8 March 2021
Nearly 4 000 candidates, 5 exams split over 11 flows, 130 exam pages in a choice of languages, 24 hours of examination in 5 days, 80 online invigilators, 400 people involved in preparations, a secured examination environment, and audio and image supervision: From 1 to 5 March, the EPO successfully held the inaugural e-EQE. For the first time ever, candidates sat the exam online at a place of their choice anywhere in the world.
This has meant that training and qualification of patent professionals in Europe could continue despite the pandemic, with the new digital examination format maintaining its high standard for quality and security. Audio and image invigilation were combined, and candidates responded to questions and papers in a locked online examination environment.
Going digital has brought advantages on various levels: for candidates writing the exam by enabling them to type answers on a computer, digitally search documents and saving them time, money and stress not having to travel; for the EPO by modernising and simplifying procedures; and for the environment by causing less travel and greatly reduced paper consumption. Bringing the exam online also makes it more accessible to even more potential candidates in future from all corners of Europe.
What had initially been planned as a major change for the years ahead was fast-forwarded due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Under the Strategic Plan 2023, the EPO plans to deliver a complete, end-to-end digital EQE with a possible revision of the EQE legal framework, format and content of the exam. Due to the pandemic, and after the cancellation of the EQE2020, the greatest challenge of holding the exam online was achieved within just a few months.
Over the past few months, the EPO has worked with the epi, users and professional associations, and has taken numerous measures to ensure a smooth running of the exam. Keeping the candidates informed about the new system and allowing them to test their own equipment prior to the real exam were top priorities in this process. Three mock exams and three public online seminars complemented the constant update of the FAQ and information posted on the internet site of the EQE.
The new format has proven to run very smoothly. The only exception was a disruption affecting paper D1.1, when the paper was at first only available in German, and not in English or French, which was solved quickly within a few minutes. In response, the Examination Board of the EQE published a message on the EQE website to reassure candidates that no candidate would be disadvantaged as a result during the marking process.
The EQE is widely regarded as one of the most demanding professional examinations, and since 1979 has already been passed by more than 10 000 candidates across Europe. It is also one of the only such exams to qualify candidates for a truly European profession.