Pearson VUE is experiencing server problems that are severely impacting candidates for Cisco Certification and developer exams. To discover the unfolding sage, turn to its Facebook page.
Pearson VUE provides Computer-Based Testing and claims to have the most expansive test center network in the CBT industry with over 5,200 test centers in 162 countries. Cisco recently transferred its exams to Pearson VUE , Udacity uses it for its optional certifications and dozens of IT companies from Adobe to Zend rely on it.
If you aren't currently trying to schedule an exam at a Pearson VUE you might not have been aware of its problems - but it came to the attention of the Washington Post which had already publicized problems Pearson has experience over several years with its testing procedures.
The problem reported by the Washington Post wasn't to do with errors in scoring assessments or wrong answers in tests it was due to a problem with Pearson’s central server in Iowa which meant that its test centers could not operate that resulted in cancer specialists who are required to take a 6-8 hour recertification exam which is only offered twice a year having to wait for 5 hours before the exam could start.
At least the oncologist who reported this fiasco was eventually able to take his examination, although he reckoned that the delay affected his performance, many others have been unable to use exam vouchers which have expired due to server problems.
At the present moment this is the message that greets those who visit the Pearson VUE website:
A link that is supposed to provide more information simply repeats the "experiencing delays ... working diligently to resolve issues" message and provides a link to telephone numbers - which of course are also overloaded.
This Important Information page also reposts the latest official entry on the Pearson VUE Facebook site which reveals:
It's a complicated situation since our systems are operational—just not performing optimally—and we don't want to jeopardize the existing functionality as we work to get back to normal.
Looking back through the Facebook timeline it is possible to see the history of this outage:
- Monday 22nd April
Some customers are currently experiencing issues with our website and are not able to log into their accounts.
- Tuesday 23rd April
Our website and booking system are now operating fully! We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you and thank you for your patience.
- Wednesday 24th April
We’re sorry that some candidates are still experiencing difficulties accessing their accounts online. We have just migrated to faster servers and this seems to have caused a temporary glitch for some users. ... We’ll keep you posted when this is resolved.
- Thursday 25th April
For US test-takers, we understand there have been cases of delays in delivering exams in some test centers. At this time we are scheduling US candidate appointments for Monday 29th April or later. Please bear with us, there may be long wait times at our call center.
While we don't have a timeframe yet for when the issue will be completely resolved, we truly regret the inconvenience and are working around-the-clock on it.
- Friday 26th April
We are continuing our efforts to restore normal service as quickly as possible. We are in the midst of implementing recommendations by our internal and external technology experts, but it is too soon to know how quickly this will improve system performance. Please note that there will likely be additional variations in system performance as we implement these changes.
The latest Facebook messages were posted after Slashdot picked up on the story and do at least make an attempt to make it sound as if someone is now taking would-be exam candidates concerns seriously. An "official" post concludes:
We fully appreciate that many of you have been significantly impacted by the circumstances over the past several days, and we will increase testing capacity and operational support to accommodate scheduling and/or rescheduling of those affected as quickly as possible once normal system performance is restored.
Perhaps a more interesting development is that individuals posting on Faceboook are now receiving replies that have a personal touch and give Pearson a "human" face:
What are the lessons to be learned from this?
We all know that server problems can cause havoc and that trying to resolve problems of under performance/under capacity while trying to maintain a partial service is difficult. In Pearson VUE situation of trying to cater for a worldwide user base things are particularly difficult.
It also tells us something about the power of social media and the press - the Washington Post and Slashdot do appear to have motivated Pearson VUE to try harder to seem responsive to its user base.
And it also serves as a reminder not to leave taking exams till the voucher deadline.