I've just completed the registration of my GRE account, and was going to schedule my test, when I read the guidelines on how to fill in the "First name" and "Last Name" fields and realized that I may have filled them incorrectly.

From what I've understood, if you have multiple surnames then you should fill in the "Last name" field with all of them, without spaces in-between. So, if my name is Alberto Oliveira Castro Alves Saracaia, the "Last name" should be "OliveiraCastroAlvesSaracaia". Is this correct? Or should the "Last name" be filled as "Saracaia" only (which is what I did).

I've tried contacting ETS by e-mail, but got no response so far. Any help would be appreciated, thank's in advance.

  • The guideline is extremely clear. It depends on what you consider your given name and what you consider your family name. If your family name is Saracaia, then you did correctly provided you entered the first name as "AlbertoOliveiraCastroAlves". If your family name is "Castro Alves Saracaia", your last name should be entered as "CastroAlvesSaracaia" with the first name as "AlbertoOliveira". – Willie Wong Sep 3 '14 at 11:12
  • To put it differently, in English usage, the "first name" plus the "middle name" is the "given name": the name that identifies you among family members. The "last name" or the "surname" refers to the part of your name that identifies your familial origins. (Unfortunately this is not entirely compatible with all cultures in the world, but that's life.) So the answer to what you should've entered depends on how you split the five words in your name into given/family name portions. – Willie Wong Sep 3 '14 at 11:14
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    Relevant link. See especially #20. – JeffE Sep 4 '14 at 2:47
  • But now I've realized that I filled the form incorrectly. How do I correct this information? (Should this be in an separate question?) – JLagana Sep 4 '14 at 2:51
  • You have a Hell of a name there! The usual approach would be writing an hyphen in between, e.g. Oliveira-Castro-Alves-Saracaia. CamelCase is unusual, but you may opt for it if hyphens produce an error (in the web form). If you didn't make any payment and it doesn't take very long you may register again (I never did, so idk), if not then follow the answers to try to patch your current registration. – Trylks Sep 9 '14 at 15:26

Yes, you made a mistake, because "last name" means surname or family name (sobrenome in Portuguese or apellido in Spanish). It is NOT the last of your names.

So your question now is how to fix it. Have they answered your email yet? If not, call them. You can also call your testing center and ask if they'll allow you to take the test. If they say they are OK and understand that you made a mistake, then you have more time to fix the problem. If not, you need to fix it before your test date.

If they do allow you to take the test before you fix the problem and you still have issues with ETS (and cannot fix your name), then you'll need to contact the universities you are applying to, and make sure they are aware of the problem and are able to find your test grades once ETS reports them to the University.

I know of people from Spanish-speaking countries that have registered for the GRE using only their first surname and have had no issues during the test taking or the reporting of the grades. However, your problem is different because you are using the last of your surnames, and unless in your country that surname is considered your "main" surname, they may not let you take the test. For the case of the people I know, in their countries the first surname is considered your "main" surname, so using the first or both of their surnames works, but using their last surname would probably have raised questions at the testing center.

  • A side note: It may not raise questions. Usually when writing papers the surnames have to be put together (with an hyphen) or the automatic systems take only the last one (as op did). So they may very well think that his name is Alberto-Oliveira-Castro-Alves Saracaia, which sortens to Alberto Saracaia. In any case, I'd not run the risk of having official documents written with arguably (in)correct names, that can only cause trouble. – Trylks Sep 9 '14 at 15:31
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    @trylks Yes, that is what I was trying to say. In Spanish-speaking countries, the main surname is the first of the surnames, but (according to Wikipedia) in Portuguese-speaking countries, the main surnames is the last one, in which case it is probably not going to be an issue as it wasn't an issue for my friends who did a similar thing. I also agree that it is best to try to fix the problem, but if he can't do it, then it is probably not a big deal. – cabad Sep 9 '14 at 16:07
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    Thank you, your comment clarified things a lot for me. Just if you're curious, I've solved my problem by creating a completely new account (hope that that doesn't raise any more problems). – JLagana Sep 9 '14 at 16:47

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