TOEFL Tests Get Cancelled… Again
I took a deep breath. It was 9:30 a.m., 25th of July, and I was slightly nervous as I stopped in front of Maplenex, a Gangnam testing center for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). The past three weeks, I had poured hours into preparing for this exam because it was crucial that I needed a good score. I entered the building, and my heart fluttered. This was it. Today was the day I would show ETS what I had prepared for.
When I walked into the building, a lady suddenly stopped me from entering the computer room. “The tests got cancelled that day. There’s a problem with a server,” she said. “Please wait until we normalize the servers.” Test takers all around me buzzed angrily, demanding to know what the matter was. The employees did not seem to know and were simply told to wait.
Server problems are not a new issue for ETS. Last May, for example, test takers in a test center at Seocho-gu were forced to go home after the center’s computers were found to be affected by a ransom ware, called WannaCry, at the last minute. ETS offered these test takers two options: take a retest in the near future or receive a refund. Although the cancellation was not in any way ETS’s fault, the sudden incident inconvenienced many test-takers.
At 11 a.m., many of the test-takers were infuriated. “What is going on?” A woman next to me protested. “We’ve waited for almost two hours, yet you don’t even tell us what has happened. This is unacceptable.” A male employer soon relayed a more specific reason to the delay. Although ETS had recovered the server damage inflicted by WannaCry last May, its servers were still unstable: as a result, the servers had, backfired.
The following is a log of what happened that day. As it can be inferred from the descriptions, a lack of clear directions and explanation by the ETS caused much confusion and anger within the consumers at the test center.
(Real time reaction of test takers on June 25th)
09:30 am: Arrived at Mapelnex.
09:40 am: ETS employees told us to wait, mentioning a server error,
10:30 am: ETS employees told us that server was partially recovered, so test takers would take test at 10:45 am.
11:00 am: ETS employees cancelled their earlier announcement. The servers were not fixed after all. They declined to receive any questions from the test-takers.
11:10 am-11:50 am: At test-takers’ protests, ETS employees finally began to explain the reason behind the delay. The servers had gone down during the updating process after the ransomware incident. They gave us 3 choices: retest later, take a refund, or wait more until a test. But, there were some problems. People could not choose the retest date and test center, and they did not know when the server returned to normalcy.
11:50 am: Consequently, plenty of people requested for a refund and retest. However, ETS suddenly said people could take test at 12:00 pm.
12:00 pm-16:00 pm: Took the test.
After June 25th: After two-three days, ETS made a new test date, July 1st, for retest takers. However, there were no apologies for people who took a test on June 25th or got refunds.
People understand the problem of server because of ransom ware and instability. What people cannot understand and are mad at is the attitude ETS showed during the problem. Since test takers are consumers, they have the right to take a test with stable server, better service and right to know what is happening. “Since I paid about $190, and I need the scores to go college, I have the right to know what is going on right now,” says DaHyun Ryu. However, in the case of ETS, there was no notification and apologies about that day. “I was so mad that there was not any statement or indemnity. I could consider and understand instability of server but could not understand ETS’s attitude.” As the recent global scare from ransomware attacks has shown us, server problems will continue to increase in the future, not decrease. Consequently, it is crucial that companies like ETS, which rely on computer-based testing, must come up with a clear manual of action so that if similar situation arises in the future, consumer confusion and dissatisfaction can be mitigated quickly. As DaHyun Ryu says, “Recovering the server is an important issue. I see that. But treating the test takers properly is as important too.”
Seoul Scholar International
YoungJin Lee email@example.com
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