GRE Score Disaster Averted By Helpful, Competent Employee

Some institutions aren’t part of the government, but are still monopolies or so ubiquitous that they can’t be avoided. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, TOEFL, and other scary and commonly accepted exams worldwide, is one such company. Reader Katstermonster recently had an infuriating encounter with ETS…which had a happy ending when she finally located a customer service representative willing to go above and beyond to actually solve a customer’s problem.

I had a lousy-then-awesome experience with the Educational Testing Service that I thought I’d share with you all.

I’m in a grad program for engineering and was applying to some fellowships last fall which required my GRE scores. (For those of you not in academia, fellowships are the holy grail: they pay your tuition AND pay you to go to school and do research, generally at a much higher rate than most standard research assistantships pay. Applying for them is also a huge pain in the butt.) I hadn’t had to take the GRE to get into my Ph.D. program, so I took them in November of 2009. I got the scores back the following month and prepared to have them sent to the various fellowship programs when I noticed an issue: my date of birth was wrong. Crap. I called the ETA help line immediate and got Damian, who rudely responded, “Um, I can’t just take your word and change that for you.” That call was obviously off to a good start. I calmly explained that I knew that, and I was calling him to find out how to change it. He told me to send a fax of my drivers license to them, and it would be taken care of. He didn’t seem to care too much about my issue, but I did what he said, and thankfully, saved a copy of the fax, the name of the person I’d talked to, and the fax confirmation.

Everything on my end showed that my DOB was correct and my scores were all sent fine, so I figured that was the end of it. Fast forward a year to yesterday; I didn’t receive any fellowships last year (sadface!), so as part of reapplying, I tried to re-send my scores. Uhoh. I could log into my ETS account, but the system couldn’t find my scores. I emailed their help desk and received a boilerplate response about setting up a new account to make sure all information is accurate. Big, glaring problem: you can’t make a new account when you already have one!

Cue a call to ETS. Thankfully, the person who answered was incredibly helpful, and I wish I had gotten her name. She was friendly and helpful from the first word, which was a relief, as I was expecting the same surly response I had received the year before. When she asked for some information to verify my identity, she immediately realized that the issue was that my DOB was STILL wrong. I explained that I had called and faxed to fix this already, and as soon as I mentioned that I had a fax confirmation in my hand from December of 2009, she switched into ass-kicking mode. She asked for the name of the person I sent it to and put me on hold for about a minute; I like to think that she used that time to chew out her lousy coworker. At any rate, she came back to say that she would fix this issue right away, without any further confirmation needed from me. She had it done in about 30 seconds, and had me login again to check that I could get to my scores. It worked!

All this to say – dealing with a company like ETS can be extremely frustrating, as they are the ONLY option for taking your GRE, MCAT, GMAT, or almost any other standardized test. The difference can lie in a great CSR who knows when it’s appropriate to override standard protocol – in this case, changing my DOB on the spot rather than making me send a copy of my license again. Bravo, whatever-your-name-is!


Edit Your Comment

  1. obits3 says:

    Do you think that your fellowship application might have been messed up by the wrong DOB still being there? I hope not, but you might want to ask the people you applied to what DOB they have for you. When I went to college, my AP scores were delayed. I had to go through 3 levels of CSRs before I could get my scores sent to my school. It was only when I mentioned talking to C-level people that I got some attention.

  2. ianmac47 says:

    ETS should be shut down and sold for scraps. They are not helpful, overly expensive, their tests offer an advantage to affluent students, and have little to no oversight now that their tests are institutionalized.

  3. FilthyHarry says:

    Its funny that solving the customer’s problem is above and beyond

    • ajkilroy24 says:

      More sad I think

    • ChoralScholar says:

      Well, if you’ve ever dealt with ETS, you know that you are, at all times, assumed to be dishonest…

      This is not even to mention their propensity for squeezing the last nickel out of everything.

      Has your test been graded? Yeah. We’ll mail your scores eventually. But if you want us to read you a number over the phone, that will be 25 dollars please.

  4. GMFish says:

    happy ending when she finally located a customer service representative willing to go above and beyond to actually solve a customer’s problem.

    I’m so old I actually remember when “going above and beyond” was merely considered “doing your job.”

  5. loquaciousmusic says:

    I had a similarly positive experience with ETS this summer when I had to get SAT scores sent to the state of Connecticut so that I could get a PRAXIS waiver. The gentleman on the other end of the phone was helpful and pleasant, and he was able to pull up scores “from 1995 or 1996.” (Unfortunately, it cost an arm and a leg to rush those scores to me, but that’s another story altogether…)

    • jessjj347 says:

      I don’t understand why you’re supposed to choose places to send your scores to when you’re taking the exams, because at that point many people aren’t totally sure where they’ll be sending their scores. We should be able to send scores after receiving them (the 3 included in the price), since you don’t want to send crappy scores anyway…

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        That’s why they let you choose a bunch of places, rather than one or two. Most people should, by that point, know where they want to go. To not have a general list of five or six universities that you’re interested in attending by the time you start the first SAT is just being unprepared.

  6. colorisnteverything says:

    ETS refused to refund my money when I got swine flu 2 days before the test date and was told I would still be contagious the day I took the test and was not allowed to go. I called the local branch and they told me with medical documentation I would get a refund. I then was sent to like 4 other hotlines within ETS who told me nope, sorry, the best we can do is reschedule you for $50.00. One even told me I should have let them know 5 days ago because it wouldn’t have cost as much. Yeah, because I totes knew I had swine flu 5 days ago.

    Anyway, I did get into a program with my fellowship. Even though I was forced to take the test with food poisoning. Ick.

    • Amnesiac85 says:

      I actually think it saws right on the website that they won’t refund you that close to the date, no matter what. I could be wrong though, it’s been a couple years since I signed up for the GRE.

      • colorisnteverything says:

        They have refunded people before if they reschedule and provide a legitimate reason. One of my friends had to have her appendix removed and they refunded. However, they refused to when even the local office wouldn’t let me in the building. Not that i was in any shape to take the exam, but it just makes no sense.

  7. Bsamm09 says:

    “All this to say – dealing with a company like ETS can be extremely frustrating, as they are the ONLY option for taking your GRE, MCAT, GMAT, or almost any other…”

    I believe the GMAT is from the GMAC (not finance company)… sorry but I hated the GMAT and had to point out that crap parent company. Don’t get me started on CPA exam

  8. JJJJust says:

    I don’t really see the “disaster” part.

    My SSN is wrong on my ACT results and no schools/scholarship organizations have had a problem matching my test results to my files with no intervention from me.

  9. Spacebabe47 says:

    ETS lost my GRE subject test paper and the test paper of my friend who took the exam at the same time. They refunded my money, after I convinced them that I actually showed up to take the test, but by the time I found this out it was too late to re-take the test and submit scores for my grad school applications. Luckily I had scores from the year before (albeit lousy ones), but my friend was not so lucky.

  10. znitch says:

    isn’t it sad that we always remember the name of a customer service associate who treated us poorly, but when someone goes above and beyond we can’t recall who they were? good service deserves recognition, just as bad service deserves reporting.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      I usually remember. I can still remember the ONE SINGLE person who helped me at dell named Carlos.

  11. DukieJF says:

    I feel for you. I was denied a fellowship because ETS sent the wrong GRE scores to the school. I was admitted to my first-choice program, but they couldn’t fund me because my GRE score was “too low”. I asked what scores they had, and they were a full 300 points lower than my actual score. Now I have seven years experience as a test prep teacher, and I like to think that I’ve given them a little hell in return.

  12. MauriceCallidice says:

    Dr. Ramirez: How’d you do it?
    Angel: I got the test ahead of time and passed it out to all the others.
    Dr. Pearson: How did you get it?
    Angel: The Mailman
    Angel: I strangled him and his body’s decomposing in my locker.