Exams have always been a way to measure knowledge, competence, and dedication. However, some exams are renowned worldwide for their exceptional difficulty and the level of preparation they demand. As of 2023, here’s a glimpse into the top 16 toughest exams in the world, each presenting its own set of challenges.
From the time when examinations first came into existence until now, it is safe to say that the world is used to this system where people are tested and graded according to their scores in a test. For some, especially students, as examinations draw close, a cloud of anxiety descends on them. For others, it is just a necessary phase that needs a little extra hardwork to scale through.
All in all, these tests vary, even if the content on which it was formulated is similar. For instance, a Mathematics Professional examination written in Nigeria might not be as difficult/easy as the same type of examination written in another country. Some examinations are just hard, while some, from our survey, is purely difficult. However, this is not to say that if you attempt any of these examinations, you’re not likely to pass. The examination types on our list were choosen mainly for their difficulty based on the intensity, length and rigorousness of the test itself, and not necessarily the performance of candidates in the examination (although the stakes are also considered).
Top 16 Most Difficult and Toughest Examinations in the World 2023
The world’s toughest examinations are not limited to these ten featuring on our list. There are a lot more of them, but these ones absolutely hit the roof in the rank for toughest tests ever.
1. IES: Indian Engineering Services is an examination conducted by the Union Public Services Commission to assess those to be recruited into the government’s Engineering departments.
The exam is a rigorous test written in four parts – conventional technical paper, general aptitude test, objective technical paper and finally, an interview.
2. GAOKAO: Gaokao is the examination written by those hoping to gain entrance into a tertiary institution in China. Its difficulty level is so high that well under 0.25% of candidates who sat for the exam reach the required pass mark. It is usually conducted in two days, and takes about nine hours in total to complete. Its difficulty and technicality is such that some American and European institutions of higher learning have started to accept Gakao scores to admit students.
3. ALL SOULS PRIZE FELLOWSHIP: The All Souls Prize Fellowship examinations is conducted by the Oxford University and is open to undergraduate degree holders and graduate school students, both of Oxford University. Successful students are granted free tuition for a period of seven years.
The exam comprises of four parts, to be written in three hours each. Two of those parts are based on the candidate’s area of specialisation, usually in the field of Humanities, and the other two are general papers.
4. GATE: GATE, or Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering is a professional exam written by those who wish to pursue a graduate degree in Engineering, or develop a related career in India, UAE, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, etc. This examination aims to test a student’s understanding of the the concepts in Engineering, Mathematics and Science.
It is a computer-based test consisting of both objective questions and numerical-based questions that lasts for about three hours. The exam is very competitive.
5. LNAT: The Law National Aptitude Test was first conducted in 2004, as an entrance aptitude test for candidates who wish to be admitted as law students in the Oxford University. Its popularity grew and soon it became one of the main law examinations in the United Kingdom.
The exam lasts almost three hours and comprises of several sections including essay and reading tests.
6. USMLE: USMLE, or the United States Medical Licensing Examination is a series of tests written throughout the course of medical school in a total of forty hours. What success in this examination means for candidates is eligibility to apply for a license to practice medicine in the United States.
The USMLE test candidates based on medical knowledge and clinical practice and the is taken in three stage. The first stage is for students in their second or third year in Medical School, the second stage is for those at the end of their third year, and the final stage is for those undergoing internship.
7. MENSA: Basically an examination for admission into the select two percent in the world, this particularly tests candidates with questions based on logic and critical thinking. This is done to ascertain the IQ level of each candidate, and to pass, one has to score within the ninety-eight percentile.
The Mensa is an old and prestigious society with branches in many country of the world, and its esteemed members are considered to be those with the highest IQs in the world.
8. CALIFORNIA BAR EXAM: Conducted twice per annum, in July and February, the California Bar Exam is regarded as one of the toughest Bar exams in the United States. To practice as a licensed lawyer in California, one has to pass this examination. The test is taken over a span of three days in a total of eighteen hours with a pass mark of 144.
More of half of candidates who took the examination in the year 2018, reportedly failed to reach the pass mark. In 2020, the percentage of candidates who passed was below thirty percent.
9. CCIE: This examination is not only tough to pass, it is also costly to sit for, as the examination fee is about 450 dollars. CCIE or the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert examination is conducted by an organization known as Cisco Networks. It consists of half a dozen parts and is written in two stages. The first stage is a written test which candidates must pass before heading to the next stage, which last over eight hours and is carried out within a day. Well below one percent of applicants make it past stage two.
10. UPSC: The Government of India, through the Union Public Services Commission also conducts examinations for individuals who are vying for various positions in the Indian administrative departments including the Foreign Service, Revenue, Service. The examination is written in three levels – the Preliminaries, the Mains and the Interview session – with a total pass rate of below one percent. The exams lasts for months and is conducted to finely comb through the mass of candidates to select the best of individuals to fill about a thousand positions.
11. MEDICAL COLLEGE ADMISSION TEST: This is one of the toughest and feared computer based exams in the world currently. MCAT was organised in 1928 and has been ongoing for the past 98 years since its establishment. The test is currently available to 19 states including the United States, Australia, Canada etc.
According to research, to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT candidates should spend an average of 12 months (24 hours each day) to study and prepare for the exam. Nonetheless, spending more will definitely increase the chances of success too.
Interestingly, there are several MCAT preparation materials on the internet to help students and some are available for free too. Medical College Admission Test is very important for entering into any of the United States medical schools. It is also one of the most essential requirements for admission too.
12. JOINT ENTRANCE EXAMINATION: JEE examination is one of the oldest and difficult computer based examinations in the world. It started in 1961 (that is approximately 61 years now) to test students aspiring to join the Indian Institutes of Technology. To pass the Joint Entrance Examination, candidates are expected to start preparing 2 – 4 years before the examination.
The Joint Entrance Examination was originally a paper based examination. However, it was changed to a computer based test in 2018 to stop examination malpractice and ensure strict preparation from candidates.
13. MASTER SOMMELIER DIPLOMA EXAMINATION: The Master Sommelier Diploma Examination is at the top of the list of exams that are the most difficult in the world.
The test allegedly took place for the first time in the UK in 1969. And since that time, the number of successful exam takers has remained at 250. It makes sense why this exam is regarded as one of the most difficult examinations in the world. The three steps are testing in the field, service, and theory. The final component of the test, which requires the candidate to describe and identify several wine varieties, is the most challenging.
14. GRADUATE RECORD EXAMINATION: This exam, often known as the GRE, has long been regarded as one of the most difficult tests ever. The examination, given by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), gauges a candidate’s verbal reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking abilities.
Candidates who pass this exam are admitted to graduate programs in America.
15. Law School Admission Test: This exam is among the top Toughest in the World in the field of legal education. In the United States, Canada, and Australia, this is a well-known name when it comes to applying to law schools. Reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and analytical reasoning are the three skill sets that the LSAT assesses.
There are six sections total, four of which have multiple-choice questions, one is for writing, and the other two are for experiments. It’s been said that only the resilient will persevere when times are tough, and this test may prove to be one of them.
16. Chartered Financial Analyst Exam: Three phases make up this test, which is among the hardest exams ever. A certification is given to students who pass the CFA test. The situation about this exam is not about what may appear.
Successful exam takers are in high demand. But for each of the three phases, passing the test needs at least 200 hours of preparation. The curriculum is provided by the American CFA Institute. Passing the test requires a lot of effort. A fulfilling career, however, may be had by getting out of it with flying colors.
Although all these tests mentioned are known to be very difficult to ace, passing it is a huge advantage to the candidate. Think better job opportunities and incentives, as well as better study opportunities and increased chances of scholarship.