discussion paper includes a proposal which sounds reasonable to me, namely to make such methodologies less effective by testing a larger variety of scenarios on a random basis. This could similarly be implemented also in the existing papers A-D to make them less predictable.

There seems quite common consent that the purely true/false pre-exam is oversimplifying, but not everyone likes to remove it completely. The discussion paper already appears to propose a compromise to keep a not finally qualifying and simple to mark exam in terms of an extended multiple-choice test (smart MCQ exam). For example, legal questions answered by true/false plus a legal basis and claim analysis questions selected from combined or longer lists would offer more options to the exam drafters for testing more abilities of the candidates. 

I would like to draw the attention also to the unresolved issues of instability that have been introduced last year by moving from a paper-based in-person exam to a digital online format under time pressure. Modernizing the EQE should respect that candidates who prepare for such exam must be able to rely that it is conducted without interruptions outside their responsibility and the exam committees must be able to ensure this with reasonable effort.

It has been reported that the online proctoring of the current software came with numerous issues in the EQE 2021, both for the organizers and the participants. Rather than taking the necessity of such proctoring for granted and looking for ways to reduce the exam time, it might be considered to simply reduce the degree of surveillance (at least for taking unscheduled breaks).
I’m not aware of significant past problems with fraudulent behavior in the EQE and don’t think that experiences from other exams can be easily extrapolated. Candidates sitting the EQE are more adult that young students at the university. The main exam is too difficult to cheat efficiently, those best prepared to ask for assistance are busy with sitting the exam themselves, and there is also a code of conduct which prevents patent attorneys to support this. It is not very common to build a qualification in this profession on clearly unlawful basis.

By moving towards a digital format and for allegedly reducing the paper consumption, exam papers have partly been shown only in the exam software without common functions for marking or searching text, and access to a subset of the required legal texts has been provided via the EPO website. This has been widely criticized as insufficient and instable. To some extent it probably relates to limited functions of a software from an external provider not completely under control of the examination board, but partly it might also be based on decisions well possible to revise.
Plain legal provisions are not sufficient to answer questions of an exam drafted in the current open book format. And, legal provisions on a website are too unstable to rely as only source in an exam. Web-servers may be temporarily unavailable and the EQE is not synchronized with update intervals (e.g. the content of the Guidelines on the EPO website was changed on the first day of EQE 2021). As a consequence, candidates still bring almost everything printed on paper.
A simple solution would be to admit candidates to upload their own prepared materials as PDFs into the exam software for multi-window screen reading with common search and navigation functions. Everyone is able to create files in such format or mark existing ones and this is common practice in a paperless office. PDF is perfectly stable, safe, and the existing software seems to already include a viewer and some import functions.

This is relevant for the future direction of the EQE as well. The current open-book format is in line with unlimited options in practice and important to retain as it leads to extensive preparations at a high education level. A closed-book exam would be less suitable to keep the standard of education as it would be more artificial and lead to mere short-term memorizing of provisions.