Network Bandwidth Too Low 0Kbps Error When Using PSI Secure Bridge For Online Testing

Many people graduated from school thinking they do not need to worry about exams anymore. Guess what? Even adults face many different exams, for example, certain professions like accountants require licenses to practice and that means you have to study and pass their professional exams. For other industries like tech, you can acquire the latest skills without going for exams, but if you wish to show proof of your expertise, many technology companies offer their own set of progressive certifications or "tracks", which you can attempt and become better at. Microsoft, Amazon, and Google certifications have been leading due to the popularity of their cloud-related certifications.

Traditionally, these technology companies work with exam providers such as Pearson Vue and PSI to have their exams conducted at the testing centres of these exam providers. The rationale being that these testing venues and equipment have been pre-vetted for exam security. Participants can schedule their exams at one of these venues and arrive to take the exam without any hiccups.

In the past, some companies have also experimented with online testing, where candidates could access the exams remotely from locations of their choice.  Results were mixed, as it was difficult to ensure these candidates were taking the exams under the same conditions as those taking from testing centres. Hence, exam-taking at testing centres remained mainstream and at times, the only choice available.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies were forced to revisit online testing once more so that candidates can continue getting new certifications or renewing existing ones. Advanced technologies and better network bandwidths now support advanced online proctoring, with additional rules deployed so that online testing can become more secure. The confidence from these technology companies shows as they try to push for online testing. For example, Microsoft had been giving out low-cost and even free exam vouchers in the name of helping those that had been affected by the pandemic.

I recently signed up for Microsoft's $15 exam initiative which had the condition of being online testing only. It was conducted in conjunction with PSI. While I eventually managed to complete the exam, my experience still showed flaws that I hope to share with other fellow tech enthusiasts so that you can better prepare, or decide if it's worth the risk.

Overview of the Registration Process

During the registering process, Microsoft places prominent disclaimers to remind candidates of their responsibilities to verify their systems meet the online test requirements. For this, Microsoft and PSI offer two system checks, one is an online version where you have to install a plugin and run some online system tests. I was using a PC with an external webcam. From what I could see, the checks were quite straightforward, testing your network bandwidth and webcam capabilities (audio and video). Your browser will prompt you to give rights for the testing, I just turned my webcam to the wall and the simulation was still completed successfully. If you had not done this when you registered, you can log in to your Microsoft Certification Dashboard, click on the exam that you have scheduled, and you should get the chance to run the online system check again.

Now, don't get your hopes too high up yet. After completing the online system check, you will get a message encouraging candidates to ensure their systems pass the system compatibility checks at least 24 hours before the scheduled exam time or risk forfeiting their exam fees if they cannot start the exam on time. At the end of that statement is an innocent link to download a software. If you were like me and got confused, the statement is referring to the software system check and not the earlier online system check. And this software test was where my issues came from. 

This software test is based on the actual PSI Secure Browser interface that you will be using on the actual day of the exam and is a good approximation of the check-in process during the actual exam and any potential issues that may arise.

The software starts with checking for any illegal software running which includes browsers and will ask you to terminate those processes. Next, it will do some video and audio tests. The next step is to check for how many monitors are connected to the system which you are using. During my testing, it was here that I encountered the "Network Bandwidth Too Low" error, with these additional details:

Insufficient Bandwidth: You do not have the required bandwidth to continue. We measured 0Kbps, which is under the minimum requirement of 300Kbps. Please find an internet connection with sufficient bandwidth in order to complete your exam and try again.

Photo showing the Network Bandwidth Too Low error on PSI Secure Bridge software
Network Bandwidth Too Low 0Kbps Error During System Compatibility Checks

It complained I had low bandwidth, but measured it at 0Kbps, which was impossible since I was on a wired connection and just downloaded the software online. Restarting my system did not help and there was not much useful information online.

I then went to the PSI webpage and opened a live chat with their support. The support went through additional bandwidth checks using Twilio and Speedtest. I suspect the PSI software does the bandwidth test against Twilio, but running the actual test from Twilio showed my bandwidth to be more than sufficient. Having checked all the SOP tests, the support suggested I did the test too early (6 days before) and that the software I downloaded was a "practice browser" which had such errors all the time. Everything would be fine on the actual date when using the "actual browser".

Frankly, at this stage, it showed two things: either the PSI support does not know what she is talking about, or the PSI tech team is incompetent in uploading buggy software and does not even care enough to resolve issues, even though candidates are supposed to use the software to verify their systems. Regardless, I was given a ticket number, which I only found out after the exam to be meaningless because the ticket got closed immediately and there was not going to be any follow-up from any of the PSI team.

I was skeptical of the support's reply but since it was only $15, I decided to try my luck. On the actual day, the exam only opened 30 minutes before the scheduled time. True enough, even with an updated link to download the actual browser, I still got prompted the same Network Bandwidth Too Low 0Kbps error. When I tried to connect to live chat to PSI support, I was number 6 in the queue. I tried calling their hotline and listened to 5 minutes of music while the live chat queue did not move. All this while, time was running out to start the exam and there was no way to communicate to my online proctor because I had not even finished the check-in process.

Pro Tip: Perform the PSI Secure Browser System Compatibility Checks Before Choosing and Paying for Online Testing

So my advice to anyone who managed to stumble upon here, to not only rely on the online system compatibility check but also do the PSI Secure Browser test as well. For any issues that you encountered, PSI support is unlikely able to give you a satisfactory response. So your options are either to try the actual browser on the day itself and risk forfeiting your exam fees, or find another system and try the system checks again.

As for me, I had to rely on a backup laptop that could pass the PSI Secure Browser checks and then proceeded with the rest of the check-in steps, which were a lot considering the exam only opens up 30 minutes before. So again, evaluate your options and decide is it easier to get your hands on another system or postpone/cancel the exam and go for the tried and tested testing centre option, most likely after the pandemic subsides.

As for Microsoft, I had some minor issues with the proctor during the exam. At the end of the exam, there was a message that I might receive an email for feedback, which never came. I do hope Microsoft can work with PSI to do better in both their software and their support.


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