Patent Agent Qualifying Examination — 2015 Report

December, 2015


In accordance with section 13 of the Patent Rules, an Examining Board is established for the purpose of preparing, administering and marking the qualifying examination for patent agents in Canada. In accordance with section 14 of the Patent Rules, these exams are administered at least once a year. 

The 2015 Examining Board consisted of a chairperson, four members from the Patent Office, and twelve members of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada. Members of the Examining Board are appointed for periods of up to three years. The chairperson of the Examining Board is the chair of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office's Patent Appeal Board.

The Patent Appeal Board provides administrative and logistical support for the examination. This includes arranging examination venues and exam administrators for each location, ensuring that candidates for the examination have submitted the information required by section 12 of the Patent Rules in the prescribed manner, notifying candidates as to whether or not they have met the requirements for writing the examination, communicating results to candidates, and handling accommodation requests.

The qualifying examination is administered as four papers. To be eligible for inclusion on the register of patent agents, a candidate must obtain at least 50 marks (50%) on each paper and have a total of 240 marks (60% overall average) on the four papers. Candidates may write one or more papers in a given year, and the marks from a given paper on which a grade of 60 or more was achieved will carry forward to future attempts to pass the examination. A candidate who is entitled to carry forward marks is said to have achieved a “partial pass” of the examination in respect of those papers whose marks can be carried forward.

The four papers are labelled A to D. “A” covers patent drafting; “B” covers the validity of a Canadian patent; “C” covers the response to an office action; and “D” covers the infringement of a Canadian patent.

Preparation of the examination

Prior to preparing the examination, the Examining Board meets with the IPIC Patent Agent Examination Standards Committee to discuss best practices for the setting of professional accreditation exams. The IPIC Patent Agent Examination Standards Committee reviews the development and administration of the qualifying examination for patent agents in order to assist the Examining Board in maintaining recognized standards for certification, including the security, practicality, fairness, scoring, reporting, technical analysis and documentation of the exam. The Committee is assisted by an expert in measurement and evaluation of competence, Dr. Gary Cole, who coaches members of the Examining Board in setting and marking examination papers that meet recognized standards in measurement of competencies.

The Examining Board prepares the four examination papers along with four marking grids, and these documents are translated to allow candidates to write the exams in their official language of choice.

The translated documents are reviewed to ensure accuracy, recognizing that linguistic differences may exist between the English and French versions due to the technical content and the specialized nature of the subject matter of each paper. Any such differences are taken into account in the marking grid, and the Examining Board members evaluate the papers using a bilingual marking grid.

Overview of the 2015 examination

The 2015 qualifying examination was administered on April 28, 29, 30 and May 1, 2015, in ten locations across Canada, namely: Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau/Ottawa, Moncton, Montreal, Quebec City, St. John's, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria.

A total of 149 candidates wrote examination papers. The total number of papers written was 368. A total of 3 candidates wrote a total of 4 examination papers in French. 

Candidates were informed of their marks in the middle of July 2015. Upon request, candidates received their examination material in September to determine whether to request a review of their marks.

The Examining Board considered requests for review from 13 candidates for Paper A, 12 candidates for Paper B, 1 candidate for Paper C, and 15 candidates for Paper D. One of these reviews resulted in an overall pass. There were no further changes to initial results as a result of these reviews.                              
Of the 149 candidates who wrote examination papers, 29 candidates received an overall pass, 97 candidates received a partial pass, and 23 candidates wrote at least one paper and did not achieve any pass (“failed”). 

Only 124 candidates were writing all outstanding papers, and hence could achieve an overall pass of the examination. The global pass rate is therefore 23%. 

Of the 29 candidates that received an overall pass, 4 of them wrote all 4 examination papers, 2 of them succeeded on their first attempt of all 4 examination papers. 72% of candidates achieved an overall pass after 5 attempts and 93% of candidates achieved an overall pass after 9 attempts. 

Table 1 provides 2015 data for each paper. 

Table 2 and Figure 1 provide average marks for each paper since 2005.

Table 3 and Figure 2 provide overall pass rates and first-try pass rates since 2005.

Table 4 and Figure 3 provide the number of attempts it took for candidates to achieve an overall pass in 2015. 


I extend my thanks to all members of the Examining Board for their hard work and dedication in ensuring that the qualifying examination for patent agents continues to be administered fairly and impartially, thus providing the public with the assurance that patent agents are entered on the register only after having passed a rigorous process, and are well qualified to assist them in the protection of their intellectual property.

Jek-Hui Sim
Acting Chair, Examining Board

Table 1

Data according to each paper in 2015
  Paper A Paper B Paper C Paper D
# of papers 104 108 47 109
average mark 41% 49% 61% 43%
marks 60 + 15 30 27 5
50 to 59 16 27 8 26
40 to 49 23 21 10 40
under 40 50 30 2 38
highest 79 75 91 61
lowest 6.5 13.5 20.5 14.5

Figure 1 and table 2—Average marks for each paper since 2005

Average marks for each paper since 2005
05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15
Paper A 51.70% 54.98% 53.20% 49.50% 43.90% 40.40% 38.44% 35.90% 44.50% 45.00% 41.00%
Paper B 49.30% 42.62% 50.80% 45.00% 40.50% 43.50% 42.20% 43.50% 45.10% 47.00% 48.50%
Paper C 54.80% 53.90% 49.40% 50.00% 61.00% 54.80% 48.29% 55.40% 57.80% 57,00% 61,00%
Paper D 37.60% 38.04% 50.50% 50.10% 46.60% 47.10% 48.79% 38.10% 41.00% 45.10% 43.00%

Figure 2 and table 3—Overall and First Try Pass Rates

Overall pass rates and first-try pass rates since 2005
05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15
Overall 16% 12% 28% 17% 15% 13% 10% 7% 15% 25% 19%
First time 3% 2% 5% 4% 4% 2% 1% 0.5% 0.91% 1.88% 1.40%

Figure 3 and table 4—Number of candidates achieving overall pass in 2015 by number of attempts (total number of candidates: 29)

Number of attempts to achieve overall pass in 2015
Number of attempts to achieve overall pass in 2015 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Number of candidates 2 3 4 6 1 5 4 0 2 1 0 1
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