I will start by saying that I passed PPD today and I only have one more section left! Now I will say that I am extremely disappointed in NCARB's decision to switch to PSI. This will be fairly long because I had so many negative experiences. I have been testing in-person because I had a really bad online experience with Prometric, so I thought in-person had less chances for glitches.
Starting with scheduling: There was only one testing center available nearby and it only had one available time slot- Sundays at 9am. Prometric had multiple locations to choose from and time slots every day at multiple times. A huge negative from the start- the next closest was 45 minutes away and it only had one time slot on Tuesdays.. That sure doesn't make any sense to me, especially when this was supposed to be a positive change for us.
I was scheduled to take my exam 2 Sundays ago. I showed up 30 minutes early and no one was there. They have 2 numbers on the door, I called one and talked to customer service for 15 minutes as I paced the parking lot. She couldn't tell me anything or do anything except give me NCARB's number to have me reschedule. Of course, being a Sunday, NCARB was not available. I called the second number because it had an extension number on the end and I thought it might have more direct access to the specific location. It went to a different customer service rep- seems really weird that they have multiple numbers go to the same customer service center.. I realized later that day that they sent me an email at 4:30 on Friday afternoon saying my exam was cancelled (1 day after the "You have an appointment coming up" and less than a day and a half before my 9am exam) I was busy on Friday studying, busy on Saturday studying, too busy to check my personal email because I would never have expected that to happen.
I called NCARB on Monday, which was a much better experience. I had rescheduled the exam, but the closest slot was 3 weeks away, which seriously affected the schedule of my next one. They were able to contact the testing center and get a slot for me 9 days later, and I felt much better about the situation.
Today was exam day, and it did not go smoothly. There was only one woman there, who was very unprofessional and clearly did not know what she was doing. She told everyone to put everything in our cars except our wallets and keys. I had a sweater with me because I didn't know how cold it would be in there, and was told I had to put it on and could never take it off- weird. They did not have lockers and did not have the little baggie as shown in the PSI "prepare for your visit" video. I gave her my ID and she said she couldn't find me in the system... Huge red flag right from the start- I knew I was scheduled, and I made sure to check my e-mail before to make sure I didn't see a cancellation notice. A couple minutes later she found me on the next page or something- phew!
Then I go in and sit down at my computer.. The computer aspect ratio was very narrow and the exam was not ready on the screen, like in the prometric centers. I had to punch in a code that was given to me on a sticky note, and that brought me to the exam screen. I went through the terms and conditions pages at the beginning and something errored out. It took me to an NCARB login page, and I tried to login with no luck. I think it wanted the testing center's log in, but I noticed there was a second tab open on the screen and it took me to the same code screen as before. I put in the code, go through the terms, the exam starts- phew, now I'm ready to roll!
I go through a few questions and noticed the strikethrough and highlight was not working, but that was something I could live without. Then I get to a question that was supposed to have a diagram, but it was all blank. I tried to turn on break mode, but that was not showing up either. I go out and tell the woman my issue, she was checking someone else in and had to finish that first- my time was ticking down was all I could think of... She called their IT people and they remote logged in to the computer and played with the settings to fix it and I continued with just about 8 minutes taken off- fine, as long as everything works.
I get to about the halfway point and need to use the bathroom. I tried to hold it because I don't like taking the breaks and losing all my marked questions to review at the end, but I had to go. I check the time and think I can be pretty quick in and out, and decide to leave the clock rolling. I go out, sign out, go to the bathroom, sign in, and get in within 2 minutes and I noticed that she had turned the break on! So all of my marked answers were locked as well as the question that was up on my screen that I didn't answer first. I was fuming at this point and was sure that I was going to fail because I just forfeited a question with no answer and couldn't go back to any of the marked questions. The whole time after that I couldn't concentrate because I was so mad and thinking about all the people who I needed to contact to get my time and money back if I failed. I almost thought about just leaving in the middle since I was convinced I was going to fail and I didn't want to waste 2 more hours of my life. I tried with all my might to calm down, and I finished the exam with 20 minutes remaining, went back to the few marked questions I could still look at, and left with 15 minutes remaining. I was extremely surprised at the final "you are likely to pass" and it made all the crap better, but I have to do this one more time and I am really not looking forward to it.
The specific location was fine, except the bathroom was gross and had a really sticky floor. My previous prometric site had beautiful all-granite bathrooms that I really enjoyed, so that was definitely missed.
To NCARB: I know it is not likely to switch testing centers again, but please think about making some things better for us with PSI:
-If a last minute cancellation is necessary, please e-mail AND call to ensure we get the memo in time.
-Make sure the testing centers know how to set the computers up properly.
-Let us take breaks without forfeiting our previous answers. My testing center did not allow anything except keys and wallet in the building so there was no way I could take a break and look at any study materials. In-person and online testing is way different to begin with, so it should be treated differently. It is really hard to hold your bladder for 4 hours, and we should not be penalized for having to do so.
-Commas in the calculator would be really nice- I don't know if I have ever seen a calculator without commas except for these exams.
-Both of my case studies had huge drawings that fit the page at 40% and the resolution was so bad it needed to be enlarged at least 150% to read the text. I spent an entire hour on one case study because I had to zoom in and pan around constantly to find anything I needed.
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