Top 10 Toughest Exams in the World in 2024

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Toughest Exams in the World

The Master Sommelier Diploma Exam is considered one of the toughest exams in the world. It is a wine-tasting test for expert winemakers or for Oenology. Want to know the top 10 toughest examinations in the world? Here are the top 10 examinations: Master Sommelier Diploma Exam; All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam; UPSC CSE; CFA; Mensa; JEE- Advanced; CCIE; GATE; GRE; and Gaoko. Clearing all these examinations enables qualifying candidates to carve a niche for themselves in their respective careers. To clear these examinations, an individual needs to strategies well and keep preparing diligently.

Keep reading the blog to know about some of the most difficult examinations in the world!!

Overview of Toughest Exams in the World

Some of the world’s toughest exams include the IIT-JEE for Indian engineering admission, China’s Gaokao determining university entry, the UPSC Civil Services Exam for Indian administrative roles, the global CFA Exam for finance professionals, and the California Bar Exam for lawyers. The Mensa IQ Test qualifies individuals for the high IQ society, while the All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam grants entry to Oxford’s All Souls College. France’s ENS Exam and the UK’s Mensa IQ Test are also renowned. These exams demand extensive knowledge, and preparation, and often have low pass rates, serving as gateways to prestigious educational and professional opportunities.

Gaokao in China

Courtesy: CGTN

One of the world’s toughest exams Gaokao, is a college entrance exam in China and is infamous as one of the top 10 toughest exams in the world. Due to its difficulty level, some European and American universities have also started to accept Gaokao scores. In the Gaokao exam 2013, candidates were asked to write an essay on how Edison would have reacted to the invention of mobile phones if he teleported himself to the 21st century.

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

As the entrance test for Engineering courses at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the JEE is an exam that most certainly breathes the meaning of the word ‘tough’. For JEE, around 8.6 lakh applicants registered in 2023 and only 13376 seats were available at the IITs. Acceptance rates hover around a meagre 1%. Adding to all this, the gigantic syllabus and outright unpredictability of the questions in JEE give you the perfect recipe for one of the toughest exams in India as well as the world. Candidates acing the exam can also get a hold of the Siemens Scholarship that can fund their bachelor’s degree in Engineering.

UPSC (Union Public Services Commission)

The Indian Government conducts the UPSC examination to fill the posts across varied departments such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), etc. It consists of three impassable levels. The first level is called Prelims which comprises two general-topic objective papers. Qualified candidates appear for the latter extraordinarily hard level of Mains examination which has a total of seven subjective papers. Those who have successfully cleared the second level then move further to an interview round with a panel that tests personality, awareness and logic. To get a perspective on UPSC exams, you should know that around 5 lakh candidates take the Prelims competing for less than 1000 seats. UPSC also conducts the IES exam to recruit engineers in government departments.

Also Read: IFS Exam Pattern (IFos)


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. 

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

Majorly conducted to check the proficiency of candidates applying to study abroad, the GRE holds a lot of importance in the lives of those aspiring to pursue an international degree. It is mainly conducted for master’s level and PhD programs at institutions abroad. As the exam is widely accepted across various US universities, thousands of students prepare and sit for this particular test making it a tough nut to crack. 

CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is said to be the world’s most difficult and brutal exam in the field of Finance. Every year, a whopping 1,00,000 candidates attempt to crack CFA in over 100 countries. It consists of three levels and is designed to test Finance professionals about the necessary financial tools and techniques. Each level involves a complicated six-hour exam consisting of 240 questions. After clearing all three levels, a candidate also needs to gain 48 months of professional experience to earn the CFA charter by clearing CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2 and CFA Level 3.

CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert)

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 can 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.

GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering, India)

GATE is a national-level online examination conducted to test concepts of Engineering, Mathematics, Science and General Aptitude for admission into master’s degree courses in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates. Prestigious Indian universities that accept GATE range from the IITs and IISC to Indian Institute of Management or IIMs (for fellowship programmes). Some universities in Germany and Singapore also consider the GATE scores for scholarship opportunities. This one single paper consists of both MCQs and numerical questions.

Check Out Our Exclusive List of Helpful GATE Preparation Tips!

All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

The Oxford University‘s All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam is a historic examination that has been conducted for decades. It is one of the top contenders in our list of toughest exams in the world. Only one or two out of eighty candidates are selected every year for a 7-year fellowship at the institution. Each candidate is asked to write four essays on two general and two specific topics. Typically, the maximum time allotted is 3 hours for each essay wherein questions are generally asked from various disciplines of Humanities.

Check Out: Top Fellowship Programs

Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

Climbing at the zenith of the toughest exams in the world, the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) conducts the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam to encourage improved standards of beverage service by sommeliers, particularly in wine and food pairing. 3 components are put to test, i.e. theory, service and blind tasting. Wherein a normal candidate would be able to clear this particular exam in the 5th or 6th attempt, an expert would at least take 3 attempts to clear this wine-tasting exam. In the last step, applicants have to ensure that they know the exact year, date and region where the wine was made. This makes it the most challenging wine examination in the world.

Courtesy: Angie Somm
Courtesy: TEDx Talks

Top 10 Toughest Exams in India

The following are the toughest exams in India:

Here are the top 10 toughest exams in India:

  1. UPSC Civil Services Exam
  2. IIT- JEE
  3. Chartered Accountant (CA)
  4. NEET UG
  6. Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE)
  7. National Defence Academy (NDA)
  8. Common-Law Admission Test (CLAT)
  9. UGC NET
  10. National Institute of Design Entrance Exam


Which are the top 10 toughest exams in the world?

Master Sommelier Diploma Exam
All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam
UPSC – Union Public Service Commission
CFA (Chief Financial Analyst)

What is LNAT?

LNAT or Law National Aptitude Test, conducted by the University of Oxford, is an entrance test for students willing to study Law at the institution.

How many students take the UPSC Exam in India?

Around 5 lakh candidates take the Prelims competing for less than 1000 seats.

Which is the 2nd toughest exam in India?

IIT JEE Entrance Examination

Which is tough IIT or UPSC?

The IIT-JEE is the most challenging exam in India and the globe, while the UPSC examinations and the GATE are ranked third and eighth in the world, respectively.

Learn about different competitive exams in India and study abroad examinations with Leverage Edu and exam labs. Plan your study abroad journey with a 30-minute free counselling session at 1800 572 000.

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  1. I’ve attempted GRE and I can safely conclude it’s in no way even close to the difficulty level of UPSC

  2. Hey! This is a good app Thank you for it. My child and I read it everyday. I will tell you a incidence.There was a exam about this only. When there were 4 weeks left he opened this tad and read everyday. When the exam came, he got full marks and got first. He got a gold medal, a certificate and also 1000 Rs.

  1. I’ve attempted GRE and I can safely conclude it’s in no way even close to the difficulty level of UPSC