Ultrafast optical switching employing semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) based optical switches has been demonstrated at bitrates up to 640 Gbit/s. However, patterning effects caused by relatively slow recovery processes in semiconductor structures remain as an important deteriorating factor that limits the ultimate speed at which SOA-based switches can be operated. In this paper, we investigate the patterning effects of SOA-based switches using a systematic approach. A simple condition for the lower bound limit of the bit pattern length that should be adopted in the performance evaluations of the switches is derived. It is shown that the minimum bit pattern length scales linearly with the bitrate and the recovery time of the SOA. To overcome the excessive computation time needed for numerical analysis at long pseudorandom binary sequence (PRBS) lengths, an effective method, i.e., periodic method, has been proposed based on the idea of driving the SOA at two saturation extremes by two periodic pulse trains. The predictive power of the periodic method is verified by comparing its results with those obtained by using ordinary PRBS patterns. Finally, the effectiveness of the periodic method is exploited by analyzing in detail the performance properties of a specific type of switch over large parameter regions. Besides allowing an investigation of patterning effects, the periodic method also simultaneously provides such figures of merit as output power and pulsewidth.