Top 12 Toughest Exams in the World

Examinations have always scared the hell out of students, even the brightest ones. We lose our sanity and logical thinking when exams come knocking on the door. Every other activity except sleep and eating is forgotten before exams and just a mere look at the time table of our examinations sends a chill down the spine, such is its severity. From a very early age we are introduced to exams and they do not leave us for a very long time. First school exams, high school exams, followed by college, university, entrances, and interviews and by the time we get a job, we are already planning to leave it and switch to a better job. Another exam! This is the bitter truth of our lives!

So these school and college exams scare us? This list is going to make you insane on a whole new level. When you are going to read and collect facts about the world’s toughest exams, you know it is not an easy deal. So brace yourselves and let your imaginations run in full swing!

12. IES (Indian Engineering Services)

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IES is nothing but the civil services to take care of the technical and managerial services of the Indian Government. So the government has to be choosy while picking its top officials through the highly competitive IES exams on the basis of the merit of the appearing candidates. For this, a four stage competitive exam is held all over the country, which comprises of six tests. The two part written tests last for a period of 12 hours after which there is a personality test. Lakhs of candidates appear for this examination every year, as it is the most prestigious post for every engineer in India but records show that in 2010, out of the 1, 57,649 that appeared, only 434 were selected. The scenario is similar every year. The President of India himself appoints the selected candidates to the Group A category.

11. LNAT (National Admission Test for Law)

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This test in the UK is an aptitude test for main law universities. This test was started in 2004 to admit students to the top law colleges in the UK. Initially started as a filtering agent to be able to select the best from the best among home students, this test is now applicable even to foreign students. Each applicant is given two hours and a quarter to complete an essay and 42 MCQs to test the reading and logical reasoning skills. The reading part contains a passage from which one has to answer ten sets of papers and for the essay part a student is given 40 minutes and the topic is generally a student related topic. Currently nine law universities in the UK hold this test to enroll students.

10. CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert)

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Through this exam Cisco Systems certify the skills of the ones selected in the exam of planning, operating, troubleshooting tough network facilities. This certification is considered the most prestigious certificate in the entire networking industry. Now, qualifying for this examination is not an easy task at all. According to Cisco, of all the engineers appearing for this test, only 3% are selected and certified. The candidates have to go through a two step exam, of which the first part is a written test lasting for two hours with 90 to 110 questions. One requires to pay $350 for registration of the first half and the good part about this half is that the results are immediately declared whether a candidate has passed or not. Only the students who have passed the first part then pay another $1,500 for the second part of the exam where students have to appear for the practical part in the lab lasting for 8 hours. Fewer than 1% get selected.

9. GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)

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This all India examination tests engineering students on their knowledge of engineering and various fields if science. The GATE score opens doors for post graduate studies in the field of science to prestigious universities because GATE is held jointly by the Indian Institute of Science and the seven IITs in the country. The exam consists of a single paper lasting for three hours where a student has to answer both MCQs and numerical. From 2014, keeping in mind the students’ convenience, the tests will be now carried out online where questions are arranged in a random sequence. The GATE score is valid for two years from the time the results are announced.

8. Gaokao

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This exam in China is also known as the National Higher Education Entrance Examination. Every student in the country has to appear for this exam, as it is the main requirement to get into higher studies. Every Chinese teenager’s life and future is dependent on this exam because, students have to appear for this to get admitted to undergraduate courses. Every senior high school student goes through a tough phase during this exam. Every this exam decides the fate of millions of students across the country. The mental stress that students go through has been subject of interests to many documentary makers around the globe.

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

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IIT needs no introduction. It is the best engineering institute in the country. Students spend years preparing for this entrance, because IITs in India are not just colleges, they are a status! Out of every 5, 00, 000 students appearing, only a handful of 10,000 get selected every year. The exam is divided into two papers of three hours each, both of which are objective. Students who do not get through the exam in the first attempt make repeated attempts, dropping years and many of them even get admitted to prestigious colleges like Harvard, MIT and many more. Such is the toughness and standard of the IITJEE.

6. UPSC (Union Public Service Commission)

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This is India’s central agency that holds all the important examinations to recruit top notch government officials in the country. It conducts the Civil Services Exam, Combined Defence Services Exam, Indian Statistical Service Examination and lots more. The exceptionally bright students who have cleared CAT and IITJEE and found it to be quite easy for them, they too find UPSC a tough platform to compete on. Even IAS officers are selected through UPSC exams. The exam is held in a preliminary phase at first where candidates answer objective question and then the main phase where they appear for a subjective one and then an interview. Out of approximately 3 lakh students appearing, hardly a thousand of them are actually selected.

5. Mensa

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It is the oldest and largest highest IQ society on the world, a non profit organization where people who score 98 percentile in the standardized IQ tests are considered to be low rankers. Mensa has branches all over the world. the best thing about Mensa is that there is no age bar. People can take the test in any age. The youngest member in Mensa is all of two years now. Different countries and national groups have their own procedures of exam and Mensa too has its own application procedure where they judge people on the basis of the quality of their talents.

4. GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)

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GRE, as we all know, is like the entrance test for most schools in the States. It is held both online and on paper. For the computer based online exam, there are six different sections containing analytical writing sections, verbal reasoning sections, quantitative reasoning sections and research section. The paper-based test is available only to areas where conducting online tests is not possible. Most graduate schools in the USA require the GRE score as their prerequisite score for admission.

3. CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Exam

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The CFA is not an academic degree, it is a professional stature. The Wall Street Journal termed the CFA test as the toughest test in the world. Less than one-fifth of the applicants pass each year and most of them attempt for the CFA repeatedly. For this charter, applicants have to appear for three stages of exams. The first two stages contain MCQ format tests and the third one consists of essay type subjective questions, along with few more MCQs. Every finance and investment professional tries to attempt this test at least once in his lifetime. Every CFA charter holder needs to have at least 4 years of prior working experience to be able to hold this prestigious office.

2. All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

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As we draw to the near end of the list, the exams keep getting tougher. This fellowship exam held at Oxford University’s All Souls College is one of the toughest exams in the world. Until 2010, students were required to write a long essay about only one word given in one of the papers. Only two fellows are selected every year from all the students appearing for the exam. So you understand the level of toughness of this exam, right? The exam consists of four papers, each of which last for three hours. One needs to have both factual knowledge and a highly imaginative mind to be able to answer questions in this exam.

1. Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

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This is till date hailed as the world’s toughest examination. One does not have any idea as to how selective the authorities can get while selecting candidates. The exam was first taken 40 years ago in the UK and since then only 200 candidates have been selected on the basis of this exam. On an average, every candidate appears for this exam at least for 2-3 times before getting selected. The exam is divided into three sections, which are theory, service and blind tasting. Most of the students pass the first two sections and fail badly in the third one, and thus have to repeat that section again next year. The blind tasting section is tougher than one can imagine. Candidates not only have to identify the grape variant, but also the year and the region where it was grown. Even the most famous sommeliers in the world had passed this exam in the third or fourth attempt.

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Titli Basu

A film buff by birth, I was born to write. Taking up Journalism as my subject was just a way to nurture that passion. I dream to be a writer someday after having a successful stint as a journalist. Fingers crossed!

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