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Nikita Parmar

Updated on 12th July, 2024 , 9 min read

Top 10 Toughest Exams in the World 2024

Toughest Exams in the World

Toughest Exams in the World: An Introduction

Exams are a vital part of a student's life. Whether you are finishing high school, about to graduate, or going to pursue post-graduate courses, you have all taken tests at some point during your academic career and beyond. Many government and private sector positions also require candidates to go through numerous selection rounds (written/interview or both) as part of the selection process (exam) for jobs with a large number of applicants. According to the latest update from the World Ranking Website, China's Gaokao Exam is regarded as the most difficult in the world. And it ranks first among the world's top ten most difficult tests. On the other hand, India's second and third toughest tests, IIT and UPSC, are ranked as the world's toughest exams. In Particular, India has three of the most demanding tests in the world. Every year, numerous Indians attempt these; the other tests are held outside of India.

The field of academics and professional certifications is filled with exams. The assessment of the limits of human acumen, perseverance, and resilience is tested through these exams. Among these, certain exams stand unique for their high difficulty and low pass rates, earning them a reputation as some of the toughest exams in the world. These grueling tests span various disciplines, from medicine and law to engineering and finance, and challenge even the most diligent and well-prepared candidates. Aspiring individuals often spend years preparing for these exams, dedicating countless hours to study and practice, all in the pursuit of excellence and the prestigious credentials that come with success. This introduction delves into the rigorous world of the most challenging exams globally, exploring what makes them so demanding and the remarkable efforts of those who undertake them.

Toughest Exams in the World: List of the Top Ten Toughest Exams 

Here's an overview table of the top ten most difficult exam worldwide:



Difficulty Exam 




Very High

Two-day university admission exam encompassing a variety of courses, which is required for higher education.



Very High

National engineering entrance test for Indian Institutes of Technology.



Very High

Civil Service exams administered by the central government are well-known for their wide syllabus and profundity.

Mensa IQ Test 


Very High

The high IQ society membership test assesses intelligence quotient (IQ) level.

GRE(Graduate Record Examination)



A standardized test for graduate and business school admissions in the United States.

CFA(Chartered Financial Analyst)



A rigorous exam for finance professionals that covers investment management & financial analysis.

CCIE(Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert)



Certification exam for networking experts, testing knowledge of Cisco networking solutions.

GATE(Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)



National-level exam for engineering and technology students applying to postgraduate programmes.

All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

Oxford, UK 


Oxford University conducts a highly competitive exam to assess critical thinking and writing skills.

Master’s Sommelier Diploma Exam 



Exam for wine experts to assess knowledge and skills in wine tasting, pairing, and service.

Gaokao Exam: Toughest Exam in World

When it comes to university admission exams in China, many people picture the most difficult competitions. China's famed "Gaokao" university admission exam takes place in June. This exam is held over two days, with candidates taking elective courses in addition to the obligatory subjects of math, Japanese language, and foreign language. Though not a nationwide standard test, Gaokao is administered in all provinces and produces results almost solely for university admission exams. Though just 10% of colleges use them, more and more are instituting entrance exams.

Drones will be used to detect cheating on China's Gaokao exam, which is notorious for its high cheating rate and difficulty, prompting many students to commit suicide. Searching for radio signals allows you to pinpoint the fraudster.Every year, millions of Chinese students take exams to continue their education. Test takers are reported to pass out in the exam hall on a regular basis, and the test's intense stress levels contribute to a high number of suicides. These two-day exams, known as "gaokao" (gaokao), are primarily memorization tests, and the results affect the pupils for the rest of their lives. The test results will only determine whether you pass or fail.



Country of exam



College Entrance exam for high school students

Duration of exam

9 hours 

Number of candidates (2024)


Pass percentage (2023)


IIT JEE Advanced: Toughest Exam in World

The IIT JEE Advanced is one of the most difficult exams in India. Candidates seeking admission to the erstwhile Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) must take the IIT-JEE Advanced exam. The IIT JEE Advanced is a national-level exam that serves as the single entrance exam for undergraduate courses leading to a bachelor's degree, integrated master's degree, or Bachelor-Master Dual Degree in Engineering, Science, or Architecture. Candidates should be aware that undergraduate admission to IITs is a multi-tiered selection process that begins with the JEE Mains exam and progresses to the JEE Advanced exam. The exam also offers Siemens scholarships to candidates, and students who pass the exam have a chance to qualify for one. And the scholarship will assist them in pursuing a bachelor's degree in engineering.



Country of exam



UG admission to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)

Duration of exam

3 hours

Number of candidates 

1,80,372 (2023)

Pass percentage (2023)


UPSC/CCE: Toughest Exam in World

The Civil Services Exam, also known as the IAS exam, is the most difficult exam in India. It is designed for Indian aspirants who want to serve their country in administrative positions. The Civil Services Exam, conducted by UPSC (Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), is a national-level exam held in three stages: prelims, mains, and an interview round to recruit candidates for Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS), and various other Central Civil Services. To give you an idea of the importance of the exam, all ministries and departments in the union and state governments are led by IAS officers, making this the most prestigious and difficult exam in India.



Country of exam



Recruitment to administrative posts such as IAS, IPS and IFS

Duration of exam

2-3 hours

Number of candidates 

10,93,948 applied for UPSC in 2021

Pass percentage (2023)


Selected for service

685 candidates were selected in 2021

Mensa: Toughest Exam in World

Mensa is not an examination; rather, it is an international organization of high-level or top test scores. Mensa is a high intelligence IQ organization, with associates having an IQ of 98% or higher. This society does not tolerate discrimination against candidates based on caste, colour, religion, or race, and it is non-political. The group's main mission is to identify and cultivate human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to promote study into the nature, qualities, and applications of intelligence; and to offer a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.

GRE ( Graduate Record Examination): Toughest Exam in World

ETS administers the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that is required for admission to graduate or business schools around the world. The GRE Test is a prominent graduate admissions test for those interested in pursuing MS or MBA programmes overseas. GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination. The ETS GRE exam is administered numerous times throughout the year, and applicants can take the exam in a designated GRE test centre or from the comfort of their own homes by using the test's 'GRE at Home' option. Originally designed for American institutions, the GRE is currently accepted in over 90 nations and countries.

CFA (Chartered Financial Analysts): Toughest Exam in World

The CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam, which is related to and focused on financial discipline, is the most difficult and competitive exam ever. This degree is also eligible and qualified for the Guinness World Records most difficult degree. Every year, over 100,000 applicants from over 100 countries, including Asia, attempt and pass the CFA exam. In the fields of investment management and finance, the CFA is often regarded as the most prestigious and renowned qualification. The CFA test is designed to assess and analyze finance professionals' knowledge of significant and useful financial instruments and procedures. If you pass this test, you will be able to pursue a variety of CFA options in India and gain numerous prospects. To be awarded a Charter holder position by the CFA Institute, aspirants and applicants must complete three levels: CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2, and CFA Level 3.

CCIE(Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert): Toughest Exam in World

Cisco Systems operates and manages CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking ECisco), which is regarded as one of the top ten toughest tests in the world. This exam consists of a set of tests that professionals should use to create, manage, balance, and upgrade complex network infrastructures. This toughest exam is divided into six sections that assess teamwork, security, safety, routing, and other elements. It features a two-step process, and candidates who pass the first level can advance to the second round. 

GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering; India): Toughest Exam in World

Another difficult exam comes from India: GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering), which is a national-level online examination held in India. This exam is designed to assess students' understanding of technical and engineering concepts. The exam is extremely competitive and challenging, and many are struggling just to pass it. Long study sessions and additional classes are required to pass this test and assessment.

All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam: Toughest Exam in World

This exam has been held in the autumn season for many decades. It is an exam administered by Oxford University that is mostly historical in nature. This demanding exam is regarded as the most hardest in the world. Every year, 80 hopefuls and applicants take this test, and only one or two are chosen. Candidates must submit or compose four essays on a relevant and logical topic. And the time limit for each essay is over three hours.

Master Sommelier Diploma: Toughest Exam in World

The CMS, or Court of Master Sommeliers, organizes the Master Sommelier Diploma test. This exam focuses on the high levels of beverages and services provided by sommeliers, particularly in meal matching and wine. The goal of this most difficult test is to encourage increased and advanced knowledge and service quality across the board in the hospitality sector, which includes accommodation, dining, and homestays. Even after several attempts, tries, and retakes, the average passing or success rate for a candidate is less than 10%.



Country of exam



To become a certified Sommelier

Duration of exam

Part 1 – 50 mins

Part 2 - n/a

Part 3 – 25 mins

Official website


Pass percentage 

10% (theory)


Also Read: Is MAT Exam Tougher Than CMAT?

Toughest Exams in the World: How do you apply for your exams?

Applications might be a challenging element of your exam preparation. If not prepared properly, this can jeopardize your entire plan. So it is critical to complete your application on time and with sufficient preparation. Check out the application guidelines below:

Toughest Exams in the World

Check Eligibility: Before you begin the application process, make sure you meet the test's eligibility conditions. Check if you meet all of the entry requirements.

Check the Application Deadline: Once you've decided to take a test, look into the application timetable. Examine the entire chronology, beginning with the application notification, including the application start date, application finish date, fee payment date, and all other key dates.

Gather relevant documents: Before you begin your application, gather all of the required documentation. If you don't already have any, attempt to make some soon. For example, preparing government-issued paperwork can take some time. So, make sure to prepare all of your documentation ahead of time.

Read the application instructions carefully: Before you begin using your application, please read all of the instructions. Don't skip them. This will assist you avoid making mistakes in the process.

Apply Early: Once you've checked and understood the application deadline, strive to complete your application as soon as possible. Do not leave it till the last minute. Try to complete your application at least one day before the deadline. Applying on the last day is dangerous because of the possibility of technological complications. It can also cause stress.

Make Your Fee Payment: Most examinations demand a fee. This can vary depending on the test and the candidate. Check the available payment methods. Most tests provide both online and offline payment options. You can pay with a credit or debit card, or through internet banking. Make careful you pay on time.

Cross-check Information: After completing your application, double-check all of the information thoroughly. If you see any errors, see if you can fix them right now. If not, most exam application platforms will open an editing window later. Wait for the editing window to open, then carefully edit them.

Confirmation Mail/Receipt: After submitting your application, you will receive a confirmation/acknowledgement email. If you apply offline, you can receive a receipt. Save and print this document for future reference.

Seek Assistance If Necessary: If you encounter any technical difficulties or other discrepancies with the application, please contact the exam authorities immediately for clarification or resolution. Seek assistance promptly to avert further problems.

Stay Up to Date on New Trends: Once you've completed the application, keep track of exam updates. For the most recent information, please visit the exam's official website. 

For All The Latest Update On Toughest Exam In India: Click The Link Here

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many years are required to prepare for Gaokao?

Ans. 12 years are required to prepare for Gaokao.

How many students in India take the UPSC Exam?

Ans. Every year, between 900,000 and 1,000,000 individuals apply, with around 550,000 candidates appearing in the preliminary test.

What is CFA and how many levels are there in it?

Ans. CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and is a professional degree provided by the CFA Institute in the United States which trains students to be competent and ethical investment management professionals. There are three levels, the first two levels are objective, whereas the questions in the third level are subjective.

How long is the GATE exam and what type of questions are present in it?

Ans. The 3-hour exam includes 65 questions, 10 of which are general aptitude questions (verbal and numerical ability). At the same time, the remaining 55 questions are technical in nature and are based on the candidate’s chosen paper.

What is CCIE ?

Ans. Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert is one of the top ten most difficult tests in the world, administered by Cisco Systems to networking professionals. The test is divided into six sections and is administered in two stages. Applicants who pass the first phase are eligible to take the second. The second stage test lasts 8 hours and only about 1% of the total number of students pass it.

Which is the world's toughest exam?

The difficulty of an exam is subjective, based on an individual's strengths, interests, and career objectives. However, several exams are well-known for their high level of difficulty, and they are frequently regarded as among the most challenging in the world. The National College Entrance Exam (NCEE), also known as the Gaokao Exam in China, is often regarded as one of the most difficult exams in the world. However, it is crucial to note that what makes an exam difficult varies tremendously depending on the environment and the individual's history and ambitions.

Which exams are on India's Toughest Exam List?

India's Top Ten Toughest Exams are listed:(i)UPSC Civil Services Exam (ii)JEE Advanced, (iii)GATE (iv)IIM CAT (v)CLAT, (vii)CA exams (viii)UGC NET (viii)NEET (ix)National Institute of Design Entrance Exam (x)NDA.

Which is the most challenging exam in India?

Without a question, India's most difficult exam is the Civil Services Exam administered by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

How many students are picked for the JEE Advanced?

The top 2.5 lakh students who passed the JEE Main exam can take the JEE Advanced. Students who pass the JEE Main are entitled to take the next level of the test, JEE Advanced. Students who pass the JEE Advance are able to apply to IITs.

What's the difference between the GRE and the GMAT?

The main distinction between the GMAT and the GRE is that the GMAT is primarily used for admission to business schools. At the same time, the GRE is commonly used for admission to graduate programmes such as business and law schools. Most universities prefer either of these tests.

Do Indians require a CFA to practice as chartered accountants?

The CFA is a universally standardized test. The CFA, or Chartered Financial Analyst, is a globally renowned qualification in finance and investment. The CFA is typically taken by students with a foundation in finance, accounting, economics, or business.

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