Death Certificates for Exam Cancellation – Another Reason to Loathe Pearson Vue


VMware uses Pearson Vue for all of their certification exams. I have had several interactions with VMware’s certification personnel due to my participation in the VMware Beta exam process. I forwarded this blog post to Randy Becraft, Senior Program Manager, VMware Certification Team. After discussion with the Vue program manager assigned to VMware, Randy provided me with the following bullet points:

  • Pearson VUE delivers thousands of exams to hundreds of clients each month. Theirs is a business that has to have policies that apply to the large volume of candidates.
  • Some test centers have very high volume. Cancellations—particularly at the last minute—cost the test center revenue.
  • Historically enough candidates cancelled so many tests the same day that Pearson VUE had to implement a policy to provide a “buffer” from that business risk, hence the 24-hour cancellation policy.
  • When a cancellation must occur within the 24-hour period for a legitimate reason such as a death in the family, some form of documentation is required to ensure the cancellation privilege is not abused. In the case of a death in the family the policy does not specifically require a death certificate, though that is what was communicated in Patrick’s specific case. For instance, a newspaper death notice is acceptable.

UPDATE 10/28/2013

During my April encounter with Vue, I spoke with a customer service manager. I called him last week and left a voicemail asking for a call back.

The staff running @PearsonVue‘s Twitter account saw a flurry of retweets of this blog post. I received a DM this morning saying that I’d be contacted by one of the Vue staffers.

The customer service manager who got my voicemail just sent me an email. I did not explain my situation in the voicemail; I assume that the social media staff at Vue forwarded the Twitter activity to him. The email says:

Hi Patrick,

I got your VM this morning.  Sorry I was in training last thursday and Friday and missed your call.

While it absolutely is policy to need some sort of documentation to waive the reschedule policy for a death in the family, I booked you for a new exam for end of November as a customer service gesture..  You can go online, call our call center or give me a call to reschedule to a date/time that works better for you.  I am very sorry for your loss.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything else I can do for you.

Although I’m pleased that the manager did what I believe to be the right thing, I have to think it’s primarily because of the bad publicity on Twitter.  Another victory for social media.

Original post 10/26/2013

I failed my first attempt at the Cisco 640-916 DCICT exam by 4%. I studied in the evenings for a few weeks afterward, prepping for the retake. I worked a maintenance window for a client on the evening of October 23rd, finishing around 10PM. I was scheduled at the same client on the 24th, but that was a backup date in case the 23rd had problems. With no work left to do, I decided to book the exam for 1:30PM on the 24th. This would give me the morning to try cramming useless factoids into my brain.

I was unaware that as just as I was booking the exam, a family member was dying. It was a hospice situation; his passing was expected, but the speed with which it happened was not.

I got the call at 7AM.

I notified work. They didn’t ask for a death certificate. I cancelled my son’s appointments. They didn’t ask for a death certificate.

Then I called Pearson Vue. The cancellation policy requires 24 hour notice, an absurdity on its face because I booked the exam inside the cancellation window – 15 1/2 hours before the scheduled time. This policy means I couldn’t have cancelled the appointment ten seconds after making it. I booked it at an exam center with literally dozens of exam slots open – I didn’t take the final slot available on the 24th and prevent somebody else from testing on that day.

The Vue person demanded a death certificate. I won’t repeat exactly what I said in reply – I suppose the best way to put it is that I ‘impolitely declined’. Vue said there was nothing else that could be done and my exam fee would be forfeited. I hung up.

My wife and I planned to drive up to another family member’s house, which happened to be close to the testing center. At some point I began stewing over what had happened and decided if I forfeited the exam fee, Vue was somehow winning – beating me, stealing the exam fee. I can’t say the logic was sound, but that’s how my mind was operating at the time. I popped out and sat the exam for the second time. I failed by 10 points out of 1,000.

Since 2009, I have sat 21 exam sessions at Pearson Vue at a total cost of $5,000. I haven’t canceled any sessions, although I’ve had an exam canceled due to Vue’s gross incompetence. I think it’s reasonable to give me the benefit of the doubt that a family member did indeed pass away. I would think that even the questionably skilled techs at Vue could design a way to track same-day cancellations. It could be a single field on a form; one column in a database; even just an entry in the comment field. Perhaps Vue could consider dropping the policy altogether. Are there really that many people cancelling appointments on the same day? People spend countless hours preparing for these exams, I highly doubt that there is a flood of same-day cancellations other than true emergency situations.

I wish I could say that I was going to avoid a Vue testing center from now on, but that’s obviously not going to happen due to my career requirements.







1 comment

  1. Ryan Conley

    Wow, this trumps my previous bad experience after a delayed flight caused me to miss an exam. That’s pretty ridiculous given your exam
    history. Almost like a cruel joke, Ferris Bueller anyone? The irritating part as a consumer is you don’t have another option for many of these types of exams.

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