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!