Top 10 Hardest Exams in the World (FAQs, Updated)

Hardest Exams in the World

According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, an exam is a spoken or written test of knowledge, especially an important one.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines an exam as a formal written, spoken, or practical test, especially at school or college, to see how much you know about a subject or what you can do.

There are many types of exams today, like open-look exams, essay exams, multiple-choice exams, close exams, case-study exams, restricted exams, oral exams, take-home exams, etc.

This article will discuss the top ten “hardest exams in the world” in no particular order or category.

Why are Exams hard?

Examinations can be hard because they check how much you know or comprehend about a topic.

Remembering a lot of things can be hard. Question forms can be tricky, making understanding what they’re asking hard.

There is also a time limit on exams, which can annoy you.

Additionally, the test will seem harder if you don’t know much about the subject or don’t study enough.

For these reasons, they can be hard. They test how well you’ve learned something.

Hardest Exams in the World

1. Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

The exam is said to have the highest failure rate globally, with only 8 to 9% of applicants passing the test each year.

The record has it that the exam was considered the hardest exam in the world. It is a wine-tasting test for professional wine producers.

Forty years back, in 2016, only 230 applicants out of thousands of applicants made it through the three stages of the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.

The Exam is organized by the Court of Master Sommeliers(CMS), and it was founded in 1977 to increase the standards of wine and food pairing service by Sommeliers.

However, the record has it that since the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam started, only nine applicants have been able to pass the test on the first attempt.

The exam consists of three parts. The first part is the verbal theory, which will last for 50 minutes. Part two is a deductive tasting of six different wines.

The final part is usually a practical wine service examination. If you fail any part, you can retake it within the next two years from the present year you took the exam.

If you did not pass every part of the exam within three years, you have to retake the whole exam.

Students who have passed the Advanced Sommelier Examination can apply for the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.

To pass this exam, you ought to have a vast knowledge of food and wine, superior communication skills, be open to learning, be willing to share insight and understand the technicalities of production.

2. All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

This is a historical examination that has been in existence for decades.

It is organized by the “College of The Souls of All The Faithful Departed,” instituted at Oxford University.

Students who have completed an Oxford BA or enlisted as graduate students at Oxford University are eligible for the examination.

You must pass the All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam to be admitted to a seven-year fellowship in this college. Each year, only 20% of the applicants are taken.

They set their questions from every aspect of life. The exam consists of 4 essays, two from general topics and two from specific issues.

The time allotted for each essay is 3 hours. Because of the tedious nature of the exam, it is among the hardest exams in the world.

Their questions are always abstract and confusing; there are no right or wrong answers. In September 2012, applicants were asked to write on the following:

  • “How can words be beautiful?”
  • “Can policy rely on human rationality?”
  • “Can we be forced to be free?”
  • “Do we police disciplinary boundaries too rigorously?” and other questions.

These few show you what the test looks like, and I guess you have now seen why it made it on this list of hardest exams in the world.

3. GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)

GATE is an online test and one of the hardest exams in India and the world. It is a national entrance exam organized rotationally by IITs and IISC.

You can enroll and sit for the exam as many times as you want, and there is also no age limit for applying for the GATE exam.

The exam is meant for those seeking admission to M.Tech/ME and other programs provided by IITs, NITs, and others.

This exam is being organized to test concepts of Engineering mathematics, science, and general aptitude for admission into master’s degree courses in places like India, The United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, etc.

For scholarship opportunities, countries like Singapore and Germany always consider the GATE scores.

This exam is among the hardest exams globally because of the challenging MCQs and numerical questions, making it very difficult to pass.

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4. CCIE (CISCO Certified Internetworking Expert)

It was established in 1993 and had two parts.

The first part is written, while the second is a practical lab test. You must first pass a written exam before the practical lab test.

Applicants must have deep knowledge of every area covered by the exam and job experience of 3 to 5 years before attempting certification.

To clear this test, you need a lot of practice, hard work, and experience; that’s the only way to finish the lab exam in the stipulated time.

CISCO Certified Internetworking Expert has been among the top hardest exams in the world.

CISCO System conducts the exam to employ networking experts. It is carried out in two stages and divided into six parts.

Only when you pass the first stage can you participate in the second stage. The second phase is usually 8 hours, and not up to 2% of applicants can pass it.

CCIE Certification is the most top-notch certificate in the networking world, but it is nearly impossible to give it.

5. CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)

This exam is for financial and investment professionals. The Wall Street Journal has recognized CFA as the most challenging exam in the world because of the following;

  • You must have up to 4 years of important work experience to take the test.
  • Approximately 50,000 charter holders have been recorded across 165 world countries as of 2018.
  • It consists of 3 papers, including two objective and one essay type. In the past decade, only 9% of the applicants have made it through three papers.
  • It has been recorded that about 1/5th of the applicants pass the test each year after repeated sitting.

6. Union Public Service Commission

The Union Public Service Commission is abbreviated as UPSC. UPSC Exams require hard work and sleepless nights to pass.

It also requires determination, focus, and spending hours studying thoroughly according to the exam syllabus.

The age limit for UPSC Exams is 21 to 32 years. Central agencies in India use the exam to enroll all the prestigious government officials in India. The USPC exam has three phases.

The first phase is objective-type questions; the second phase is usually subjective, while the final phase is an interview.

This exam has a straightforward format, but the questions are never simple to crack.

Only about 1000 out of 300,000 applicants are selected yearly, making it one of the hardest exams in the world.

Read this: When do ACT Scores come out? (Quick Answer)

7. Mensa

Roland Berrill, an Australian Barrister, was the founder of this exam.

He founded it alongside the British scientist and lawyer Dr. Lancelot Ware at Lincoln College in Oxford, England 1946.

The idea was to establish a non-profit organization for all above the 98th percentile on regulated and supervised IQ tests.

To become a bonafide MENSA member, You must score above the stipulated percentile.

MENSA is a multinational non-profit organization with no age restrictions. MENSA’s youngest member is claimed to be “Elise Tan Roberts.”

She was accepted when she was two years and four months old.

MENSA’s acceptance of only the top 98th percentile applicants is one of the reasons MENSA is among the hardest exams to pass in the world.

8. Gaokao

This Exam can also be called the National Higher Education. It is a national entrance test in China.

If you want to further your education in China, you must pass the GAOKAO Exam because it is a mandatory condition for higher education in China.

Anyone who passes the GAOKAO Exam is considered a genius because of the problematic nature of the exam.

The exam is conducted for 10 hours over two days; Chinese and Mathematics are included in all the tests.

The total marks scored by the students are usually the average of their subject marks, which determines whether the student passed the exam or failed.

Because of how difficult it is to pass the GAOKAO Exam and the tough nature of its questions, the exam is on the list of the top ten hardest exams in the world.

9. Joint Entrance Examination Advanced

The short form of Joint Entrance Examination Advanced is JEE Advanced.

The exam is conducted in India. It is an Engineering College Entrance Examination previously called IIT-JEE, India Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination.

Students wishing to be admitted into IITs and NITs must pass the JEE exam. For any question you fail in this exam, you will receive a 1/4th negative mark.

Students sitting for this exam usually prepare for years to solve the difficult questions featured in the exam.

Out of 500,000 candidates sitting for the exam every year, only a few make it through, about 11,000.

That is one of the reasons it belongs to this list of hardest exams in the world.

10. Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

According to Wikipedia, The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States and Canada and a few in other countries.

The GRE is owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The test was established in 1936 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

According to ETS, the GRE measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills acquired over a long learning period.

The content of the GRE consists of certain specific algebra, geometry, arithmetic, and vocabulary sections.

The GRE General Test is a computer-based exam administered at testing centers and institutions or authorized by Prometric.

The emphasis placed on GRE scores varies widely between schools and departments within schools in the graduate school admissions process.

The importance of a GRE score can range from being a mere admission formality to an important selection factor.

The GRE was significantly overhauled in August 2011, resulting in an exam that is not adaptive on a question-by-question basis but instead by section.

The performance on the first verbal and math sections determines the difficulty of the second sections presented.

Overall, the test retained the sections, and many of the question types from its predecessor, but the scoring scale was changed to a 130 to 170 scale (from a 200 to 800 scale), making it one of the toughest exams In the world.

Read this: How to prepare for an Exam in One Week(Wow!)

FAQs on the Hardest Exams in the World

What is considered the hardest exam in the world?

The Gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam, is often considered one of the hardest due to its high pressure and vast syllabus.

Are there any extremely difficult professional exams?

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam and the Indian Civil Services Exam are known for their high difficulty levels and low pass rates.

What makes an exam ‘hard’?

The difficulty can stem from the extensive syllabus, complex questions, high competition, or strict scoring systems.

Can preparation help in clearing the toughest exams?

Thorough and strategic preparation is key to tackling even the most challenging exams.


These exams require maximum preparation and coordination to get the most out of them.

The best way to do well is to prepare and be positive about the outcome of the exam.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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