Why do American universities want official GRE/TOEFL scores before admission? It seems to be a waste of time and money for prospective applicants. They can easily use the scores claimed by students in first stages and ask them official scores after admission.

On the other hand ETS can send official scores directly to universities electrically via Internet without additional cost.

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    I'm not sure I get your question. The admission is based on these grades. How can they admit w/o the official scores?
    – Ran G.
    Dec 16, 2013 at 4:50
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    I think I understand the question. Let's say the student has score 980. He can put in 980 in the application form by himself. If the school decides to accept him, then he notifies ETS to send the official score. The student can save a lot money this way. It could be a big deal for the students from undevelopped countries. I remember I had to spend my three month salary to buy USD$ to send request to ETS just to send TOFEL/GRE official scores four decades ago.
    – Nobody
    Dec 16, 2013 at 5:52
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    You have to pay money to apply to a university?!
    – Eekhoorn
    Dec 16, 2013 at 8:16
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    I can't help myself but this question is more a lament than a question, and can hardly be answered objectively. This is IMHO primarily opinion-based... However, I do understand your pain, and I would agree that it's stupid. OTOH, they schools make it simple for themselves, they presumably just don't care about your money, and likely don't care about students who might not have the money. That's my feeling. God bless America ;)
    – yo'
    Dec 16, 2013 at 15:10
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    As someone applying to graduate school in Canada, currently: I have been asked to send my "unofficial transcript" by almost every professor I have encountered. I believe to get a copy of an official one would take more time and would cost me around $10 a piece. That being said, to even APPLY to university it's around $90-100 per application, and I believe my university charges to send transcripts as well. I guess they all need to make money somehow... again the students get shafted.
    – GISHuman
    Dec 16, 2013 at 16:06

7 Answers 7


The problem is that many students will resort to cheating, if necessary, to secure admission to graduate school. Just about any method or loophole that can be exploited will be. For instance, when I was an undergraduate in the 90's, one of the graduate departments stopped admitting students from China for several years because they had multiple instances where applicants had stand-ins for interviews to determine their English skills. Similarly, at my current school, we have recently had a rash of applications come in with faked English competency certificates.

Therefore, American graduate schools (and programs in other countries which ask for test scores) are increasingly (although not exclusively) relying on officially submitted documents. Scores reported directly from the College Board would presumably be less likely to be subject to manipulation.

As far as why not just ask for a paper copy: American departments usually only have one admissions cycle per year. Therefore, admitting someone who is ineligible because of fraudulent documents usually means denying someone else who is qualified the ability to be admitted. Therefore, schools want to know that the students are officially eligible before they are admitted, and will not hold up the process until later. Schools that do rolling admissions likely do not have this problem, and could perhaps use the method you have suggested.


You suggest that your grade-reporting method is better.

They can easily use the scores claimed by students in first stages and ask them official scores after admission.

It is true that you will save your money by self-report the score. And some univeristy, say Iowa state U, adopt such policy. However, it will cause trouble for the university because some students may report wrong score due to various reasons. If the university find out an admitted students have reported wrong score, they face a dilemma: continue to admit him? or admit others?

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    I disagree with this reason. The school can ask the student to submit the official score before they officially admit him. They could put a statement in the acceptance letter, say contigent upon receiving official score by certain date.
    – Nobody
    Dec 16, 2013 at 7:43
  • Which sentence in the reason do you disagree? Dec 16, 2013 at 8:12
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    they face a dilemma can be easily prevented.
    – Nobody
    Dec 16, 2013 at 9:32
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    It would make much more sense if you could allow the university to check the score on the official web-page, using some password unique to you. But then GRE would earn less money, right? This is not going to happen :D
    – yo'
    Dec 16, 2013 at 15:52
  • @tohecz I absolutely agree with you. Or ETS can electrically send the score for universities that students wants. Dec 17, 2013 at 3:13

It would not, in the long term, save any money. ETS funds its operations by charging for various aspects of testing, and they have found out how much money they can charge, on average, per student for various types of tests.

If the average number of test reports requested per student dropped, they would increase one or both of the base cost of the test or the cost per additional report to compensate.


As all of us know this is only a game to gather money from poor applicant. The application fee of American universities are high enough to prevent non-serious applicant from sending application.

ETS can provide for each student a secret key. The student enters such key in application system. The university can use the key to retrieve the authentic scores of each applicant, if it is necessary. This is just one possible solution among a lot of other practical hassle-free approachs.


You would think that it will save you a lot of money if the school ask for official school only if they have intention to admit you, and it shouldn't be difficult to do for the grad schools.

Well, indeed this can be done, and is being done by a lot of programs. However there are complications and many programs don't do it that way.

First of all, you get four scores to be sent out for free when you take the test. Even if you apply to as many as 10 schools, that may be enough to cover all the schools that do ask for official GRE/TOEFL scores upfront. This is intended to be a primary channel through which you are reporting your scores. It will be a significant cost if you apply for 30 schools, but I don't really see the point of doing that. Of course, that would require you to do your homework early and figure out which school to send your scores to.

Second, that adds one more phase of admission process. You have to understand that by easing your financial burden (which isn't even the main cost of application anyways. just think about how much application fees and tests would cost you.), schools have to put in more work, with no apparent gain on their part.

If your financial constraints are preventing you sending the scores, you can always write a letter to the program you are applying for. As an international graduate student, I can tell you that many institutions did give me waiver for official scores before admission, and some even waived application fees entirely.

At last, in some universities, there are two separate entities that are processing these applications: the graduate school and the department. Sometimes the graduate school have minimum requirement policies for GRE or TOEFL scores and until you can prove your eligibility, your application cannot even be transferred to the department, where the decision is actually made. If that is the case, it would be impossible to waive unofficial score until admission.


Almost all universities have admission process for Fall/spring every year. Considering the fact that thousands of NON-US students apply to Universities; It is practically impossible for individual university to ask for student's GRE/TOEFL score directly to ETS or take from it. Let us consider cases to understand it in totality.

Case (A) Student sends his/her score [No involvement of ETS]

Student can send Whatever Score He/She wishes. Suppose that Score got accepted and is Fake. If the same University receives 100 such applications then it would be tedious task not only for the universities but also for the ETS management. 100 applications is small number for that particular University but What about ETS??? ETS is the only authority that issues official score. There are 100 more such university in US. If ETS starts replying to 100*100 such fake request; we can easily imagine the man power that could be needed. The most important point here to remember is TIME. Every university has a time limit for considering applications. If ETS Starts evaluating all such Queries;it will be a chaos.

Case (B) Student sends his/her score [ involvement of ETS]

As ETS is already involved right from the first step then there is no chance of fake score getting reported to university and the whole Process is transparent and efficient.

Finally Why will ETS not send the Score Electronically to respective University ?

Suppose you request to send the Score Electronically to University of your choice. If ETS allows this for free then there are 100% chance that you or anyone will send it all universities as the cost is NULL. In order to avoid Denial of Service to the students that really deserve admission this becomes necessary to keep such a system that currently Exists

  • " Suppose you request to send the Score Electronically to University of your choice. If ETS allows this for free then there are 100% chance that you or anyone will send it all universities as the cost is NULL." Why would anybody send the scores to a university to which they are not applying to? Individual application fees, typically around $80-$100, also serve as barriers to entry. Oct 5, 2015 at 18:11

The cost of processing applications is very high. The policy of asking applicants to pay something for applying may sound inequitable, but it ensures that nobody will apply "just for fun".

In a private university where I worked years ago, the simple fact of asking for the payment of the stamps (roughly 5 euros) used to send the results of the process lowered the number of applications by more than 20%, without lowering the quality of the top applications. This is a huge saving on the cost of the process.

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