Candidates Express Their Views on Remote Platform Outage
By Rodney Campbell, ABR Communications Manager
Candidates who took the Diagnostic Radiology Certifying Exam on September 30 ran into an unanticipated hurdle. During the afternoon session, the ABR’s platform unexpectedly went down for about 40 minutes, temporarily halting the process for the 1,068 examinees. All candidates were given 70 extra minutes of exam time once the system came back online.
ABR staff notified examinees about the issue by text and later informed them that the platform was back up. While relieved that they could return to the exam, the candidates’ understandable frustration and anxiety was clear on calls to the Exam Day Help Desk and on social media posts.
With a remote platform, there is always a chance that individual or system issues will occur during an exam. The ABR is making improvements to its remote platform and help desk phone system to mitigate the effects of a future system-wide outage. We reiterate our sincere apology to everyone who was impacted by the interruption.
Along with sending a post-exam survey, the ABR reached out to several examinees to get their thoughts on the day’s events.
Before the outage, what did you think of the remote platform?
Francis Deng, MD (Johns Hopkins)
“It was tricky getting the system to authenticate my photo ID ahead of time (during the technical check), but, fortunately, we did not have to do it again on test day. The remote platform was otherwise smooth.”
Brook Dixon, MD (Memorial Sloan Kettering)
“I am a big fan of the remote platform. It eliminates the stress of traveling across the country and maneuvering to a designated testing facility. It also allows individuals to take the test in the exact setting they prepared. I found it very calming to be in the comfort of my home during the examinations, and it allowed me to really get away from the test day stressors during my breaks.”
Joelle Wazen, MD (MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital)
“I tested the platform a couple of times beforehand and was glad that it was similar to that of the Core Exam. It navigated smoothly and the tools were user-friendly. On the day of, the platform looked and behaved the same as in the demo, which was a relief.”
What was going through your mind when the platform went down?
“I hoped it saved my progress. I called the help line, concerned, but realized based on the wait that it must be a widespread issue. Once I knew it was not just me, I knew everything would be OK.”
Jenny LaRoy, MD (University of California Davis Medical Group)
“Initially, I wondered if it was just me, as I imagine everyone did. I was glad I had watched the pre-exam videos that made it clear that if you call the help desk, you would be guaranteed any lost time back. Knowing that took a lot of the stress off, but not knowing how long it could last – or if it would have to be postponed – was still very nerve-wracking.”
“We usually present on a test day with all the determination and enthusiasm that a fighter gathers for their battle. Medical tests are long and extensive. They require endurance and a consistent pace to get through them. The outage felt like a damper in this situation.”
What were you doing when the system was offline and how did you feel about the time it took to solve the issue?
“I was browsing Twitter. The turnaround was just long enough to return to a relaxed state of mind.”
“During the downtime, I took a break outside with my dog (who had been whining at my door during the exam) and enjoyed a coffee. It was a refreshing break from the exam. My experience with ABR was pleasant. I was notified quickly that the exam was officially down and told to expect a notification when the exam was operational. The problems were fixed faster than I expected as I thought I would have to finish on another date.”
“I was frustratedly clicking the screen indiscriminately for the first few minutes. After calling the help desk and hearing the wait time, I figured it was a larger issue. I wasn’t sure if I should stay on the line, so initially I hung up. After another 10 minutes of a frozen screen, I got back on the phone and eventually got through to someone.”
How relieved are you to have finished the exam?
“I am definitely pleased to be done taking tests. I feel a sense of pride when I reflect on the journey to become a radiologist. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride with so many wonderful memories and lessons learned; I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. With that said, I never want to take a test again and I am extremely relieved to have the Certifying Exam behind me.”
“We spend years checking off one milestone after the other so that milestones and tests become our constant reality. We end up forgetting that they all converge toward one final end: board certification. It feels surreal! I am thankful.”