On the same day that I published a brief history of problems that Pearson, the education giant, has been having with standardized testing (going back years and across a number of states), I learned of yet a new Pearson problem from David Steensma, a doctor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Here’s the e-mail he sent me on Wednesday:
I took the American Board of Internal Medicine Medical Oncology recertification examination earlier today at a Pearson VUE center in the Boston suburb of Waltham, MA. This is an expensive examination that physicians specializing in cancer medicine need to take every 10 years. It is only offered twice a year, and requires us to cancel our clinics for the exam day (in addition to the months of test preparation).
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. So we all waited around idle in hallways and lobbies and stairwells, waiting for information, uncertain if we’d be able to take the exam or would have to clear clinical calendars again and reschedule. We were not seated for the exam until early afternoon despite instructions to present to the test site at 730AM. This was not an issue just with the Waltham MA site (where the poor local proctors tried their best to be kind in a difficult situation out of their control), it was a nationwide outage and affected everyone taking exams today, not just physicians taking ABIM exams (though since our exams are long – 6 to 8 hours – and are offered so rarely, it affected us) or at least everyone taking morning exams.
Personally I am certain that this multi-hour delay affected my performance on the examination, both because of fatigue (I am a “morning person”) as well as emotional upset. I can’t believe they get away with this in 2013!
David Steensma, MD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School