WOW! Where should I start? I have so many different things to say......
First, I will identify myself as a long time examiner. I have just returned from giving a L3 exam in Steamboat, where I saw what was arguably the worst prepared group of L3 candidates I have ever come across. So I may not be feeling very charitable to your point of view, JohnSki.
I have read every post in this thread, and have heard at least 7 different issues. Lets address them individually.
#1- PSIA does not oversee nor direct each division's exams. It merely sets a "conceptual" set of technical standards and some general guidelines as to the implementation of the exam. But it is up to each division's certification committee to lay out the actual format of the exam. So blaming PSIA-NATIONAL for any part in your story is completely out of place.
#2- Over the years, in an effort to make exams more "user friendly", standards have weakened and various amounts of coaching have entered the process. This has a very high percentage of examiners upset. Our certification process became gutted like a fish, and it had no substance. Fact- once the PSIA certification had a reasonable reputation around the world. Then it became pretty much a laughing stock. But that trend is reversing itself, albeit slower then most of us examiners would like. Stronger teeth are replacing the old soft ones, and the more recent candidates have borne the brunt of this change. And that "tightening" of the standard is still evolving. Expect it to get tougher, in EVERY division.
#3- Feedback from examiners. I believe that feedback - positive or negative is out of place during an exam. I believe that it serves no beneficial purpose. And unless it is given equally to all candidates, then it smacks of favoritism and is unprofessional. Coaching is the same. Candidates prepare themselves to 'give' during an exam, not to 'receive'. Any 'coaching' given to a candidate either gives them an advantage above other candidates, or is construed by the candidate as "Oh god, I'm failing if I don't change this..". This disrupts the training they have prepared for, and interferes with their performance.
Examiners should allow the candidate to present their teaching and skiing as they have trained to present it, without such interference.
#4- Examiners with personal agendas. These examiners are the worst nightmare to a candidate. They are unpredictable at best, and a gross disservice to the industry at worst. They exist, unfortunately, in every division. They play games with candidates, they cause inconsistencies in the system, and are the worst examples of what this great industry should be about. They have no ethics or integrity, and should be removed from examiner status by their respective divisions.
#5- The financial implications of taking a cert exam. PLEASE! I am so sick of hearing how much it cost to take the exam, either in hard dollars or in soft costs (missed work). The cost of our exams in the US is also a standing joke internationally. They do not respect a system which they feel "gives away" it's highest level of cert for a few hundred bucks, and is over in a few days. In Switzerland, it costs approximately $15,000USD to take their National Exam, and it is almost a month long! The French Exam is very similar, taking between 3-4 weeks for each level, and costing as much as an instr makes in a season in the US. The Austrian system requires a pre-course that is 8 weeks in duration, and costs over $5000 USD. Then you can pay to take the exam afterwards.
So- don't even bring up that old tired excuse. I see so many candidates wasting their money by coming to exams unprepared. How does the old saying go- "There is never enough time or money to do something right the first time, but always enough to do it over again."
I'll come back and finish the rest of this later... Stay tuned for part 2 of my vent about exams, from another point of view....