PSI Test Center Experience

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    NCARB

    Hi Virginia,

    Please report your experience to NCARB's Customer Service team as soon as you can. Thank you for your post. 

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    Rebekka O'Melia

    Virginia,

    Wow!  Sorry this happened to you.  This is unacceptable.  Some of my clients have had similar bad experiences.  Contact NCARB for a seat credit within 14 days of your exam.

    This is the link to report issues:  https://www.ncarb.org/contact-us#:~:text=You%20can%20contact%20us%20by,and%20completing%20the%20form%20below.

    Click on the 'Test Center/Exam Issues' button.  Their response time is not good either.

    I'd definitely go to a different testing center next time too.

    Good luck!  

    Rebekka O'Melia, Registered Architect, NCARB, B. Arch, M. Ed, Step UP,  Step UP ARE 5.0 Courses

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    Virginia Rogers

    Rebekka,

    Thanks. I did send one to the customer service line. I heard from ther tester who had gone to another place that one I was at was better. This is really hard. There is a liminted number in Boston (which you would not think there would be in a major US city) and it seems my options are limited. I plan to try some more further out and hope for the best.

    Virginia

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    Taylor Cook Di Mattia

    I am in Hawai'i and the PSI center here was terrible as well. The Prometric center was way more relaxing and accommodating. It sounds like the same issues you had. I would take it online if I had to take more tests. 

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    Virginia Rogers

    Taylor,

    Sorry to hear you are having a tough time too. I am thinking about going online. There is one more location that I will give a try before giving up and going online. Part of why I have resisted going online is that I have ADHD and often have to "mouth" the questions to better understand them and I heard that you get in trouble online for doing that. So here is hoping that the other test center is ok. 

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    Keith Hayes (Edited )

    Virginia, 

     

    I have had back-to-back issues with a PSI center as well (where the computer freezes up during case studies while the clock continues to run, which is nothing shy of nerve-racking after you've been testing for 3 plus hours).

    Ultimately NCARB ought to be held accountable for failing to audit its exam centers to make sure the equipment can load its exams. Asking candidates pursuing licensure to have to navigate all this nonsense during and after the exams is simply unacceptable; the time and resources we put into preparing for an exam that NCARB and PSI cannot fairly administer is a problem. Further, the delays to re-test because of the fault of NCARB not ensuring the exams are capable of running on computers where it is offered is inexcusable from a professional association.

    Are you aware of the 75% policy that attempts to mitigate the technical difficulties that seem to be all too common at their testing centers? It can be found on page 34 of this PDF: https://www.ncarb.org/sites/default/files/ARE-5-Guidelines.pdf

    In closing, I appreciate you acknowledging and sharing that you have experienced issues with the testing facitlity. If you'd like to touch base about how you are pursuing a resolution with NCARB outside of this forum, don't hesitate to email me: hayes.keith@gmail.com. I would be happy to share what I've heard back from NCARB and eager to learn what you've heard as well. 

    Good luck on future exams!

     

     

    Keith

     

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    Jillian Huntress

    Do you mind sharing what testing center that happened at? I am located in the Boston area and have my first PSI test scheduled in Norwood. Honestly i don't think i would pass if that happened to me during my test.

    thanks so much for sharing!

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    Keith Hayes (Edited )

    Jillian:

     
    I had two negative experiences at Beachwood, a PSI testing center in NE Ohio.  Because there is nowhere else to re-test without waiting several weeks, I drove 250 miles to get to a test center in SW Ohio, asking NCARB to verify that the computer met specifications before I would take the exam.  What is UNREAL is that NCARB called ahead to the test center in SW Ohio and emailed per the attached to confirm that everything met their technical specs and I should have a "stellar experience" (see below). The confirmation that the "site was equipped" as relayed by the (vice) Vice President of Customer Relations at NCARB was also entirely fictitious.
     
     
    When I arrived to the exam center and took my test I encountered MORE technical errors (delays in drawings loading while the clock keot running, resolution issues not allowing me to see room numbers in case studies, as well as the screen turning white and locking me out at question 85). As I result I fell just short of passing this makeup exam, which was a re-take due to the SAME thing happening two weeks prior! 
     
    This computer did not even come close to meeting NCARB's own criteria; when I looked at the workstation, it was from 2005 (as shown in th highlighted area) and was downgraded from Windows Vista to XP!! As supporting evidence here is the machine I took this exam on:
     
     
    On the other hand, here are the specs that NCARB supposedly requires its test centers to meet as the minimum criteria.
     
    https://content.psionline.com/ncarb
     
    ARE 5.0 Guidelines start at page 25 for online testing reminders 
     
    Improve Your Online Testing Experience With These Tips
     
    SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
    Operating System

    Windows 8.1, 10

    (Not 10s or 10 in s mode)

    macOS X 10.13.6 or higher
    (New OS supported within 30 days
    of release)
    Screen Resolution

    1368 x 769 or higher (PSI's minimum recommended)

    1920 x 1080 (NCARB's recommended)

    Bandwidth

    Minimum 300kbps (PSI minimum recommended)

    Minimum 3mbps (NCARB's requirement)

    Camera & Mic

    Must be functional and available for testing.

    Must be external and include autofocus capability.

     
    PSI Bridge is not currently supported on Chromebooks, tablets, or mobile devices.
     
    It is incredibly discouraging to prepare for an exam, one that required significant travel and overnight accommodations, ultimately to arrive ready to go, ONLY to realize (after sitting through a 4+ hour examination) that the computer is not capable of administering the exam. THEN it becomes the CANDIDATE'S responsibility to do all of the reporting; if you chose to do nothing, NCARB will keep your $235 test fee, and force you to wait 60 days to reschedule.
     
    Another complete falsehood from NCARB was that I would be able to re-test this week if I by any chance were to encounter any technical errors at the aforementioned testing center.  After hours of correspondence, NCARB has still yet to locate another seat to attempt this test for the 3rd time; I cannot re-schedule myself (even if online proctoring) in anything less than a week.
     
    I have been and will continue elevating these concerns to the state board of Ohio, as I have now had three straight exams that have been administered on dated equipment with Windows XP when the minimum specification as you can see is Windows 8 or 10. There are legitimate technical issues, and one could argue ethical misconduct as well. 
     
    I will continue to share these horrific experiences and would CAUTION all test takers to CHECK THE EQUIPMENT at PSI test centers before jeopardizing your ability to PASS ARE exams, because NCARB won't (even when they say they did).
     
    There is no accountability for these egregious errors and all the time and resources NCARB is costing its candidates. The fact that NCARB gets away with testing professionals who have spent years qualifying themselves to take these exams, not to mention several weeks preparing for these exams, which are administered on SUCH outdated machines (14-17 years old) is completely outrageous. 
     
    If NCARB wants to maintain any credibility, its need to take responsibility NOW, not in 6 months.  It MUST figure out how to keep time on an exam, because it cannot administer its timed exams in the specified time for each division.
     
    Its singular policy to handle errors is a complete joke, as the technical errors often do not manifest until well beyond the time when 75% of questions have been viewed. And even if you know the policy going in, there is little to no recourse to reschedule an exam in short order.  This all needs to be automated and all PSI test centers need to be AUDITED immediately.
     
    With all the reported errors in these discussions, it is hard to believe the Registration Board for our profession is still failing to administer exams equitably, particularly given it continues to negatively impact aspiring professionals across 55 states and territories. If you have found yourself in similar circumstances, I would encourage you to contact your own state board as was recommended to me in another thread.
     
    In closing, when it comes to administering the ARE 5.0, NCARB is an absolute disaster!
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    Virginia Rogers

    Hi Jillian,

    I went to the one in Norwood, MA. The staff were nice, but as stated above the facility was poor. I am trying Bridgewater State college. I am hoping since it is a college that they will be a little better about their facilities and computer systems. 

    I am not sure why NCARB thought leaving Prometric was good. But if there was a petition circulating to move to somewhere else besides PSI, I would gladly sign it. 

    Hope you did well on your test!

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    Michael Riscica

    Please share your experiences with NCARB and PSI with your state boards. 

    There isnt much they can do, but if you don't tell them what's going on, they just assume everything is going great. 

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    Keith Hayes (Edited )

    Even after discussing the concerns in the ARE 5.0 exam administration with the Secretary of the Board at NCARB, my experience remains a complete & utter disaster. 

    NCARB does not set out to make sure their tests are administered correctly, instead, per Michael's comment above, they just assume everything is going great.  When you as the candidate become subject to their assumptions, things really start to go downhill. 

    NCARB's Customer Relations staff is inadequate, ineffective, and insensitive, at best. These individuals have no ability to rectify issues with testing, they are merely the front line to NCARB's poor decision to contract with PSI to administer their exams. At worst, they will insult you and tell you that your are unprepared, and give unsolicitied coaching and criticism, which is where things stand currently. They will extend a courtesy seat credit and act like they are doing you a favor. I had to excuse myself from the most recent follow up phone call because they choose to do their gaslighting during business hours (no less) which continues to negatively hamper my availability to the commitments I have to clients and teammates at work.

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    I had my final two exams (PPD + PDD) scheduled this past weekend because it was the soonest I could schedule beyond 3 consecutive invalidated attempts prior.  Despite a number of commitents to do so, not one of NCARB Customer Relations team has assisted with re-scheduling in short order after previous invalidated exams, resulting in the back-to-back exams scheduled this past weekend to try and complete testing for licensure.  Ultimately, NCARB and PSI's inability to administer exams is consequential as I cannot complete nor PASS an exam until this is fixed.  This problem has lasted over 8 weeks already.

    Because of the back-to-back and concern that tests may not be able to be administered at PSI centers, my fifth test was pushed back a week (less than 24 hours of it being administered); I decided to try my luck with a new testing center in Middleburg Heights, OH for my PDD test, the result of which was a 4th consecutive technical difficulty at a PSI test center this past weekend.  Not only can PSI not administer an exam without the computer freezing, but NCARB takes ZERO responsibility for the issues with equipment or proctoring at its testing centers.

    So what happened this time?

    As noted, the PPD test I had scheduled last Friday was moved to an online proctor to avoid the known issues with PSI; unfortunately the soonest this could be rescheduled without costing me additional time away from the office is on my Thansgiving holiday, this upcoming Friday. I had PDD scheduled this past Saturday, to which NCARB Customer Relations staff member promised I would have not problems and to remain positive in my approach. The staffperson provided their contact information, and instructed me to call if ANYTHING went awry at my PPD test this past Saturday. 

    Go figure....I went to a PSI test center and I AGAIN experienced and documented multiple techical errors with the questions failing to load and locking up between questions!  This time computers were not visible so I could not document the age of the workstation. As I began testing, however, I could not advance questions without consistent delays of up to a minute wherein the time would be deducted once the question loaded, meaning there was significant and consistent interruption which withdrew time to complete the exam. Per protocol, I raised my hand while testing to report the issue(s) approximately half a dozen times while waiting for the exam to load; not one of three proctors on the other side of a pane of glass came to check in.  Eventually, I was able to flag down a proctor who witnessed the issue of the questions not loading and claimed she'd be right back.  I continued onwards with the same issues for another 20-30 minutes.  With no proctors returning, I was forced to use my break prior to 75% of the questions (forfeiting my ability to go back and answer questions) to call NCARB as instructed in advance; despite what was promised to me be NCARB, no one answered the call. None of the three proctors at PSI, despite knowing of the issues with my exams prior, were enabled to make any adjustments to the time lost, nor was their off site PSI supervisor they asked me to speak with. In fact, the one proctor that witnessed the issue on my computer was on lunch break.  That supervisor confirmed they do not have direct contact with NCARB; this is further evidence of the lack of communication and management of NCARBs' subsidiaries. I waited the 45 minutes to see if NCARB would call back to address the situation (before my allowed break expired). Nothing.

    As such, I had to walk out of another exam to ensure I did not fall victim to another ARE 5.0 catastrophe, that being falling a point or two shy because NCARB nor its subsidiaries have equipment that can administer an exam or keep time.  In doing so, another 4 hour block, not to mention all the prep that it took to prepare for this nonsense.  Last week, in preparation of these back-to-back exams, I took three days off work to prepare.  Where am I now?  The one that NCARB failed to administer Saturday has yet to be invalidated and reinstated; the other postponed test will cause me to have to cancel Thanksgiving plans.  

    What follows is next level unprofessionalism: NCARB followed up with me by phone Monday morning questioning why I did not finish the exam?!  I suggested they ought to review the circumstances of the report made by myself to the proctor and supervisor before continuing to interrupt me at work. Despite all of my issues being reported and acknowledged by the PSI test center, all of which is on camera, now they want me to recount the 4th consecutive nightmare during business hours. 

    In fact, a co-worker who tested at the same PSI location yesterday had the exact same issues with questions not advancing. Here you go NCARB:

    Customer Relations took this even further erroneously claiming I only had one more chance to pass the exam within 12 months, which is inconsistent with its own policies. Because of the age of machines not meeting the specs and/or technical issues caused, I should have all three attempts left until NCARB can administer an exam on a machine that meets its own specifications. However, NCARB has also failed to track or rectify this in my record as well.

    Then Customer Relations accused me of being unprepared for the exam, when I obviously have been spending considerable time advocating for a fair testing center rather than studying for exam material, as I am doing now instead of preparing for my PPD exam Friday.  NCARB pointing out that my time spend on this (when everything was recorded for your review and reported) means time away from my own preparations.  I am well aware of the time it takes away from re-preparing for NCARB's next fluke.  Believe it or not, Customer Relations then conjectured on how poorly I did on the exam, stating that I had only passed one of 5 sections, in an attempt to support its claim that I was not prepared!

    In reality, I was on track to PASS (again, per my post here); despite only answering 72 or 73 of the questions this time, without any opportunity to review what I had flagged, I scored a 457.  By my calculations, I could have passed if scoring only 50% of the remaining questions correctly.  And with ARE 5.0 you don't have to pass all 5 sections, your composite score just needs to be above the cut score.

    Now, you would think after this many disasters of its own creation, NCARB may consider an alternative to allowing a test taker to finish or retest within 72 hours. Sound reasonable? Think again. It takes them no less than 2 weeks to document their own problems. In other words, NCARB pawns off its problems administering exams on candidates trying to become licensed.  

    Beyond NCARB's Customer Relations team not understanding its own exam, expicit policies, nor their role in delaying/jeopardizing aspiring professionals, it adds insult to injury to penalize candidates who have invested significant time to prepare for an exam that couldn't be administered, not once but 4 consecutive times, and now across 6 of 9 ARE exams taken over the course of the last year. As such, I informed the Customer Relations person on the phone Monday morning that if no solution could be achieved beyond my own ability to log on and re-schedule, that I needed to return my focus back to job that has already, and will continue to be negatively impacted by this process so long as it continues.

    To date, I have spoken with at least 6 different associates at Customer Relations, none of them empowered to do anything beyond a courtesy credit.  I have spent hundreds of hours preparing for dates in which no score could be validated, and several more reporting these issues, and they ask that I stay positive when nothing has changed - these issues have occured in no less than 4 different Prometric and PSI testing facilities (Akron, Middleburg Heights, Hamilton, and Mentor). The Ohio State Board has done nothing; the Secretary of NCARB has acknowledged the issue, but provided no resolution, not after the 3rd consecutive time; no resolution after 72 hours of the 4th consecutive time has been proposed either. Does NCARB care? While they claim to, it is evident by the evidence of my experience to date, that they do not.

    Why do I continue posting rather than preparing?

    Because I demand integrity from an association from the NCARB and its subsidiaries that to date continues to ask candidates to pay $235 to take a PASS/FAIL test in an undisclosed amount of time, and because frankly, many younger candidates choose not to speak up. 

    Even in my attempts to reschedule a seat yesterday via ncarb.org, I was unable to schedule the next exam, per the number of errors shown in the screenshots below.  You can see from the attached, there were no issues with wifi nor my internet connection at the time of these attempts to schedule. 

    15 minutes later, another error message:

    Failed to fetch, no internet connection?! What is so difficult about a task as simple as scheduling. Again, it is NCARB. Despite following the policy of withdrawing before 75% of a previous exam and recording technical issues which were witnessed by and reported to proctors,  NCARB has yet to issue a seat credit (as shown in the next screenshot) such that when I finally did get through after re-checking several times hours later, I could not re-book the next attempt without paying for an exam that I'd already paid for and to date has not been administered.  These are problems that NCARB nor its staff at any level have taken any ownership or responsibility for to date.

     

    And this is the sole organization that qualifies architects in our profession?!  Anyone see a pattern? The issues here are severe and numbered, yet NCARB refuses to acknowledge them, much less do anything about them except thank you for your feedback. As such, and until these matters are fixed, I would strongly caution those pursuing licensure at this time to identify whether you have the patience and peristence to put in all the time to prepare and then to have to put up with all of this in the name of becoming a professional. I am exceptionally driven to pass this exam; with a child anticipated in January, and a pregnant wife who has done so much to support me throught all of this, I am quickly running out of availability to test, much less re-test.

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    To those who have experienced the same issues as I have, it is time to demand more accountability and availibility from NCARB and its testing centers. Though they have board meetings, at current there is really no checks & balances, as the state board has no authority over the NCARB nor representation for candidates such as myself who continue to be at the mercy of its lack of professionalism and administration of exams. I'll say it again, NCARB causing and costing its candidates significant time and resources to try finish a 4+ hour exam on a 15-20 year old workstation because it is unable to audit its test administrator is exceptionally disappointing and discouraging.  To those who pass the ARE 5.0 exam on the first attempt, I take my hats off to you - you've done so beyond the gauntlet that I have experienced, as have others in this thread.

    NCARB ought to quit while its ahead, scrap their contract with PSI, and then reduce the cost of candidates taking the exam remotely where they can at least limit the number of variables and headaches to date. Instead of fleshing out problems with the new test and subcontractor, NCARB chooses to literally continues to make secret shoppers out of aspiring professionals pursuing licensure. And these days, it cannot even allow its candidates to re-schedule the online proctored version?!   

    Beyond the dated interface of the exam, and stripping our profession of paper an pencil, NCARB may wish to re-work its ineffective policies, and/or identify how to follow them. It spends far too many resources making sure its candidates have integrity, yet possesses very little of its own.  Please also consider training and enabling your Customer Relations department to come up with resolutions that respect the time and schedule of its candidates; at current their current strategy is to change nothing while telling candidates who have taken 4 consecutive botched exams to remain positive. And for the record, its not considered a courtesy seat credit when you fail to administer the exam that cost people days upon days to prepare for.

    In conclusion, NCARB cannot get out of its own way, much less that of candidates pursuing licensure.  My intent to take and attempt to pass these two difficult divisions (PPD and PDD) was scheduled so that I would have multiple shots at this; despite starting these two divisions 5 months in advance of the birth of our child, it has now been reduced to a single opportunity to pass either. I will be skipping Thanksgiving; at this rate it is unlikely I can or will be able to enjoy the holidays as I will be tucked away studying in the hopes that I can get a fair shot to PASS the exam.  More critical, should I choose to proceed with the final two exams in the next two months, is the limited capacity I will have to support my wife of 32 weeks before our son is born, courtesy of NCARB. 

     

     

     

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