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Sylvan Prometric Horror Stories and Optimism About VUE

Horror Stories

If you have a Prometric adventure you would like to share, please send me a note and we'll post them here. Some of the stories here will make you mad or sad. They are all experiences of mine or submissions by visitors to my site. This is by no means a rail on Sylvan page but we all have spent a lot of money on taking our certification tests and deserve to be treated properly.  Send your comments and experiences both positive and negative to:  E-Mail: richard@lewistech.com

THERE'S HOPE ON THE TESTING PROVIDER HORIZON: VUE
Microsoft has recently made available their certification tests through Virtual University Enterprises (VUE) and the reports I have received so far have been very positive. Of course, I want to get any information on problems you have had at VUE test centers but to date we have not received any horror stories. They seem to have more new test centers signing on with them and I hope to check them out soon on my next test. Based on my contacts with their staff and management I feel they are really out to be responsive to us, their customers! This is the type of servant attitude that had been lacking at Sylvan.

Virtual University Enterprises (VUE), has been delivering IT certification exams for over 2 years, and Microsoft exams for over a year. Many of the testing centers that offer Sylvan delivery also offer VUE. Here is some additional information provided to me by a VUE representative:

- VUE has over 1500 testing centers in over 100 countries.
- Microsoft just renewed the testing contract that will run through June 2001.
- VUE offers real-time exam scheduling and re-scheduling via the web, the testing center or at a call center among other capabilities.
- They are making the effort to offer "breathtaking" service to their software clients, testing centers and the exam candidates.

A SHOCKING LETTER FROM A FORMER SYLVAN EMPLOYEE
Hi there. I have a story about Sylvan. I used to work there. Keep in mind, I worked there quite a while ago. Things could have changed by now. They didn't even have internet registration back then!

First of all, their employees can be grouped into two categories: Those that really don't care about anything or anyone, because they don't have to...no one makes them, or those few that do care, and try to get answers, but still can't make the customers happy because no one is around to help, or no one wants to help. I was in that second group. A lot of times I'm sure people feel like wringing the telephone operators neck, but let me tell you that in some cases, they are just as frustrated as you are. Sylvan for the longest time knew that they were the only option for people who wanted to do this testing. And what happens when you KNOW people don't have a choice? Well, you can treat them as poorly as you want and there is nothing anyone can do about it. We had employees that would swear at the customers, have just major attitudes, and hang up on people. Managers would walk by and shake their heads, but that's about it. Information was not distributed properly or in a timely manner; we would have people call to register for exams and we had no idea these exams were even out, people who qualified for discounts that we didn't know about, and just general everyday stuff that we should have known off the tops of our heads, we just never seemed to get. Supervisors refused to handle escalated calls. They would tell us what to say, but wouldn't take the call themselves.

Hold times were just terrible! One summer while I was there I can remember a couple weeks period of times where calls were on hold for up to 72 minutes!! The turnover in that place was so high it was frightening! A training class of 12 could start on a Monday and by Friday only 3 would be left. Of those three, 2 were gone within 2 mos. The calls were so crazy that they got to the point that I swear they just grabbed people off the street to work. We were nothing more than warm bodies. It was like a prison in there. You had to account for every second you were away from your desk, you weren't allowed to actually GO and ask a question but had to call a help line that never seemed to get answered, we weren't allowed to use our phones even on breaks...we were totally shut off to the out side world and our families. My sister was sick once so I brought my cell phone to work in case my mom needed to get a hold of me and I got it taken away until the end of my shift. That same day a close friend got shot while at work, and was in critical condition in the hospital. They tried to get a hold of me, but couldn't. Things settled down, but the morale was terrible. Managers were downright mean. The politics in that office were terrible. Why did I stay so long? Benefits. They had a pretty good package for someone who was just starting out in the world. I can say that good thing about them. But after awhile, even that couldn't do it anymore. I just swore not to be sick until I had something else.

Then VUE opened up. VUE has changed the world of testing. Sylvan didn't take them seriously at first because they were after all, just a peanut operation that would flop. But when they grew, Sylvan suddenly fired practically everyone. They came by with customer service tips, started actually monitoring the calls, and basically just went from one extreme to the other. It only made bad customer service worse. Employees, even the ones who at one time tried to be good, couldn't handle all the sudden changes and managers being meaner than ever and the fact that it still wasn't because they cared about the customers, but about their money. That's all it was. The employees still got treated very unfairly; Still didn't get the information we needed. I actually on a few occasions would put my customers on hold and call VUE playing as a customer myself to ask questions. They always knew. It was a lot quicker that way! More people came and more people went, and nothing seemed to get any better. My mom had surgery one day. She needed someone to go with her to drive her home after. No one but me could do it. I went to work early that day and left a long note along with copies of her papers from the hospital on my managers desk. I told 3 people on my way out where I would be, and they all said that was fine. No problem. That was a Friday. On Monday when I came back, 10 minutes before I the end of my shift, I got called into HR and basically got told that they were going to fire me if I missed one more day, because that Friday was unexcused, for not calling in. I just said I was leaving. My manager, not letting me go back to my own desk to get my stuff went with a box and packed me up. I didn't get half of what was mine. I left there without a clue as to what I would do.

Then I called VUE to see, if off-hand they were still hiring. After all, I already knew what they did. I knew the program, and I was straight from their competitor. And, to my good fortune, the manager there made room for me, and here I still sit today. I love it here! We are very informed on what is going on with these programs at all times. The management is always there to help or do whatever it takes to find the answers. The treat us like actual people and are so flexible with things. Plan fun stuff for us to do...make it nice to come to work. Not like at Sylvan where I dreaded getting up and going to work in the morning. VUE is not anything like that. A lot of people who used to work at Sylvan are here. And, VUE is good to the customers. Customer Service is #1 in this office. I can't say we never have a problem, but very few, and they always gets fixed quickly. VUE is growing rapidly. Customers I have talked to that have dealt with Sylvan in the past always come back-and bring their friends. Our motto is "breathtaking service" and that is what you get when you test with VUE. From the time you call until the time you leave the testing center, we want you to have a good experience. VUE has given me back my positive look on how important it is to help and please our customers. After all, that is the first word in "customer service agent". If you are frustrated with Sylvan , I suggest you give VUE a call 1-888-837-8616. I guarantee you won't be disappointed! I sure wasn't!!! Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear you at the other end of my phone in the near future!

MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SYLVAN
On the very first exam I took almost four years ago I arrived at the test center early to find that someone had removed the test scheduling computer and moved it to another location. A couple of the technicians went in the back room and tried a break into the Prometric security system so they could download the test onto another computer. After about an hour they gave up and told me to go home because they couldn't get the other computer back and could not figure out how to hack into their own system and get my test downloaded. I went home very upset and had to get up for the test all over again a few days later.

SORRY YOU MISSED YOUR TEST WHILE THE TEST CENTER WAS TENTED FOR TERMITES
A while back we received a call from Prometric that the test center where we normally took our tests would not be available and we needed to reschedule. I called in and rescheduled but my coworker waited and called in a few days later. They informed him he had no showed on the exam and was not eligible for it to be rescheduled. Eventually after going through the story with several people he was able to persuade them that he should be able to reschedule since he had not been able to take the test.

TEST? WHAT TEST?
Recently, I went to the test center on a Saturday to take the NT 4.0 Workstation Exam. After completing the test successfully I called Prometric to schedule the Enterprise Exam for the following day since the test center was open on weekends. This is a great convenience for me since I seldom arrive home in time to make late afternoon test times. I went to the test center at the appointed time and the center personnel informed me that no test was scheduled for me that day and I should call Prometric on Monday since no one is available on weekends. The next day I called them and they informed me that I was a no show and if I had any problem it was the test center's fault and any the test center had to reschedule the test since in their book I had not shown up at the appointed time. The test center was closed for the next several days and I left many messages on their phone with no returned calls. Eventually I called Prometric back and the service person was very helpful and rescheduled the exam no problem. After I got off the phone I realized I forgot to write down the name and number of this knowledgeable person so I could contact them in the future.

SURE WE'RE OPEN LATE FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE
I called to set up a test and the operator informed me the test center had test times available at 6PM in the evening. I had not been to this center before but thought this would be a great convenience. When I arrived at the center they were locking the doors and informed me that they never had kept the late hours Prometric had in their records.

YOU CAN COUNT ON US, BUT YOU BETTER CALL TO BE SURE
I showed up for a test and was informed by the center personnel that no test had been scheduled for me. The operator informed me that Prometric regularly messes up test scheduling and he recommended that I call them (the test center) directly on the day of my exam to be sure the test has actually been scheduled and downloaded properly since Prometric has so many scheduling problems.

TESTS CONTINUALLY FREEZE UP
I am a Sylvan test proctor. We offer the tests 3 days a week as a service and receive no remuneration for the it. The tests continually freeze up mid-test. Can only restart by turning it off and turning it back on. Not to mention the doubly scheduled tests, tests scheduled at the wrong sites. Lack of interest by Sylvan in our little Alaskan site. Can't wait for VUE.

MY NERVES WERE SHOT...
I registered for my test on Sylvan's website. Since IT has fed my natural paranoia, I called Sylvan's 800 number on the day of my exam to confirm my time, confirmation number, etc. I left my home confident that I could go in, everything would be ready, and I could whip through the exam in no time. Anyway, I arrived at the testing site and found they didn't have my registration. I asked to use the pay phone in their break room but they refused me. I didn't have a cell phone, so I had to find a pay phone 15 mins away and hope I could get someone on the line. I got a Sylvan rep who was helpful and said they'd fax the confirmation into the testing center. By the time I got back, the center got the confirmation. One of the receptionists up front seemed to imply this sort of thing happens with Sylvan more than one might expect. My nerves were shot and I think I spent the first 10 mins in the testing booth just staring at the screen Thankfully, I did pass the exam (although I didn't breeze through anything). Alan D.

WHEN I CALLED-THEY SAID THERE WAS NOTHING THEY COULD DO...
The first time I called and registered they told me a test center was in San Francisco. Guess what? It wasn't, it was in South San Francisco which is completely different. When I called - they said there is nothing they could do. The second time, I called and registered for a test. I rescheduled and when I showed up at the test center, they didn't know who I was. So the called and told me that I hadn't paid for the course. Finally - someone got a clue and about 20 minutes later, I could take my test. I got home that night and the bill arrived!! They are a group of unmotivated losers. State workers are great compared to them.

I HAD TO RESCHEDULE FOR LATER THAT DAY
I scheduled an exam (same day service) with Sylvan and when I got to the testing center they were unable to download the exam because Sylvan was down. Royal pain in the I had them reschedule for later in the day, but no guarantee that they'll be up and running. This is quite inconvenient to myself and my employer as I have work to do. Steve M

THEY SENT THE BILL TO A COLLECTION AGENCY
Recently, I scheduled a test for a local center and the Sylvan rep forgot to take my correct payment information. Of course, I arrived at the test center and they didn't sent the test. Fortunately, the test center also had VUE testing services and I was able to take my test due to the better technology that view uses. The real problem happened when I received a bill for the test that was never delivered. To make a long story short, after 3 calls and guarantees that the problem has been taken care of, they sent the bill to a collection agency! I will never take a test with Sylvan if VUE is available. This is the second time that this has happened to me. The first time I was mis-billed for a phantom test, they took care of it after a few months. Should we trust this organization with our hard earned certification results? Maybe they also screw up the tests? Thanks for your forum, Randall K.

NETWORKING ESSENTIALS? I HAD SIGNED UP FOR NT SERVER!
I had scheduled with Sylvan's 1 800 number to take NT Server test. This was going to be my first test. I had been studying for the test for 2 months and was very eager to finally take it. I took the morning off from work, to take the exam. I had it scheduled for 8:30am. I arrived at the test site early and signed in, and got ready to start. I was about to enter the test room when the facilitator informed me that my "Networking Essentials" test would be ready in just a moment. ??? Networking essentials?? I had signed up for NT Server!!! Obviously this upset me. After calling two different hotline" numbers, and waiting 45 minutes, and dealing with one rude phone support person, I was finally able to take my NT server exam. Needless to say, the exam itself is hard enough, the delay and confusion didn't make it any easier. I was able to refocus and pass the exam with the minimum questions. But I would be a liar if I didn't admit that the confusion didn't effect me. lets hope my next exam goes smoother. Jeff W.

I HAD TO RESCHEDULE
I am a student in Binghamton University, and the closest testing center was 3 hours away by bus in New York. Last year when I started to take my tests, I had miss class to go into the city to take a test, and when I get there, the testing center was doing construction, and had never notified Microsoft that they were closing for the day. I had to reschedule the test for another day. To may a bad story worse, I was charged for the test that day, and it took them 7 months to credit me my money for the test that day. I am finally a senior and now have a car, so I can drive to a closer center which is only an hour away. Last week I went to take another test, and they scheduled me wrong, and made my test a week from when I was supposed to take it. I think Microsoft and Sylvan are doing horrible jobs in test scheduling and administration. Hope you enjoyed my horror stories. Levi D.

PROMETRIC GOT ME TWICE
Prometric got me twice. The first time I had scheduled a back to back session for the A+ tests using a company credit card. I showed up at 7:45 for an 8:00 and found out I was not on the schedule. I had booked it 3 weeks in advance. The testing center and I spent 2 hours on hold only to find out that the card had been denied. Prometric did a conference call with my corporate office to get the card updated. They then said the test would be available in 15 minutes. By noon the test was available and I had to be done in 30 minutes because the computer was already booked. I finished with no problems and a good score. The next time was before my NT Enterprise test. I once again showed up only to find that my test had been cancelled without a call. An hour later I was testing in a limited time session again. This time the test score was low (but passing) since I could not spend time on the questions. I wish there was someone else to administer tests. Dennis O.

THEY DIDN'T HAVE ME ON THEIR LIST
Don't know if you're still collecting stories, but I had a bad experience today with a Prometric center. I signed up for a test online, got a confirmation message with the testing center listed, etc. Went to the center today and found out that they didn't have me on their list. Called the main 800 number and found out they had sent the test to a different testing center, some 15 miles away. Fortunately they "understood the situation" and rescheduled the exam for me. Thanks a lot! Now I have to get all wound up again for the test. Definitely a disappointment so next time I'll be sure to call the testing center and confirm everything. Alex M.

Pointers on Preventing Problems with Prometric

  1. Always read back information on the test and location to the operator to confirm accuracy.
  2. Get the phone number and address info on the test center.
  3. Get your confirmation number when you schedule the test. They may ask you for it later.
  4. Call the test center when they open in the morning of your test and tell them you want to check if your test has downloaded properly.
  5. Generally it is not the test center's fault if something goes wrong so don't thrash them. There is little they can do if Prometric doesn't push your test down to them.
  6. Be prepared for disaster. Take it in stride. Now you know how a race car driver feels when the race gets rained out and he has to mentally prepare for the big race all over again. There were a couple more things you wanted to study anyway, right?
  7. The test center makes less than $10 of the $100 you paid for the test. Microsoft makes $50 and Prometric $40+ for scheduling your test.
  8. Prometric operator quality and courtesy varies greatly. Generally operators will not tell you their extension number so if you find someone you feel confident with, you can't ever call and ask for them because the company line is. "anyone can help you".
  9. The payment database is not available to operators. If you have a payment problem you will need to talk to accounting and they are not available on weekends.

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