Hardest Exams in the World

Top 10 Hardest Exams in the World in 20219 min read

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

While Oxford Advanced learner’s Dictionary defined 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 so many types of exams in the world 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.

Hardest Exams in the World

Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

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

The record has it that the exam had been considered to be the hardest exam in the world. It is a wine tasting test for professional wine producers.

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

The exam consists of three parts. The first part is the theory which is verbal and 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 have the chance to 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 are eligible to apply for the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.

To have chances of passing 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.

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.

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To be admitted to a seven-year fellowship in this college, you must pass the All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam. 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 essays 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 to the questions. 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 how the test looks like, and I guess you have now seen why it made it on this list of hardest exams in the world.

GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)

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

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 admissions in 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 scholarships 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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Hardest Exams in the World

CCIE (CISCO Certified Internetworking Expert)

It was established in 1993 and had two parts. The first part is written, while the second part 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 one of 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 will you be able to 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.

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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;

  • To take the test, you must have up to 4 years of important work experience.
  • Approximately 50,000 charter holders are recorded across 165 countries of the world as of 2018.
  • It consists of 3 papers, including two objective types 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.

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 applicants out of 300,000 applicants are selected every year, making it one of the hardest exams in the world.

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Roland Berrill, an Australian Barrister, was the founder of this exam. He founded it alongside the British scientist and lawyer Dr. Lancelot Ware at the Lincoln College in Oxford, England, in the year 1946.

The idea was to establish a non-profit organization for all above the 98th percentile on regulated and supervised IQ tests. For you to become a bonafide member of MENSA, You have to 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 accepting only the top 98th percentile applicants is one of the reasons MENSA is among the hardest exams to pass in the world.

Hardest Exams in the World


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 that passes the GAOKAO Exam is considered a genius because of the problematic nature of the exam. The exam is carried out for like 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, and it determines whether the student passed the exam or failed.

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

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 who desire to be admitted into IITs and NITs have to pass JEE exam. For any question you fail in this exam, you would receive a 1/4th negative marking.

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

Out of 500,000 candidates sitting for the exam every year, only a few of them make it through, about 11,000. That is one of the reasons it belongs to this list of hardest exams in the world.

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 few in other countries.

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

According to ETS, the GRE aims to measure 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 offered as a computer-based exam administered at testing centers and institution-owned or authorized by Prometric.

The emphasis placed upon 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.

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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 answered your question.

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