The Top 20 Toughest Exams in the World

When it comes to ranking the toughest exams in the world, this list is based on exams that are as rated by the Guinness book of record. There are a lot of lists out there on the top 10 hardest exams on earth, but they are usually outdated. So I decided to make my own list of the top 20 toughest exams in the world and the latest ones that can help you understand which kind of exams you should get ready for. There are a number of notable exam systems in the world that are pretty much impossible to pass, whether it’s taken in one country or another.

The various government agencies of India have some of the toughest exams in the world. Not only do they usually consist of lengthy question papers, but the competition to qualify them is also really tough. Many people attempt these exams every year and only a small percentage is able to finally make it through. This article lists 20 of the toughest exams in the world–both general as well as specialized. You’ll be astonished at how many countries have some of the toughest exams, some that would make you scratch your head and ask “Are you serious?”.

The term most commonly used for this type of exam is a civil service exam. This list contains the top 20 exams in the world. The purpose of a civil service exam is to ensure that the person hired for that position is capable and has what it takes. Exams were created because it allows all applicants to be judged equally without any favoritism towards those with money or power. Sit tight as we dive into the top 20 toughest exams in the world in 2022.

The Top 20 Toughest Exams in the World

How We Came Up With This List

In order to know how hard an exam is, we have to know how it’s determined. When looking out for the toughest exams, what should we have in mind and how should we evaluate them? The first thing that comes to mind is the pass rate. However, this doesn’t give us a full picture because, if there’s only one position available per year and thousands of people take the test, then it will be difficult to get that job even if the test isn’t all that hard. So, a better question would be: “What percentage of applicants get that job“?

Even this question has a flaw — a test might be easy but have extremely high competition for those positions. To determine the toughest exams, we looked at several factors. Some of them are the pass rate, difficulty level, and time allotted to complete the exam. With that in mind, here are 20 of the toughest exams from around the world.

Top 10 Toughest Exams in India

When it comes to college, some students are just naturally intelligent and don’t need to work that hard. But most students need to study hard and work hard in order to do well on tests and get good grades. In college, most exams are multiple-choice and require a lot of memorization and studying. Here we have compiled a list of the top 10 toughest exams in India. Down the line, we talked about the top 20 toughest exams in 2022. These exams are considered the toughest because of their low pass rates and challenging questions.

Many candidates give up these exams in between due to the difficulty level of these exams. Let’s see how many of them make it to the top 20 world toughest exams. The toughest exams in India are:

  1. NID Entrance Examination
  2. UPSC Civil Services Examination.
  3. CAT.
  4. IIT JEE.
  5. GATE.
  6. CLAT.
  8. UPSC NDA.
  9. IIT-JAM.
  10. NEET UG.

Wow, did you anticipate that, or you are bathed in shock? Well, I am guessing that the list of the world’s toughest exams will surprise you the most. But even if it doesn’t, all well and good because it will help to reinforce your certainty and aid your preparation for better performance in the exam.


Top 20 Toughest Exams in the World in 2022

If you spend a little time in this world, you will come to realize that there are some exams that are tougher than the others. These exams are not only hard but also very difficult and require a lot of hard work, dedication, and time. There are a few exams that test your skills and knowledge. While there are some exams that are meant to push you to the limit and challenge your endurance. The world is full of brave students who want to take up competitive exams that can land them prestigious jobs and give them the opportunities to excel in their career.

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These competitive exams are often difficult, and a high score is proof of a student’s hard work and dedication. Some of these competitive exams have a long history, while others are new. The difficulty varies too because some are easier to crack than others. The following list highlights 20 of the toughest exams in the world:

  1. UPSC Civil Services Exam

The most difficult exam in India, UPSC Civil Services Exam, is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) annually in three stages – Preliminary, Main and Interview – to select officers for Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), among others. It is conducted every year by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for recruitment to various Central Government services like IAS, IPS, IFS, and IRS, etc. While the number of applicants has been rising steadily over the years, the number of successful candidates has remained low. In 2013, of 4.5 lakh aspirants for the prestigious exam, only 0.1% were selected. An average success rate of 0.3% makes it one of the toughest exams in the world.

  1. Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a computer-based standardized examination for prospective medical students in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Caribbean Islands. It is designed to assess problem-solving, critical thinking, written analysis, and knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.

  1. Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE)

Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE): IIT-JEE is one of the toughest tests in the world. It is an entrance examination conducted by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). It is a two-tier examination: JEE Main and JEE Advanced. Only the top 220,000 students qualify for JEE Advanced from JEE Mains. The exam is conducted by CBSE with the objective type of questions on Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Some IITs also conduct their own entrance examinations separately apart from JEE Mains and Advanced Exams for admissions in their colleges. This exam is conducted for admission to the B.Tech or B.E programs in 16 IITs across India. Roughly 1.5 million students register for this exam every year, while only 2% make it through.

  1. US Medical Licensing Exam

This is a three-part exam that all US medical students must take before they can practice medicine in the United States. The first part is usually taken after the second year of medical school, while the second and third parts are taken during the fourth year (after a student has completed required clerkships). It can also be taken separately as a five-part exam. All tests are administered by computer at Prometric testing centers around the world. The pass rate for first-time test takers ranges from 80 to 95%, depending on which part is being taken and whether it is being repeated.

  1. Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about the GRE as one of the top 20 world’s toughest exams. The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for most graduate schools in the United States and Canada. Created and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), it was introduced in 1949. This exam is conducted to test the skills of students who want to pursue a postgraduate degree from a foreign university. The exam aims to measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills that have been acquired over a long period of learning.

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 Prometric testing centers. In the graduate school admissions process, the level of emphasis that is placed upon GRE scores varies widely between schools and between departments within schools. 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 rather by section, so that the performance on the first math section determines the difficulty of the second math section.

  1. National Medical Admission Test (NMAT)

The National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) is required to be taken by all aspiring medical students in the Philippines. The test aims at giving admission to qualified students for undergraduate medicine courses in more than sixty-five medical colleges across the country. The exam is administered by the Center for Educational Measurement (CEM), Inc., and lasts for three hours. It consists of 200 multiple choice questions from four subjects: Biology, Physics, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. The NMAT is considered difficult because of its 300 passing rates.

  1. The Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT)

The STAT requires students to write two essays in 90 minutes and solve 55 multiple choice questions in one hour and 30 minutes. It is designed to assess how well an applicant would do in undergraduate university studies and is used by many Australian universities as an additional criterion for admission into undergraduate courses (in addition to high school results).

  1. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam is a notoriously difficult test to pass. It is considered as one of the most challenging exams in finance, with only a 20% pass rate among those who take it every year. That’s why it’s a very prestigious qualification to achieve — there were approximately 150,000 people registered for this May’s exam, and only around 30,000 passed it on their first attempt. The CFA Institute estimates that 1/3 of applicants won’t make it past Level I of its examination process to become a chartered financial analyst (CFA). The program requires you complete three levels of examinations.

  1. Chartered Accountancy (CA)

The exam consists of three levels: Common Proficiency Test, Intermediate, and Final. The first two stages have written papers, while the third level also has an oral component. Only 3% of all candidates pass this exam every year!

  1. Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE)  

The exam is conducted for admission to postgraduate engineering courses at NITs, IIITs, and other private institutions across India. The passing rate is around 15%. The GATE exam is an all-India level examination and has a single-window system for all applications. The exam pattern is similar to that of JEE. It is conducted every year by one of the seven IITs or IISc Bangalore on behalf of the National Coordination Board (NCB). As it is an online exam, its difficulty level varies from year to year. It has been ranked 3rd in the list of top 20 toughest exams in the world

  1. Union Public Service Commission National Eligibility Test (UPSC NET)

UPSC NET exam is also considered one of the toughest exams in India. It is conducted twice an ear and is held for determining eligibility for college and university level lectureship and for an award of Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) for Indian nationals. The test is conducted twice a year by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). The UGC has identified 84 subjects at Postgraduate Level which have been grouped under 22 broad disciplines. These subjects have been classified as Science, Humanities, Social Science, Computer Science & Applications, Commerce, and Management.

  1. Common Admission Test (CAT)

India’s most popular MBA entrance test and one of the toughest exams in India, CAT is conducted by the IIMs on a rotational basis to select students for their business administration programs. The exam tests the quantitative ability, verbal ability, and logical reasoning skills of applicants through multiple choice questions spread over three sections and two hours duration. In 2013, more than 100,000 candidates appeared for this exam to fill 3,200 seats in top B-schools across India, making it a highly competitive exam with a low success rate.

  1. The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)

The FSOT is a “multiple-choice test that measures general knowledge in history, economics, management, government, science, and foreign policy; current events; writing and English language skills”, according to the US State Department. It also includes an essay to test grammar and composition skills. The FSOT is required for anyone looking to work as an American diplomat. The exam takes 3 hours and consists of 260 multiple choice questions (some have more than one correct answer), with only 4 hours allotted to write all three essays. Only about 25% of people who take the exam pass it. No matter how many times you take it, the results are valid for only a year before you need to retake it again if you want to continue applying for a position as a U.S. diplomat.

  1. The Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA)

The world is full of options and opportunities. If you have the appetite for success, there will be no stopping you. But, there is always a price to pay for everything. The Certified Public Accountant examination is among the toughest professional examinations in the world. It is a four-stage examination conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). If you are willing to be successful in your life, you have to pass some very tough exams. These exams are not just tough, they are the toughest examinations in the world.

  1. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer adaptive test (CAT) intended to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to a graduate management program, such as an MBA. It requires knowledge of certain specific grammar and knowledge of certain specific algebra, geometry, and arithmetic.

  1. The Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day standardized test administered 4 times each year at designated testing centers throughout the world. Administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for prospective law school candidates, the LSAT is designed to assess reading comprehension, logical and verbal reasoning proficiency. The test is an integral

  1. Indian Institute of Management Common Admission Test (CAT)

CAT is a computer-based test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management for admission into their management programs such as MBA, PGDM, PGPX, etc.

  1. Mensa International IQ Exam (Mensa)

Amongst the world’s oldest societies, Mensa is a high intelligence IQ society whose members have a higher IQ than the 98th percentile, i.e. amongst the top 2% of the world. Mensa has a renowned presence in almost every country across the globe. The IQ test administered by society is an extremely demanding test that analyses one’s intelligence on parameters of reasoning, problem-solving, and logic.

  1. Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE)

Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert is one of the top 10 toughest exams in the world offered by Cisco Systems to hire networking experts. The exam is bifurcated into 6 parts and is conducted in two phases. Applicants clearing the first phase get to appear for the second one. The second stage exam is 8 hours long in duration and hardly 1% of the total number of candidates are able to clear it. CCIE certification is considered the most prestigious certificate in the entire networking industry, but qualifying for this exam is not an easy task.

  1. Indian Engineering Services (IES)

Indian Engineering Services is one of the leading UPSC exams conducted to recruit Engineers in various government departments of the country. IES exam is popular among Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and Civil Engineering students in India. The rigorous pattern of evaluating candidates to check if they can do the job rightly makes IES a deserving candidate in the list of toughest exams in the world.

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Exams are just tests. They’re meant to challenge us. Getting the best results isn’t always easy, but it is possible with willpower and hardwork! The exams in this list are used in various organizations and countries around the world so as we know they must be really tough! Hopefully, this blog will give you a better understanding of the most difficult tests in the world. On that note, do you think that any of these exams can’t be featured at all when it comes to be challenging? Or do you think that there are other equally difficult exams around the world? Sound off in the comments below!


Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

Which is the toughest exam in the world?

The toughest exam in the world is the UPSC Civil Services Exam, which is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) of India. Other hard exams include;

  • Gaokao.
  • IIT-JEE (Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination)
  • Mensa.
    GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
  • CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)
  • CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert)
  • GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering, India)

How many exams are there in India?

There are thousands of exams conducted every year in India, out of which some are very renowned like UPSC – IAS and IPS, SSC – CGL and CHSL, Railways – RRB, APFC-EPFO exam, IBPS – PO and Clerk exam.

What is the most difficult board exam?

The UPCAT is notorious for being one of the most difficult college entrance exams in the country. It has been likened to the SAT and ACT rolled into one which also includes a medical aptitude test.

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Which is the toughest subject in the world?

The Toughest courses in the world include Engineering, Chartered accountancy, Medicine. Pharmacy, Law, Architecture, Business Studies, and Psychology.

Which is tough UPSC or IIT?

The UPSC Civil Service Exam is more difficult than the IIT Entrance Exam. There are 12,000 seats available for a GENERAL Category candidate at IITs, and the total number of seats available in the prestigious Engineering UPSC Civil Service Exam exceeds 100,000.

Which country has the toughest exams in the world?

Every year, millions of Chinese students take the gaokao, which is typically taken by students in their third and final year of high school between June 7 and June 8 or 9. It’s China’s version of the SAT and A-level exams, and it’s regarded as one of the most difficult exams in the world.

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Martin Uwakwe

As an SEO Strategist, Web Analytics Expert, and Content Developer with over 7 years of experience, I'm passionate about leveraging data-driven insights to optimize online visibility, drive organic traffic, and boost search rankings. My track record includes successfully optimizing and analyzing hundreds of e-commerce websites, managing multi-million-dollar marketing budgets for maximum ROI, and crafting engaging content that resonates with audiences. With proficiency in SEO, data analysis, web optimization tools, and content creation, I'm dedicated to helping businesses thrive in the digital landscape.