Real Estate Exam (and the downfall of standardized testing)


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Aug 22, 2013
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This has been a total fustercluck that I haven't experienced in my thirty-three trips around the sun.

So, I've been working in media for ten years now. I've had the same job in Southern New Hampshire for the past four years. Get along great with my co-workers. Also, work on-air at another local radio station in Southern NH. Great people but deregulation by the FCC has decimated my industry. Salaries are much lower and with competing technologies, I decided to go after a new career. The one my father was able to successfully make a living off of for so long.

Real Estate...

I went to AREA in Waltham, completed the 40 hour course, worked with my father on this, studied like there was no tomorrow. I went on adderal, took live courses and several online quizzes (median average for my practice tests were abt. 85.5%). I used course material and textbooks that the proctor provided.

Nothing worked.

PSI, a company based out of Las Vegas, took over as the commonwealth's vendor for all state licensing certifications in early 2016. They proctor every state certification exam in all fifty states. Their overall business practices raise several red flags with this test taker. But I'm not an anomaly. There are several pending lawsuits against PSI and for several, legitimate reasons.

First their customer service is horrific. On hold for an hour. When you finally get a live CSR, they put you back on hold, but not before asking for your credit/debit card. This is before you have even scheduled the exam. They ask for payment and then they put you on hold for the rest of the duration. In many cases, you have to track them down and sometimes it takes two weeks to schedule an exam AFTER they charge your card. It's not the first time that it happened. (In full disclosure, I do require special accommodations such as extended time, noise-cancelling headphones, reader and clarification, but PSI refused to provide any of those services until my 5th retake).

On average, it sometimes takes 2-3 full weeks for me to schedule and exam with PSI, and it even took well over two months last summer. But once the exam date, time and place is set, you'd think that everything would be all set, right? That all I have to do is study my brains out and go in and kick ass, eh?

About that. So, the testing facility is twenty minutes from my apartment. So, as a matter of convenience, I pick the Lawrence facility. I passed the state exam on the third attempt, but kept getting the same low score of forty-six percent on the national portion (a total of eight times before finally getting a fifty-six percent on the ninth try). Yesterday, I got another forty-six.

My hours and few leisurely moments are studying and taking exams. Every single time I would study and get comfortable with the exam, the test questions became harder and harder every single time. One thing that has stayed constant is my low score of forty-six percent. And you're talking to someone who had a 3.2 GPA in college. So, I'm not about excuses until it becomes evident that something smells deeply foul.

The proctors are an embarrassment to education. The readers can't read at all. I've had two different proctor. A young woman in her twenties and an older woman who was about as unprofessional as can be. She couldn't read the questions. I had to correct her on some of the words and terms. Yesterday afternoon, when one of the proctors in the other room was blasting bachata off of her phone, I had to tell the reader to tell her to quiet down and the reader begrudgingly complied with my demands. Reader came back in and said "oh she said she wasn't listening to music and said that you're a liar. It's her word against yours. And I'm hard of hearing anyways." By the way, the testing room isn't even close to being soundproof so I could hear all the outside noise and conversations during the exam. The last time, the proctor and the reader were literally laughing at me during the exam. I thoroughly enjoyed how the older gentleman aptly said "this is the easiest exam in the world. "We have a 95% passing rate on the first try. What the fuck is (kingofsheeba's) problem?"

And the "noise cancelling headphones?" Yup. Two foam earbuds that don't work because the walls were paper thin. Yesterday, I could hear the proctors laughing and eating food (and food is evidently prohibited in PSI testing center facilities).

Now, for the actual exam questions. You would think that the material covered in the courses would be on the actual exam, right? It would only seem fair if I'm going to be showing a property/referrals/etc. Let me put it this way. Whomever writes the questions on the exam, has to have some sort of head injury or lack of formal education. I couldn't even try and remember most of the actual exam questions because I can tell you that those questions made next-to-no sense. What I can tell you is that the three out of the four "correct" multiple choice answers had next to nothing to do with the question at hand. The questions and multiple choice answers had several misspellings and three correct answers for some questions and zero correct outcomes on others.

One of the few questions that I did remember was "Which of the following is an 1890 federal statue that prevents monopolies from forming?" Choices: a) RESPA (Real Estate Settlement & Procedures Act) b) anti-trust laws c) anti-monopoly laws OR d) Regulation Z. The correct answer is the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. I noted that on the exam and the proctor said, "you can dispute that question on the sheet." I did just that and proceeded to guess "anti-trust laws." I pretty much will be disputing this entire exam because I knew that the questions were at the very least, highly ambiguous and at most, seemed rigged. Which is not a term I like to throw out too often. My folks taught me that if you work hard, play by the rules, you can overcome obstacles. You get out what you put in.

In my years of studying and working towards this goal of passing this exam and my structured regiment of studying/practice test taking, I have never wanted to go after a company as much as I want to go after PSI right now. I don't like feeling as if I've been wronged. I want to think that everything in life is fair. Yesterday was my final straw. Once I got my results back, I went to my car and could hear the proctors laughing from outside.

I've also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I'm not the only one who has had the same issues with them. If you type in "PSI exams fraud," you'll read the complaints. It's sort of a #MeToo, but for test takers. I'm blown away at how many people have shared experiences. The feeling of failure and the mindset that the shortcomings are your own, when in actuality, then might not be the whole story. Normally, I laugh at conspiracy theorists. Which is why it took me some time to realize that it might not be my shortcomings. It's hard to wrap my head around, but the day where we as a society can't trust the educational field because of corporate greed is a day where a part of my soul dies.

Oh, and their online practice tests? Yup. They cost $19.95 to take and retake them. Overall, I've probably spent close to $1,000. It's insane, ridiculous, and absolutely sketchy. I know that this is an architecture/city and urban design message board, but there are many real estate components in these conversations. Has anyone else had to take a licensing exam and had the same issues?