Pearson failure today

I haven’t seen any comments on GoA, and I’m somewhat removed from CAS student life these days. However, I notice a couple of posts on the actuary subreddit mentioning a Pearson outage during the CAS exam window:

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What was the biggest outrage that happened in the era of pencil and paper? I only recall that one time the exams got lost in the mail but I’m not that experienced.

The CBT exam failures seem to draw much more outrage at least from my perspective.

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The reason I never got my ASA was because in the last sitting before SOA transition in the early-mid 90’s (I started out on life exams before I fully settled on a casualty path), I reported to an exam site in Birmingham, Alabama. The exam room at the site was an all-glass conference room. It was a sunny day in May…and the A/C had failed.

I also remember one CAS exam sitting where I appealed a triple-true-false question as defective. I forget the precise details, but the statement was a direct quote from one of the texts. Without context, the statement was false, but with additional context it did actually make sense. When I appealed and re-appealed, I finally got a response back of “at this point, you are supposed to know that if it is a direct quote, even if it’s wrong, you’re supposed to answer ‘true’”.

But probably the biggest frustration I witnessed when writing exams was one particularly infamous reserving exam. I was one of four students who wrote that exam at the company where I was working at the time. I was the least-prepared, but the only one of the four who passed. Pass rate was something like 25%, because it was horribly long and badly written, effectively reducing it to a test of exam-taking strategy, rather than of mastery of the material.


I feel bad for the candidates.

It’s the last day in the testing window and there were no issues reported prior, so I would guess there was some issue with server capacity. From the discussions, it doesn’t seem clear if the fault was with Pearson, the CAS, or both.

Hopefully the CAS issues a post-mortem and somehow makes it up to the test takers.

CAS exams got lost in the mail, yes.

A ceiling collapsed in the middle of an exam that was being proctored at my employer. I don’t know what happened with that.


I remember hearing about a fire alarm going off at a large testing center back in the pre-CBT days.


IIRC, I believe there was one incident where a janitor threw away a stack of Exams the night before they were to be administered.

Lots of fan mail for that as I understand.

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A common issue pre-CBT was the inconsistent quality of rooms. Noise/Temperature were common issues and that is definitely better at Pearson.

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Those are minor inconveniences compared to the disaster of yesterday.

Serious changes are needed. The Pearson parternship needs to be reevaluated, but I fear the CAS may be too far gone down the staff driven rabbit hole.


There are other testing centers other than Pearson

Besides for this testing window were other testing windows problematic. I took two tests at Pearson (9 twice). Besides for the hardware being the worst mouse and keyboard ever, and not allowing copying and pasting it was a very good experience for me. I thought it enabled me to make less mistakes and complete calculations much faster. Pearson seemed fine.

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I do, however, think that the shift to CBT is an improvement-in-principle to the exam system.

There are clearly issues with going through Pearson, but I wonder whether any of the alternatives would be any better. ISTR there being issues among SOA students with Prometric and searching for Prometric on Reddit returns many, many posts with NSFW titles (admittedly mostly from LSAT and CPA folks, TBF).

I took a peek at the IFoA website and…it looks like they’ve adopted a “do it on your hardware, in your chosen location” approach without proctoring?

Gravity won on that day, my friend.


i was in one of those (possibly more than one). it was, uhm, distracting

We had a small testing center back in the day. And on one exam day, the company decided to invite one of the local high school bands to come in and perform.

That was a long time ago, I think we decided to make everyone stop working and started a timer, and when the band was done we set everyone back to work and added however many minutes on the end.

CAS just broadcast this email:

Yeah, I heard about the completed exams that got lost in the mail. What a nightmare!

I don’t know if it was specific to a testing center, but I know of one exam where the SOA sent the wrong case-study for one track of the fellowship exams. Students noticed it during the read-through. I think they ended up sending a PDF and the guy in charge had to photocopy it.

It must have been particularly frustrating for the other students who had the correct case-study for their track but still had to wait for the other track’s case-study to arrive.

Can the CAS just stop CBT or are they locked into a contract? It seems like every benefit from switching that they claimed hasn’t actually happened:

  • Grading now takes 7+ weeks for the past 4 sittings when they claimed it would speed up
  • Technical issues every other sitting (thinking of MAS exams in 2023, now this)
  • Claiming that they were building a question bank and increasing transparency when we really got no recent upper exams/examiner reports released or MAS practice exams that cost money

I hope the decision makers understand that candidates are potentially not getting raises and won’t get their time spent studying in vain back because of these mistakes


I know the CAS graded a multiple choice question exam with a defective solution key

I feel like we were only able to catch this due to the popularity of the PAK on AO and the CAS providing your actual score/results (score of 29.5 rather than 6 back in the good ole days)

Also CAS already tried letting people take exam 5 at home on their own machine like 5-10 years ago. Which was a disaster.

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How hard is it to have a backup server, to test your servers at 2x capacity to make sure they work, stuff like that (question for Pearson)

Oh, and why do the CAS exams require an internet connection, couldn’t they be downloaded the night before along with that Excel replacement program. (question for CAS)

Most actuaries are aware that the best of plans require some kind of backup or fail-safe.

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