Tag Archives: Pearson

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

ADDITIONAL UPDATE 10/28/2013

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More loathing of Pearson Vue … or, my [redacted] beta exam experience

This is what I get for taking beta exams. I understand. I create my own mess. But that doesn’t change the fact that Pearson Vue is spectacularly incompetent. I’ve previously blogged my strongly negative opinions of Pearson Vue and today’s experience doesn’t do much to improve my outlook.

I sat the [redacted] VMware beta exam today and there were problems with the remote environment. It took me almost 40 minutes to complete the first two questions because the performance of the environment was so lousy. Per my beta exam instructions, after about 15 minutes I asked the Vue proctor to contact VMware for assistance.

The proctor returned to say that we should reboot my local exam station, as if that had anything at all to do with the slow response from the remote lab. I asked her who told her to do that – she had called the Vue helpdesk, not VMware. I told her to call VMware, to which she replied “We can’t do that.”  By then the environment had improved from ‘lousy’ to ‘nearly tolerable’ so I gave up complaining.

After the exam I spoke with the VMware certification team and I received confirmation of the following:

  1. VMware has been assured by Pearson Vue that VCAP candidates will be able to get in contact with VMware’s support team for problems with the exam environment
  2. VMware’s support team has the authority to grant extended time in the event of an environment failure
  3. Pearson Vue has the capability to extend the exam time.

The slow performance of the environment set me back too far to recover;  I was unable to complete the exam. Maybe it will cost me a passing grade, maybe it won’t, but Pearson Vue’s failure to rectify the situation is inexcusable.

Fear and Loathing of Pearson Vue

Computer testing vendor Pearson Vue suffered a massive outage this past week – at least most people would call it an outage. Pearson Vue’s spin team tried to say their systems were 100% up, only slow, but countless posts online contradict this.

The issues were first acknowledged on the company’s Facebook page.
April22-OutageAcknowledgement

An entire day goes by and they claim the issue is fixed.
April23-Fixed

But shortly thereafter, another acknowledgement of an ongoing problem.
April24-DownAgain

On April 24th, another acknowledgement of a problem.
April24-DeliveryFailures

A second generic post again on April 24th.

April24-SecondPost

I first learned of this outage when I walked into a Vue testing center for an exam on April 24, only to discover that they were unable to deliver because Vue’s servers were not accessible. The center called in to Vue, and customer service said all their systems were frozen and nothing could be done.

Pearson Vue put up another April 24th post suggesting that users try scheduling during non-peak hours.

April24-TryAfterHours

On April 25th came the first of many outright lies posted by Pearson Vue.

April25-FAQ1

This leads you to believe the system is up but slow. This was not the case. I tried many times to log in without success, as did others such as this Facebook poster.

April25-WebsiteDown

Here is the rest of the FAQ from April 25th
April25-FAQ2

I called multiple times, only to be told by customer service that they could not log in. This happened to people worldwide, here are a few of the many posts on Facebook.

April25-CustSvcCanNotSchedule April25-CustSvcCanNotSchedule2 April25-CustSvcCanNotSchedule3

Testing centers were not able to deliver exams, either.

April25-CanNotTakeExam

Later in the day on April 25th came a post with another outright lie saying “our systems are operational, just not optimal”

April25-BestBrightest

That post prompted me to post the following, which was not replied to or acknowledged in any way.

April25-Patrick1 April25-Patrick2 April25-Patrick3

On April 26th, a series of posts came out saying that engineers had found the problem and they were bringing the system back to expected performance levels.

April26-ProblemFound April26-ProblemFound2 April26-ProblemFound3 April26-ProblemFound4

A Facebook post directly under the above message shows a user who still can’t schedule an exam using customer service – the timestamp on this is April 28th, 9:30AM CDT.

April28-StillProblems

On April 28th at 10:30 AM CDT, Pearson Vue had the audacity to ask users to stress test the system for them.

April28th-PleaseLoadTestForus

 

The user impact of this outage has been massive. It was more of an inconvenience for me. But for others, there were signifiant impacts in time, expense, and even their ability to work.

Here is one Facebook post from a user who has no Pearson Vue facility in their country. They have to get a visa to leave the country to sit an exam. In order to get a visa, they have to make an appointment with their embassy. Once they get their appointment, they have to register for the exam and bring printed confirmation. Unable to register for over a week, this user loses the embassy appointment.

Impact1-Visa

Did Vue suffer data loss on top of the outage?
April28-DataLost
A user needing to test for starting a job next week.

Impact2-Job

I know for a fact that I saw dozens more posts with similar problems – physicians unable to go to board exams, nurses unable to work because of results delays. I wish I had thought to screencap more while this was going on, but I didn’t. It appears that those posts were either eaten up by Facebook (yeah right) or deleted by Pearson (likely, but can never be proven).  At least one user wrote a post confirming post removal. None of my posts were deleted.

RemovedOurPosts

As an IT professional, I find this outage appalling. The company states this was started by an upgrade. Every place I’ve ever worked at upgrades during off hours and rolls back on failure. Pearson deployed a faulty upgrade then forced its users to pay the price while programmers scrambled desperately to fix their poorly written code. Pearson Vue’s suggestion that they carefully planned and tested their upgrades is nonsense. A proper load test reveals these kinds of failures. Their post from today ‘inviting’ us to load test their fixed system also points to the fact that they are unable or unwilling to test their own systems.

The fact that this upgrade caused a global outage for both scheduling and test delivery demonstraties critical failures of their architecture. Are the same webservers used for scheduling also used for exam delivery? Could a breach of vue.com could then result in the theft of exam content?  Or instead are they separate servers connected to the same backend database? In any event, their architecture is an abomination. The global failure to deliver exams points to only two possibilities. Do all global Vue delivery centers connect to the same datacenter, meaning the ability to deliver exams globally relies on a single point of failure? If so, this is a catastrophic design flaw. If they do have datacenter redundancy, then they deployed their upgrade across the entire system at the same time. This demonstrates atrocious planning. Why would you risk multiple datacenters with the same upgrade?

Pearson Vue is a billion dollar, Fortune 500 corporation. This kind of an outage is both unacceptable and inexcusable. Considering the power that Vue wields over people’s careers, it’s frightening to witness the depth of ineptitude demonstrated in this disaster.