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Top 10 Toughest Exam in the World to Crack 2024

13 February,2024  |  By Brainwonders


In 2024, the Gaokao Exam in China, IIT JEE Advanced, Civil Services Exam (CSE)/UPSC, GATE, GRE, Master Sommelier Diploma Exam, ICAI CA Exams, CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert), Mensa International, and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) are ranked among the Top 10 toughest exam in the World.

Toughest Exams in the World (Rank wise):

Exams are an integral part of a student's life. Whether you are completing high school, pursuing graduation, or aiming for post-graduate studies, exams are a common experience. Many government and private sector jobs also require candidates to undergo multiple selection rounds, including written tests and interviews, as part of the hiring process. Consequently, whether you are a student or a job seeker, exams are unavoidable. This article discusses Top Toughest exams in the world. While all exams come with their own challenges, here we focus on the most difficult exams globally.

List of Toughest Exams in the World - Overview

While there is no universal standard to compare the difficulty levels of all exams, as each serves different purposes, this article examines them individually. It provides insights into the toughest exams in the world that students encounter at various stages of their academic and professional lives.

Top 10 Toughest Exams in the World

Let us know about the toughest exams in the world (rank-wise) in detail, below: 

1. Gaokao Exam, China:

The National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), commonly referred to as Gaokao, is a national-level standardized college entrance examination held annually in mainland China. It is required for entry into almost all higher educational institutions at the undergraduate level.

Gaokao lasts approximately nine hours spread out over two to three days, depending on the province in which it is held. Standard Chinese and mathematics are included in all tests while candidates are free to select either English, French, Japanese, Russian, German, or Spanish as their foreign language choice. Examinees must be third-year high school students with an average age of 18, although preparation usually requires 12 full years of study. The exam consists of difficult questions spanning subjects such as arithmetic, chemistry, biology, physics, Chinese literature, geography, and political science among many others. The overall marks obtained by a student generally take into account their individual subject marks in a weighted sum.

Country of exam China
Purpose College Entrance exam for high school students
Duration of exam 9 hours
Number of candidates 12 million/year
Pass percentage Not available

2. IIT-JEE Advanced, India:

The Joint Entrance Examination - Advanced (JEE-Advanced) is an annual academic examination held in India that grants successful candidates eligibility for the Bachelor's Degree Programs in engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology. The exam is renowned for its challenging nature, with a success rate of only 26.17% this year. Furthermore, students who pass this exam are eligible to receive the Siemens Scholarship to support their studies. Additionally, JEE-Advanced scores are also used as part of the admission process for non-Indian universities such as the University of Cambridge and the National University of Singapore. JEE is divided into two tiers:

  • JEE Mains: This Mains exam lasts for 3.5 hours and is available in three separate papers that enable admission to programs leading to a bachelor's degree in engineering, technology, architecture, and planning.
  • JEE Advanced: This exam lasts for 3-hour exam for students seeking admission to IITs.
Country India
Purpose UG admission to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)
Duration of exam 3 hours
Number of candidates 1,55,538 (2022)
Pass percentage 26.17 per cent in 2022

3. UPSC, India:

The Union Public Service Commission, or UPSC, is India's premier central recruitment agency for the recruitment of all Group 'A' officers under the government of India. The UPSC exam is conducted in three phases: a preliminary examination consisting of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II), and a main examination consisting of nine papers of essay type, in which two papers are qualifying, and only marks of seven are counted followed by an interview. The former is held in March yearly, whereas the latter is held in December. The total duration for the completion of this test is approximately 32 hours. The examinees who clear the exam are assigned to the positions of Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and others, depending upon the scores. 

Country India
Purpose Recruitment to administrative posts such as IAS, IPS and IFS
Duration of exam 2-3 hours
Number of candidates 10,93,948 applied for UPSC in 2021
Selected for service 685 candidates were selected in 2021
Pass percentage 0.2%

4. Mensa International, England:

Mensa is the world's largest and oldest high-IQ society, offering a standardized intelligence test with 35 items to be completed within 25 minutes. The items consist of visual patterns that progress in difficulty, requiring no specialized knowledge or mathematical skills. Each correct answer gives one point, and all items are treated equally. Mensa membership is open to any individual who obtains a score within the upper two percentile of the general population on an approved intelligence test administered in a proper and supervised manner. All ages from 3 to 105 can participate in the evaluation. Since its inception, Mensa has grown to include over 145,000 members across more than 100 countries.

5. GRE ( Graduate Record Examination ) United States/Canada:

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is an admissions requirement for a variety of graduate programs in the United States and Canada. The examination, administered by Educational Testing Service, assesses verbal reasoning, quantitative ability and analytical writing. This computer-based assessment spans three hours and forty-five minutes, including minute-long breaks following each section and a ten-minute break after the third section. The GRE can be taken five times annually, with scores remaining valid for five years. No prerequisites are necessary to take this exam.

Country Accepted worldwide
Purpose Admission to MBA MS courses
Duration of exam 3 hours 45 minutes
GRE Exam Fee INR 22,550

6. CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) United States/Canada: 

The CFA charter is a designation awarded to those who have successfully completed the CFA program and fulfilled the requisite work experience requirements. The CFA program consists of three levels of examinations, testing candidates on their knowledge of fundamental investment tools, asset valuation, portfolio management, and wealth planning. All exams are held at the same time on the same day once a year. To be eligible for the program, candidates must have a bachelor's degree, be in the final year of a Bachelor's degree at the time of registration, or have four years of professional work experience. The questions on the first two levels of the exam are objective, while the exam questions on the third level are subjective.

7. CCIE ( Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert) United States:

The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert is the most highly regarded networking certification globally. 

These tests are divided into categories of routing and switching, service provider, security, collaboration, data centre and wireless. There are two test sets required for certification qualification. Passing both exams will grant an individual the right to become a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert.

To achieve this status, candidates must successfully complete a written exam and a hands-on lab exam. 

  • Written exam: duration is 120 minutes with multiple choice questions
  • Lab exam: duration is 8 hours in one day.

Considering the exam's difficulty, the examinees must have at least 7 to 10 years of industrial experience, including an in-depth understanding of networking Technologies.

Country USA
Purpose Technical certifications for senior networking professionals
Duration of exam 2hrs
Number of candidates 8,000/year
Pass percentage 26%
Official website

8. GATE ( graduate aptitude test in engineering India):

The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) assesses a comprehensive understanding of various undergraduate topics related to Engineering and Science for admission into the Master’s program and job opportunities within public sector companies. Qualified applicants may take the exam, which lasts approximately three hours, with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, architecture, or a Master’s degree in Science and Computer Applications. GATE examinations are also held in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates to evaluate concepts in Engineering, Mathematics, Science, and General Aptitude for admission into master's degree courses. The results of the examination are valid for three years.

Country India
Purpose Admission to Post Graduate studies recruitment
Duration of exam 3 hours
Number of candidates registered 8,45,432 registered for the GATE 2022
Selected 1,12,678

9. All Souls Prize fellowship exam, United Kingdom:

Every autumn, all souls college seeks to elect examination fellows, also known as Prize fellows. The college normally elects two from a field of 100 or more candidates. The fellowships last seven years and cannot be renewed. It has no undergraduate members but recently graduated post-graduate students each year are eligible to apply for a small number of examination fellowships through a competitive examination. Each applicant must submit essays on broad issues and two particular topics. The maximum time for each essay is 3 hours, with questions drawn from various humanities areas.

For two of the four subjects, a specialist in one or more of the following topics or areas

  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Classical studies
  • English literature
  • Philosophy
  • History
  • Law

The passed candidates are then called to give a viva, an oral explanation of their answers. 

10. Exam for the Master Sommelier Diploma:

The exam for the master Sommelier diploma is conducted by the court of Master Sommeliers, an educational organisation. It was established to improve the quality standards for beverage services in hotels and restaurants. It is also known as a wine tasting test for expert winemakers. It consists of three parts: a theory examination (oral), a deductive tasting of 6 wines, and a practical wine Service exam minimum passing score for each of the three sections is 75% instead of 60%.

Although the above mentioned exams are all the toughest, they are not impossible to crack. If you are hardworking, consistent, patient and can persevere through failures, it is very easy for you to crack these exams. However, you must be clear about the topics and subjects which require more concentration than the rest.

Country USA
Purpose To become a certified Sommelier
Duration of exam

Part 1 – 50 mins

Part 2 - n/a

Part 3 – 25 mins

Pass percentage 10% (theory)
Official website


If you are unclear about anything and are studying unconsciously just for studying, then it will not help you at all. So, you must have a guide by your side who can help you at every level of your exam preparations. You can have your guide on Brainwonders. The trained specialists at Brainwonders will help you with every doubt and present solutions that match your requirements. They will make the toughest exams look like chickpeas, which can be crushed easily.

Frequently asked questions about Toughest Exams in the World

Q.1 Which is the toughest exam in the world?

Ans: Gaokao is widely considered to be the toughest exam in the world. Every year, millions of students from across China take this gruelling examination that tests their academic knowledge and skills. Gaokao is a comprehensive assessment that covers multiple subject areas, including mathematics, language, history, and science. It typically lasts 2-3 days with a combined total of 9 hours of testing. Unlike other exams, Gaokao has no second chances – only those who perform well on the first try can advance to the next round. The overwhelming level of difficulty means many students spend months preparing for it, sacrificing school, work, and social life in pursuit of a successful outcome.

Q.2 Is UPSC the toughest exam in the world?

Ans: The Gaokao examination is widely regarded as the most challenging exam in the world, surpassing even India's UPSC Exam in terms of difficulty. It presents a unique set of challenges to test-takers, with rigorous course material and an intense testing environment that make it difficult to achieve a passing score. Those who do succeed on this formidable exam can be certain that their success was earned through hard work and perseverance.

Q.3 Is CAT the toughest exam in India?

Ans: While the Common Admission Test (CAT) is a highly competitive and demanding exam, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examination is widely acknowledged as the most challenging exam in India. Delivering on its promise that only the most talented individuals can become civil servants, the UPSC Civil Services Examination tests aspirants across a wide range of disciplines and demands an extraordinary level of discipline, hard work and dedication from every candidate.

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