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Pearson Vue Now On Day 5 of Massive Outage 151

Posted by timothy
from the failure-to-fail-gracefully-compounds-the-problem dept.
Reader Patrick In Chicago is one of a few readers to write with this unpleasant news: "Computer-based testing provider Pearson Vue is now in day 5 of a global outage, preventing test-takers worldwide from sitting for exams. I was personally turned away from a Cisco exam on Wednesday morning because Pearson was unable to deliver. Countless people have posted to Pearson Vue's Facebook page detailing various states of panic. There are people who have certifications expiring. Others are unable to sit their medical board exams. Still others are unable to sit exams that they are required to pass in order to work — Pearson Vue's incompetence has actually prevented people from going out and making a paycheck." This reminds me of a friend of mine who had to wait half a year to re-take his bar exam, because of a software glitch on the part of ExamSoft's software.
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Pearson Vue Now On Day 5 of Massive Outage

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  • quality software strikes again!

  • UK Driving License (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:31PM (#43550699)

    Pearson Vue also administer the theory component of the UK driving test.

    It's not mentioned in TFA, does anybody know if there were affected also?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:49PM (#43550827)

      Yup, there's a bug in there which tells everyone taking the test to drive on the wrong side of the road!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      "Pearson Vue also administer the theory component of the UK driving test."

      Wait... What???

      How much "theory" do you need to know in order to drive in the UK? Do you have to explain how Ackerman Steering works, or what?

      • by adolf (21054)

        "theory component" == "written test"

      • by Canazza (1428553)

        Highway code, road safety, don't put diesel in a petrol car, that kind of thing.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        In the UK, not only do we have a theory/written test, we also have a practical test which involves more than starting the engine, putting it in drive and going round the block without actually killing ourselves, which I believe is the essential format of the US driving exam.
        • by Medievalist (16032) on Friday April 26, 2013 @09:47AM (#43555441)

          In the USA, we have a driving test, which includes both driving with an observer and answering written questions. No parts of this test are considered to be in any way theoretical, which is why the previous poster was baffled by the reference to a "theory" test.

          If you really want to get them confused, tell them you left your lorry on the hard standing with the bonnet up to fool the peelers whilst you spent a penny in the loo.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Pearson Vue also administer the theory component of the UK driving test.

      It's not mentioned in TFA, does anybody know if there were affected also?

      I always wondered how I managed to score 65 out of 50 in my theory test.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A provider of network certification exams experiencing a service outage.

    Though, I have to ask, what exactly is the issue here? When I took a Cisco exam, everything seemed local, can't they simply say "thanks for taking the exam, we'll email/mail/call you with the results when they become available"?

    • by iCEBaLM (34905)

      Not lately, I took the CCNA a year ago, and not only is the test delivered over the internet, but they video you taking the test, and ship it all back to cisco for "validation" before you're actually certified.

    • Re:Funny (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:15PM (#43551005)

      I took my CCNA exam there last year. Halfway through, one of the simulations completely froze... absolutely nothing would respond other than the timer continuing to count down. I had the woman running the exam come in and check it out, she agreed that it wasn't supposed to completely freeze up. They refused to let me refund or reschedule the exam.

      • Re:Funny (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bremic (2703997) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @09:16PM (#43551783)

        This is actually very common for Pearson Vue, and I have never heard of them allowing someone to take the exam again without having to pay full price. It happens so often I wonder if it's part of the revenue stream.
        Basically.. "People need certification for work or they wont earn their income, so if we screw them they have no choice but to pay again to get it complete. If this happens to 2% of people, we get an instant revenue bump from those people paying twice."
        It's fraud, but no one seems to want to do anything about it.

      • Re:Funny (Score:5, Informative)

        by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @10:14PM (#43552051)
        She can't refund you there, because you didn't pay her. You paid Vue, so you must go to them for the refund. Silly, I know, but that's how it works. She should have gotten out her Vue test center 800 number and called support, and if Vue support can't fix it remotely, then you get your money back.

        I used to work at a test center (also a VAR and training center).
        • I did go to them. I called up the number she gave me to get a refund/reschedule as soon as I got home. They called her and got her side of the story. A week later, I got their decision - computers freezing up is "expected behavior".

          • by TheSpoom (715771)

            Sounds like an excellent opportunity for a class action lawsuit.

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            Ah, they must have changed policy or procedure. When I worked at a testing center, they'd call during the test, and if it prevented completion of the test (including "expected behavior) then it was a refund.
      • by Vlado (817879)

        It must have been a shitty exam center. They were supposed to report the issue on your behalf and arrange a re-schedule for you for free.

    • A provider of network certification exams experiencing a service outage.

      Though, I have to ask, what exactly is the issue here? When I took a Cisco exam, everything seemed local, can't they simply say "thanks for taking the exam, we'll email/mail/call you with the results when they become available"?

      In a sense, some of the same perverse incentives that drive fiascos like the EA/SimCity server-meltdown launch are probably at work with a testing company:

      The greater the local storage of exams and answer keys, the easier it would be for them to leak, and the easier it would be for local employees/franchised locations to provide off-the-book 'services', for their own personal gain. The more you tie to HQ(eg. certainly don't have scoring capabilities onsite, ideally have only thin clients that dial in to HQ)

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      It's not, they batch the exam download for the night before, based on the next day's schedule.
    • Everything is not local. The testing location's servers must be able to contact Vue's servers when the exam is launched.
    • Re:Funny (Score:4, Informative)

      by Vlado (817879) on Friday April 26, 2013 @05:32AM (#43553991) Homepage

      It is partially local and partially remote.

      Local admin station downloads the test before you take it and serves it to the test stations where you take it. This prevents connectivity issues from affecting you when you're already taking the exam. In such scenario you could complete exam, be scored however your results wouldn't be submitted to the VUE servers until connectivity is restored.

      However if the admin station is unable to download the exams in the first place, then you cannot even start the exam.

  • Aye, The Rub! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:33PM (#43550717) Homepage Journal

    ... and therein lies the issue with essential certification being tied in to a proprietary, privately owned-and-managed system.

    • by khallow (566160)

      ... and therein lies the issue with essential certification being tied in to a proprietary, privately owned-and-managed system.

      The issue is? Seriously, who does this better?

      • Well... I haven't heard of a 5+ day Prometric outage, for one.
    • No matter what your ideology, it's pretty silly to claim that your preselected worldview is somehow meaningfully supported by a single data point.

      • by KGIII (973947)

        True but does each missed test (and the resulting effects on those who may have passed them) count as data points on their own or is the one large outage a single data point? Sometimes we have to refine and dig deeper to see a trend or spot a problem.

    • >privately owned-and-managed system

      I despise Pearson Vue and their heavy-handed tactics. There has to be a more practical way to determine certification than those hacks.

      As for their outage, I feel sorry for anyone who has to reschedule but the company can suck shit and die.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I had this image of a manager standing over an employee watching a clock, then saying "times up, your certificate has expired, please pack your things and leave."

      • by swalve (1980968)
        Once some certifications expire, the recertification path is often much more difficult. I just had a problem with a certification expiration that prevented me from doing my job until I completed the test.
    • by kwbauer (1677400)

      Of course your sig says everything we need to know. If only the government controlled everything then we'd all be free. Except we wouldn't because the government would know every thing about us.

      Have you ever stopped to wonder how much less privacy you would have from the government if the government controlled Google, Facebook, Amazon, your local porn shop, your corner drug dealer, etc.?

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Have you ever stopped to wonder how much less privacy you would have from the government if the government controlled Google, Facebook, Amazon, your local porn shop, your corner drug dealer, etc.?

        I don't know about you, but I don't put dangerously self-incriminating material on the internet. Although I'm sure if I admitted to a terrorist outrage on facebook, I'd be in just as much trouble whether Mark Zuckenberg or the government was in control, if it was true.

        As for drug dealers, if they're illegal then they're obviously not going to be under government control, any more than hitmen are. What is your point there?

  • But I see no massive outrage there.

    • I tried to look at their Facebook page but the entire Facebook site appears to be down. If Slashdot managed to trash Facebook, you can bet your toasted hard drives that there will be outrage, panic and Congressional Blue Ribbon committees.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      But I see no massive outrage there.

      Is this a sign that "nothing of value was lost"?

  • And why are Object Oriented languages and Windows a good pair :-), For every developer who supports Objected Oriented language, this outage is for you, OO Languages!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not sure if trolling... or just wildly delusional and somehow entrusted with a keyboard...

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      eh? what major OS is NOT used to run OO languages?

    • by KGIII (973947)

      I am, at least a little, willing to listen.

      I don't get it. Please explain where you're coming from and what you're trying to express (clearly and use short words 'cause I'm dumb) with this statement.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Murdoch5 (1563847)
        This is most likely a software and platform bug, from my experience which is a fair bit the majority of software bugs are generated from OO based languages and programmers who don't really understand computer arch. So I'm willing to just go ahead and blame all the programmers who think languages like C++, C# and Java are good ideas, and who think Windows is a good platform to use to run anything. I'm willing to bet if this entire system was based on C and ran in a pure Linux environment it would be fine
        • by KGIII (973947)

          Thank you. I was sure you had a reason. I am unable to agree with that reasoning with the scant evidence at hand and your conclusions seem like huge leaps and maybe even blaming a language for the error that is people but I can see where you're coming from now.

        • As somebody who does have a clue about system architecture, computer architecture, and programming languages....

          The very simple reason that the majority of bugs are generated from OO languages is that the majority of software is written in OO languages. That doesn't mean that OO languages are any worse to write code in. I do think C++ is a good idea in a wide range of applications, and I do think modern Windows, despite my complaints about it, is a perfectly adequate platform. (And some of my complain

  • This is what happens when there is no competition in this industry, reliance on a single provider can cripple you if there is no alternative. It boggles my mind that we trust private for-profit corporations to design and administer tests.

    Since there isn't much hope of a government testing center solution, perhaps an alliance of professionals should agree on a set of standards. Those standards would be open and would allow institutions to bid the work out to multiple contractors. When you have one contrac

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:22PM (#43551043)
      There are mutliple testing centers, but they are all exclusive. Prometric offers The Open Group testing, so you can still take a test and get TOGAF certified if you want, but Cisco is apparently available exclusively on Vue, and most seem to be that way, where only one tester delivers any single test, but there are multiple options for testing. No idea how it got to that without illegal collusion, but that's what we have now.
      • by kwbauer (1677400)

        Uhhhh... maybe Vue offered Cisco lower costs or more profit than Prometric. Stating it must be the result of illegal collusion is like saying that Culvers carries only Pepsi soda is a sign of illegal collusion.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          If Vue is so much better, why does Prometric have about half the market?

          Stating it must be the result of illegal collusion is like saying that Culvers carries only Pepsi soda is a sign of illegal collusion.

          Back in the day, it was. Both Pepsi and Coke have been investigated for exclusive contracts, and Intel and MS have been convicted for it. It's illegal even if a non-monopoly does it, but it is generally only investigated in monopoly situations.

          Vue and Prometric have split the market pretty evenly, and have (as far as I can tell from a quick scan) no overlap. It's unnatural, and hasn't happened in the past without illegal collusion

  • by RobbieCrash (834439) * on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:53PM (#43550849)

    But if your job is dependent on you having a certification, would you really leave it to the last 3 days of your certs validity to do the test? What if you fail, most certs have a minimum retry period of a week or so, don't they? Isn't this just a semi-inconvenient thing rather than the economy crushing madness the summary makes it out to be?

    • by galimore (461274) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:58PM (#43550883)

      I think you're mixing two different things.

      1) Some people have certifications expiring.

      In many cases, if you certify a higher level certification, it will renew your older lower ranked certificate. But if your certification expires, you won't be able to take the higher level certification because that lower level certification is required to take the higher level.

      So yes, in this case, people are being somewhat lazy, and frankly most companies would work with you on this.

      2) Some people need a certification to be able to work.

      This might mean that some people are unable to start working (i.e. take a job with a company) until they pass their certification.

      This is a different issue altogether, and has nothing to do with laziness on the part of the test taker.

      • Didn't think of your second point. Fair enough.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Some "certifications" require continuing education, and some standardized testing is used to prove that CE. It's conceivable that a CPA (or AMA or Bar) member could lose the right to practice if they didn't take a test in time, though most try not to push it that close to the cutoff.
          • by Fuzzums (250400)

            And some certificates just expire after two years and are replaced by something totally new *coughM$*

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              MS doesn't do that. I got my MCSE back when they had no expiration date. MS may now assert that I'm not an MCSE because I passed it in 1998, but in 1998, under the terms at the time, 6 tests = MCSE for life. I have a non-expiring certificate for MCSE I can use at any time to prove it. I also have expired CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, CCSP, and CCDPs to grumble at Cisco for. A new test every 2 years, of they all go away. Oh yeah, the port numbers for DNS change every year, so you gotta keep on top of all that. Ye
              • by Canazza (1428553)

                Yeah, but good luck getting any free stuff out of Microsoft with a 15 year old MSCE certificate. That's the reason everyone takes the tests right? To get free software?

      • Not everybody with a lapsing cetification is lazy. Some entire COUNTRIES don't have a Pearson Vue center. There was one post on the FB page of a lady who had to first make an appointment to get a visa with her government. Once they finally get around to granting the appointment, she has to book the exam. But she hasn't been able to book the exam in 5 days, and her appointment time for the visa came and went. She won't be able to get visa in time to certify prior to expiration. On the Cisco front... it's no
    • There are many exams that are only open for a specific window of time, you either pass them in the window or you're out of luck.
  • by shadowofwind (1209890) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:54PM (#43550863)

    for a few weeks about ten years ago. I'm about 90% sure it was for Pearson. Some of the answers in the key weren't even right. When I tried to politely point this out I was punished for insubordination.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I've taken many standardized exams in my life and I've noticed that their purpose is to differentiate students. A fixed percentage are failed, regardless of score, and a fixed percentage pass. As all students look fairly similar, the test is the major determinant of your opportunities, but there's nothing to corroborate with the results. You could give scientists an exam on the history of the Byzantine Empire and it'd work just as well for that purpose (and since essentially everyone is competent, having

      • by swalve (1980968)
        Some tests have to be that way. There are only so many slots, and the top X test takers get accepted.
  • Their logo appears to be the same font as my woefully overpriced Pearson textbooks. That does not amuse me.
  • I took the second part of the CompTIA A+ exam on Friday through Pearson. I had no idea I was barely dodging the nonfunctional bullet.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can think the suits who don’t really understand technology and why we need redundant systems and links.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:40PM (#43551179)
    I mean it's long been expired but I still don't want any shit.

    I worked for Pearson several years ago. I had a small start-up company that specialized in courseware systems. The deal with Pearson was small, only around 500k to build a custom courseware system. Our team worked our hearts out desperately trying to get this product to market. We only took a small payment up-front and the rest was due on completion.

    When the product was finished Pearson threw their team of lawyers at us when we tried to get the rest of what was due. They completely fucked us over, so badly that the company disbanded and all of us had to find new jobs without pay. I would bet that this is a similar situation.
    • That would be your own fault or the fault of your employer! It is absolutely imperative to have a legal contract. Any software firm or even independent developer or web designer needs to have their own lawyer and accountant. Otherwise you get screwed. To do business with large corporations, it should be required. You should always do the following:

      1. If they try to get you to sign a blanket contract have your own lawyer review it.
      2. If you join a conference call and find they have a lawyer on the call

  • Wait, There is no testing? Theirs always more testing to do and I was promised cake.

  • When doing maintenance in the data-center it is best practice to do one the following :
    A: Run through the halls screaming downtime
    B: Notify relevant parties of downtime and schedule appropriately
    C: Give up, it runs a windows NT box that has never seen an update from Microsoft and its run by a really old guy that often falls asleep in the data-center but management doesn't care because when he croaks he's taking the whole company with him because no one know's how the hell that thing works.
  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/25/yet-a-new-pearson-problem-with-testing/ [washingtonpost.com]
    Today, due to a problem with Pearson’s central server in Iowa, the test centers could not operate and we were not allowed into the test center for 5 hours after the scheduled time.

    Based on this article it appears the service has not been down entirely for 5 days.

    • I'm sorry, but a 5 hour delay is NOT "up, but at a reduced capacity" at they claim. Failing to deliver an EIGHT HOUR exam for 5 hours is an outage. You show up at 7AM and the exam can't be run until noon? So you're taking an exam until 8PM? Ridiculous. People all over the globe are unable to schedule or reschedule exams. They are showing up at testing centers only to be turned away because the center can't deliver the exam - Pearson's servers are unreachable. Calls to customer service offer no assistance
  • by shuz (706678) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @11:47PM (#43552475) Homepage Journal

    In my particular line of work a 4-5+ hour outage would make most national media news. Careful planning goes not into daily run but also what to do in the event of a major outage and backup plans including dr failover. If Pearson is this important and has far reaching and potential legal obligations to provide testing services, I would expect them to have plans to recover from anything short of a well distributed and targeted nuclear attack. That is the mindset of mission critical enterprise IT. I can't pass judgement of Pearson's infrastructure because I don't work there and we certainly don't have all the facts but this likely will be a huge wake up call to their Management. It should also be a huge opportunity for an outside IT contracting company to do an audit of their plans.

    • That's really the core of the problem. They claim that they're fully up, just at diminished capacity. Some people are managing to squeeze exams in here and there. Some people are managing to schedule or reschedule. But many people are being turned away from testing centers. Many people can't reschedule anything. Calls to customer service result in "Sorry, we can't get into the system either."
    • My money is on a major backend upgrade gone foobar and somehow foobarring the rollback (if they even considered rollbacki?!?!?!). Either that or their prod is completely hosed somehow (fire etc.) and they've had to switch on their never properly tested, not properly built or scoped DR that was just put in to tick some audit by a non IT person putting a check next to a box.

      A break-fix does not take 5 days to resolve, not even a large SAN.

      I've seen some rank amateurish behaviour by enterprises with multi mill

    • by Thyamine (531612)
      I have seen several large organizations that think or try to plan for HA, but never test it. And in some cases there is a very nebulous 'well, we fail over' type of plan. Nothing detailed, and nothing specific. I've only had one customer who actually went through the process of a complete restore/DR test. Most seem to hope that it just won't be needed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @12:51AM (#43552741)

    I used to work with a few companies that work with Pearson, so we often had to integrate with their systems, consume their data, talk to their people, etc.

    I laugh at this article because it is hardly surprising. A huge chunk of their services are built on some of the worst Indian programmer spaghetti crap in Java you have ever seen. At one point, one of the major testing companies I was working with had to build web services to exchange some data with them. They couldn't figure out simple things like using SSL, encoding in UTF-8, and not making things completely proprietary for no reason. They used to put up huge SOAP feeds where you'd get almost a meg of data and really the only useful value anyone would need would be 1 true/false. I've seen worse, but just barely.

    Even more scary is how they treat personally identifiable information (PII). Avoiding correlating PII with results and tests is huge in that industry, and they have no clue. I've never seen a company staffed with so many inept people. They are only out for your cash and don't care about anything else. That's why so many of their tests and labs also look straight out of 1994 still.

    This company is a joke. As a customer, I also was billed before several times when canceling the exam. Their cancelation system went down in part, but it was still registered as cancelled, but sent out no email. They claimed since I didn't have the email, no money back. So I asked that because their system broke, I have to pay? Yes. Unbelievable. Prometric isn't much better so they can get away with this kind of shady stuff.

    I for one hope they burn, or at least draw attention from consumer rights organizations.

  • Their mistakes have multiplied greatly over the past 5 years, ranging from basic testing errors that wiped out the hopes for several thousand students, to outages that shackled tens of thousands of applicants for a variety of programs, not just in the academic field.

    Questions abound over how they managed to obtain half-billion dollar contracts with states. This stems from non-profit organizations that are attached to the corporate body itself. Plus the heavy-handed lobbying and borderline monopoly they have

  • Remember all those /. threads with massive rants about "a college degree is just a dumbass piece of paper and only real-world experience is what matters"? So why are we accepting (or why are employers so stupid as to accept) that only with a particular certification exam can someone be hired or retained?
    Aside from the absurdity of most or all of these cert. exams, and I'm including bar exams and medical board-recerts, there's really no excuse for an employer who doesn't just say, "Oh, gosh, the test site

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