Results are out. The PEB has published overall pass rates for PEB 2018. (Pass lists are set to follow tomorrow).
First the good news: the pass rate was a record 73% for FD3 and was above average for FD1 (61%) and FD2 (54%). The sad news: the FD4 pass rate was 34% (this was after the PEB lowered the pass mark to 47), its lowest since the 1990s. This has ignited strong debate on IPKat.
Key issues with the FD4 2018 paper seem to have been: i) Candidates felt unusually time-pressured (as noted in the Examiner’s Report); ii) The invention “was not a simple one to understand” (according to IPKat); iii) For the first time, candidates needed to apply the doctrine of equivalents (Actavis v Eli Lilly); and, iv) The marking schedule shows that marks were unusually skewed to Inventive Step (25% of the 2018 paper’s marks versus the 2008-17 average of 16%) and away from Infringement (14% v 2008-17 av. 22%).
Looking forwards, candidates (and I’m sure also tutors) would welcome greater consistency in FD4 papers and some easing of the time pressure. The exam is already 5 hours (versus 4 hours in 2009 and earlier), so adding an extra half-hour or one hour might not be feasible. The highest pass rates in the last 20 years were in 2007 (56% pass rate) and 2010 (54% pass rate). In each case, the Examiner’s Report noted that the technical content/invention was straightforward and associated documentation was minimal – indeed, the 2010 paper was only seven pages. This enabled the majority of candidates to “present well thought out construction, infringement and novelty arguments that did not necessarily have to span pages and pages” (2010 Examiner’s Report). We know from candidates who have attended our courses that, during the preparation months, they can score well on one past paper they practice but then poorly on another. So it would be great to see more consistency (in the level of technical challenge and time pressure) in future FD4 papers so that many of those who can pass (as shown from their ability to do well on some of the past practice papers) do pass.
We will be posting further analysis of the FC and FD 2018 results once the pass lists are published.
Ian at JDD