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Author: Penny Vernon, NASBA Candidate Care Manager
Posted: August 13, 2013

HappyBusinessWomanPart I of our Managing Test Anxiety series centered on methods available to reduce the general level of anxiety often related to a stressful event. Part II focused on the stress that often sets in as you begin to take the Uniform CPA Examination. The concluding blog of this series is all about helping you handle the possibility of an unexpected issue that may arise while you’re taking the CPA Exam.

NASBA, the AICPA and Prometric work together to ensure that you receive a fair test experience. However, sometimes things can happen during the test that are completely out of your control. Often, when something unexpected occurs during the Exam, candidates report becoming “unglued.” They begin to fret about what the incident may do to their Exam, and they worry that they have lost testing time or that the Exam will not restart or will be lost, or that they will lose what they have already completed. These concerns lead to an increase in agitation and anxiety, resulting in a loss of focus and concentration.

The important thing to remember is to report any unusual incident to testing center staff immediately. Do not attempt to resolve the issue, as you may lose valuable time in doing so. Instead, raise your hand to catch the attention of the testing center administrators. If you do not get a response quickly, you may quietly leave your seat to ask for assistance.

The staff at Prometric testing centers will do their best to resolve technical issues related to your exam. However, for security reasons, they are not permitted to be familiar with the functionality of the Exam software and are not able to provide information concerning the actual content or navigation of the Exam. If you have concerns about the content of the Exam, please contact the AICPA after you have finished at cpaexam@aicpa.org.

Once you have turned over the issue to the testing center staff, rest assured the staff will resolve the issue. If you have to wait while they are working on the difficulty, use the time to keep your focus and concentration. Use the techniques described in Part I of this series to lower your level of anxiety. Apply the deep breathing methods, the stretching exercises and the positive thinking strategies in order to remain calm.

Let’s discuss some examples of unexpected occurrences that you could see during your testing experience:

Computer_labComputer malfunctions: Occasionally, a computer may shut down or crash. If this happens to you, notify testing center staff, who have the ability to reboot the computer or move you to a different seat. If necessary, testing center staff can contact tech support for assistance. I’ve noticed candidates often worry that they have lost testing time or that the work they have already completed will be lost. However, if the test driver stops and the test closes, the test clock stops running at the time of the crash, so time is not lost. Responses are saved as they are entered, and the test files are backed up every 60 seconds in case of a system shutdown.

If the test shuts down for any reason, it will restart with the backed up files at the point of interruption. However, it is possible that some responses entered within 59 seconds of the shutdown will not be saved.

Error Messages: During the Exam, an error message may pop up. If this happens, do not just try to click through it. Read the message first in order to determine if it is necessary to alert a staff member for assistance.

Quit Button: Candidates often hit the “Quit Button” instead of the “Continue Button” when they have finished the Exam. When this happens, they do not receive the survey and become concerned that their examination will not be scored. Here’s the deal: It does not matter which button you hit, or even if the time runs out before you click any button, as everything is automatically saved and forwarded to the AICPA for scoring.

Not completing the survey has no effect on the scoring of your Exam. When you check out, the administrator may tell you that there is a red X beside your name, indicating that you have not finished the Exam. This simply means that the survey was not completed.

Fingerprint scanner: Very infrequently, the fingerprint scanner used in the check-in process fails to operate, but this is nothing to worry about. The fingerprint scan is only one element in a series of security checks required to take the Exam, and the lack of obtaining it does not interfere in correctly identifying and verifying your identity, nor will the lack of a fingerprint scan invalidate your results.

Power Outages: Power outages happen unexpectedly. When one occurs at the testing center, the computers and the Exam clocks shut down. When power is restored, testing center staff will restart the computers where the examinees left off so testing can continue.

Please note: If you experience a power outage where the power is off for more than 30 minutes, you can request to be rescheduled to a different appointment time in order to retake the entire Exam. If the power fails to return, you will be asked to leave and will be contacted by Prometric to reschedule your appointments. Those with Notices To Schedule that are close to expiration can contact NASBA’s Candidate Care Department to request an extension.

Fire Drills: Most testing centers are required to hold mandatory fire drills. If they know of a drill ahead of time, the staff will alert candidates as they are checking in. In some instances, the drills are held without prior notification. Candidates may be required to evacuate the testing center and wait until the drill is over. The staff will shut off the computers so that the test clock stops, and they will restart candidates where they left off once the drill is over.

Once again, if you have to wait more than 30 minutes to resume testing after a drill, you have the option of requesting a reschedule of your Exam.

Here are more examples of issues that would warrant you raising your hand to alert testing center staff:

  • Mouse: If your mouse does not work properly, notify the staff for a replacement.
  • Calculator: If the on-screen calculator malfunctions, request a Prometric hand-held calculator.
  • Felt pens: If the felt pen becomes dry, make sure to ask for a new one.
  • Note boards: If you use all of the space on the two noteboards provided to you, turn them in to receive new ones.
  • Other candidates: If another candidate displays inappropriate behavior or is disruptive, alert the staff immediately of the disturbance.
  • Room temperature: If the temperature in the testing room is uncomfortable, inform the staff.

In the event the Exam cannot be restarted, or if you are unable to continue testing due to technical issues, the staff will report the problem and issue a ticket number so a new Exam appointment can be made.

NASBA’s Candidate Care Department acts as an advocate for CPA candidates. If there are any lingering concerns about difficulties that may have occurred during your test, contact the Candidate Care Department within five days of taking the Exam in order for a thorough investigation to be conducted.

I sincerely hope the Managing Test Anxiety series has helped you overcome any stress and jitters you might be feeling as you prepare to take the Uniform CPA Examination. This website is full of useful Exam information and other CPA Exam-related blogs that could help you in your CPA Exam preparation.

From all of us at NASBA, we wish you the best of luck on the Uniform CPA Examination!

Penny Vernon has worked at NASBA for over 15 years, serving as manager of Candidate Care for the past 10. She earned a master’s in Clinical Psychology from Middle Tennessee State University, and her research on anxiety was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Vernon was also instrumental in opening and running NASBA’s testing center in Guam, giving her first-hand experience with the workings of a testing center.

> Read Part I: Reducing Anxiety
> Read Part II: Avoiding Pre-Exam Stress

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