logo
logo
blog
ExploreCourses
top 10 toughest exams in the world_1
Home CV Blog Top 10 Toughest Exams in the World [Updated List 2024]

Top 10 Toughest Exams in the World [Updated List 2024]

Apr 1, 2024 1.2K Reads

Examinations like academic exams, entrance exams or professional selection exams are a common part of every student’s or professional’s life. While some examinations are theory-focused, some others might be practicum-oriented.

Additionally, some examinations may have a higher level of difficulty while others may have relatively easier testing levels.Few examinations may offer a percentile rank as a metric of evaluation while a few others may offer a mark/grade/percentage for evaluation. 

Based on the level of difficulty and rigour of the exam, here we have enlisted the top 10 toughest examinations as rated commonly by exam takers and evaluators. Here, we have taken a look at the academic entrances, professional testing as well as other professional certification examinations which are renowned as being a few of the toughest exams across the globe with respect to their span of syllabi, the evaluation criteria, the competitiveness and the pass percentage. 

List of Top 10 Toughest Examinations in the World 

Exams over centuries have been deemed as one of the most accurate and appropriate metrics for evaluation and assessment of performance across a variety of domains. Over the course of years, some examinations have garnered the infamous status as being one of the toughest to crack, based on rates of application, competition and qualification. 

Listed here, in no particular order, are the top 10 examinations of the world considered as being the toughest ones to crack. 

1) Gaokao Exam of China 

The Gaokao Exam of China is a screening examination for high school students seeking collegiate examinations currently. The exam comprises 3 subtests assessing the mathematical aptitude, Chinese expertise and expertise of a chosen foreign language. The exam is approximately 9 hours long and has a pass percentage ranging from merely 0.25% to 9% annually.

Further details about the exam have been provided below :

Examination Name 

Gaokao Exam

Purpose of Exam

Screening of High School Students for College Education 

Country 

China 

Duration of Exam 

9 Hours 

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

750-950 Marks

Exam Structure 

  • Mathematics Exam 
  • Chinese Exam 
  • Foreign Language Exam (English/French/Japanese/Russian etc.)

Number of Candidates 

1,20,00,000 on Annual Basis 

Pass Percentage

0.25% to 9% (Approximate Statistics)

Official Link

www.gaokao.com

2) IIT-JEE Advanced Examination of India 

An advanced engineering entrance exam for admission to the eminent IITs of India, the Joint Entrance Exam or JEE-Advanced is considered to be an accurate as well as tough entrance exams to crack. The examination assesses the knowledge and expertise of students in three domains–physics, chemistry and mathematics, through two papers over a period of 6 hours.

Further details about the exam have been enlisted here for quick reference :

Examination Name 

IIT-JEE Advanced Examination

Purpose of Exam

Screening High School Graduates for Admission to IITs (engineering colleges) 

Country 

India 

Duration of Exam 

6 Hours (3+3)

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

306 Marks (123+123)

Exam Structure 

Paper I + Paper II (Each covering Physics, Chemistry & Mathematics)

Number of Candidates 

8,50,000 Candidates on an Annual Basis (Figures as of 2023)

Pass Percentage

24.26%

Official Link

Click Here

3) UPSC Exams of India 

The UPSC examinations of India are understandably one of the toughest to crack, as they intend to select the top candidates from across the nation for the prestigious administrative services. The exam occurs in three phases, including a preliminary screening test, the UPSC mains exam and lastly a rigorous personal interview. The pass percentage for the UPSC exams are merely 0.2%, with over 13 lakh students applying for the same each year.

Find more details about the UPSC examinations provided below :

Examination Name 

UPSC Exams

Purpose of Exam

To screen and select candidates for administrative services in India like IAS, IPS, IFS

Country 

India 

Duration of Exam 

4 Hours (Preliminary) + 27 Hours (Mains: 3 Hours for 9 Papers)

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

400 (Mains) + 1750 (Preliminary) + 275 (Interview)

Exam Structure 

Preliminary Paper + Mains Paper + Personal Interview

Number of Candidates 

13,00,000 on Annual Basis (Average Statistic)

Pass Percentage

0.2%

Official Link

Click Here

4) ICAI CA Exams of India 

The examinations for Chartered Accountancy or CA, conducted by the ICAI in India have been considered as one of the toughest tests globally, and they aim to train and certify Chartered Accountants in India. The examination includes 4 papers, two subjective assessment papers and two objective assessment papers, making up a total of 400 marks. The average percentage of qualification of candidates for this exam is about 14%.

More pertinent details about this exam are provided below :

Examination Name 

ICAI CA Exams

Purpose of Exam

For Training and Certifying Chartered Accountants in India 

Country 

India 

Duration of Exam 

2-3 Hours 

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

400 (Four Papers of 100 Marks)

Exam Structure 

Paper I & 2 (Subjective-Type Papers) + Paper 3 & 4 (Objective-Type Papers)

Number of Candidates 

1,37,153 on Annual Basis (Figures as of 2023)

Pass Percentage

14%

Official Link

Click Here

5) Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) of India 

The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering or GATE is a postgraduate engineering entrance exam in India for screening candidates seeking admissions in PG courses in engineering courses. This exam has a considerably high level of difficulty, with an average pass percentage of 18%. The test structure for this exam includes multiple choice questions and numerical questions pertaining to engineering, comprising a total of 100 marks.

More relevant details about the GATE examination are provided below :

Examination Name 

Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE)

Purpose of Exam

For the Purpose of Screening Engineering & Science students for admission to postgraduate engineering courses

Country 

India 

Duration of Exam 

3 Hours 

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

100

Exam Structure 

Multiple Choice Questions + Numerical Answer Questions 

Number of Candidates 

5,17,000 on Annual Basis (Figures as of 2023)

Pass Percentage

18%

Official Link

Click Here

6) Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Graduate Record Examination or the famous GRE is an international entrance examination for screening International candidates to the universities and colleges in the USA and Canada. The GRE is composed of 3 papers assessing verbal reasoning, analytical skills and the quantitative aptitude of the student. The candidates must attempt these questions worth 340 marks in a period of 3 hours 45 minutes.

Further details about the examination have been provided below :

Examination Name 

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Purpose of Exam

For Screening Candidates for Admission to MBA and MS degrees

Country 

USA, Canada (Also Recognised on a Worldwide Basis)

Duration of Exam 

3 Hours 45 Minutes

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

340 Marks 

Exam Structure 

3 Papers (Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Skills & Quantitative Reasoning) 

Official Link

Click Here

7) Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam of India 

The CFA or Chartered Financial Analyst examination of India is an assessment exam conducted in three phases by the CFA Institute in India. Comprising of three phases, the CFA Level I, CFA Level II and Portfolio Management in CFA Level III, this exam holistically assesses the comprehension of financial analysis by the student. The pass percentage of this exam is about 40% on an annual basis.

Explore more details about the exam provided below :

Examination Name 

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam 

Purpose of Exam

To Train and Qualify Chartered Financial Analysts in India

Country 

India

Duration of Exam 

6 Hours (CFA Level I) + 6 Hours (CFA Level II) + Portfolio Management in CFA Level III

Exam Structure 

CFA Level I (240 MCQ-format questions) + CFA Level II (20 Questions) + CFA Level III (10-15 Essay Type Questions)

Number of Candidates 

28,953 on Annual Basis (Figures as of 2023)

Pass Percentage

40% (Average Pass Rate)

Official Link

Click Here

8) Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

The Master Sommelier Diploma examination is a prestigious assessment for certifying sommeliers (professional wine tasters) on a global basis. While conducted primarily in the USA, it provides the qualified candidate with an internationally recognised certification. With an approximate pass percentage of about 10%, this exam is conducted in three phases of oral theory testing, wine tasting practicum and lastly a wine service practicum.

Find more details about the Master Sommelier Diploma exam provided below :

Examination Name 

Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

Purpose of Exam

To Screen Certified Sommeliers

Country 

USA+ Recognised on an International Basis 

Duration of Exam 

50 Minutes-75 Minutes

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

Minimum 75% Marks in Each Paper 

Exam Structure 

Paper I (Oral Theory Test) + Paper II (Practical Wine Tasting) + Paper III (Practical Wine Service Examination) 

Number of Candidates 

Statistics Unavailable 

Pass Percentage

10% (In Paper I) 

Official Link

Click Here

9) Medical Licensing Examination (MLE) of USA 

Designed to train and certify current medical students as licensed physicians, the Medical Licensing Examination or the MLE is an American medical licensure exam which spans across 4 days. It comprises a thorough assessment of physician competencies ranging from theoretical medical knowledge, practical applications of clinical sciences as well as patient management in clinics. The examination has a decently high pass percentage of about 50%-60%.

The key details about this course have been provided below :

Examination Name 

Medical Licensing Examination (MLE) 

Purpose of Exam

To Train and Certify Licensed Physicians 

Country 

United States of America (USA)

Duration of Exam 

4 Days (1 Day + 1 Day + 2 Days)

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

300

Exam Structure 

Step I (Basic Theoretical Medical Knowledge) + Step II (Clinical Science Applications) + Step III (Application of Clinical Knowledge to Patient Management)

Number of Candidates 

12,000 on an Annual Basis (Figures as of 2023)

Pass Percentage

50%-60%

Official Link

Click Here

10) Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) of USA 

The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert or the CCIE examination is a comprehensive examination for the issuing of a technical certification to senior networking professionals. The exam includes 90 to 110 questions as well as a practical simulation over a period of 2 hours and is primarily conducted in the USA. The percentage needed to qualify this examination is nearly 70% to 75% and it has a qualification rate of nearly 26% on an annual basis.

The exam details have been provided further below :

Examination Name 

Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)

Purpose of Exam

To Provide a Technical Certification to Senior Networking Professionals

Country 

United States of America (USA)

Duration of Exam 

2 Hours 

Total Marks/Evaluation Criteria 

Passing Criteria of 70%-75%

Exam Structure 

90-110 Questions + Simulation

Number of Candidates 

8000 on an Annual Basis (Average Figures)

Pass Percentage

26%

Official Link

Click Here

Conclusion 

As can be seen, there are a number of tough examinations across the globe for a variety of purposes and at a variety of levels ranging from high school and college screening tests to tests for professional licensure to medical personnel. These exams are designed to integrate a number of pedagogical assessment tools ranging from theory-based pen and paper tests, practical assessments as well as simulations. With advancements being made in the ICT-enabled education technology, a large number of these exams are now being conducted in the online mode through virtual and digital means.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

The UPSC or administrative services examinations are considered to be among the toughest exams of the nation and the world to crack. With about 13 lakhs candidates registering for the exam on an average annual basis, the qualification rate for the exam is a mere 0.2%. 

The Gaokao examination of China as well as the UPSC examination of India are considered to be among the toughest examinations of the world. They have a thoroughly rigorous system and metric for assessment with qualification rates of merely 0.25% and 0.2% respectively.

The JEE-Advanced examination (for admission to the prestigious IITs) and the UPSC examination for the administrative services in India are considered to be the two toughest exams of India. However, it is inaccurate to compare the two exams since JEE-Advanced is an engineering screening exam at the undergraduate level but the UPSC exams are for holistic screening and administrative acumen of the candidate in the professional level. While JEE-Advanced exam has a qualification rate of about 26%, that of UPSC exam is merely 0.2%.

Among the top 5 toughest exams of India are the UPSC exams, the JEE-Mains and Advanced exams, the GATE exam, the CAT exam for management and the National Defence Academy exam or the NDA exam.

While on an overall basis the qualification rate for the Gaokao examination is lower than that of JEE (0.25% versus nearly 24.26%), the level of difficulty of the JEE exam is higher than that of the Gaokao. While the Gaokao is focused on assessing the overall readiness of high school graduates for collegiate education by measuring their mathematical, Chinese and foreign linguistic aptitudes, the JEE examination includes a variety of questions assessing advanced concepts of mathematics, physics and chemistry. Hence, it is a relatively tougher exam than the Gaokao to crack.

Recommended for you

Tired of dealing with call centers!

Get a professional advisor for Career!

LIFETIME FREE

Rs.1499(Exclusive offer for today)

Pooja

MBA 7 yrs exp

Sarthak

M.Com 4 yrs exp

Kapil Gupta

MCA 5 yrs exp

or

avatar
avatar
avatar
GET A CALL BACK
Talk to Career Experts