Top 10 Toughest Exams in the World 2024


Meridean Overseas

Updated On 05 February 2024 & Read Time 11 minutes


Exams are an integral part of your life, whether you are in school or college. You all must have taken specific tests at some point in the past. Exams measure your knowledge and understanding of a particular subject or field to show your abilities and showcase your hard work and dedication.


Besides this, several government and private sector positions also require you to go through multiple selection rounds (written, interview, or both) as part of the selection process (exam) for jobs with other applicants. These exams help employers examine your skills, qualifications, and suitability for the job.


Here, this blog aims to uncover the toughest exams and explore which is the toughest exam in the world by evaluating their difficulty level. By understanding the challenges posed by these exams, you can better prepare yourself and strive for success in your chosen fields. Let us start with the blog without further ado.


Understanding of Exam Systems Worldwide

China, India, England, USA, Canada, and several other countries have the most challenging exams. Though, exam systems vary widely worldwide, encompassing diverse formats and evaluation criteria. While some countries prioritise theoretical knowledge, others emphasise practical skills.


top 10 hardest exam in world


Standards also differ in terms of pass rates, grading scales, and overall difficulty level, reflecting the educational philosophies and societal priorities and contributing to the global landscape.


Top 10 Hardest Exam in World 2024

Now that you have learned that several countries have diverse hardest exams, let’s look at them separately too for better clarity and understanding.



Duration of exam

Preparation time

Pass rate % / score

No. of candidates (yearly)

Gaokao Exam



12 years

does not have a single threshold for pass/fail

12 million




continuous efforts through two long years






12-month advanced preparation

success rate is just around 0.1% - 0.3%






don't use IQ scores

134,000 candidates


USA & Canada

3h 45min

4-12 weeks

1 - 5 months studying

any score above the 50th percentile

700,000/ yearly


USA & Canada

4.5 hours

300 h


175,000 charterholders



around 120 minutes

9-15 months


8,000/ yearly

GATE exam


3 hours

6 months





12 hours

2 years

44 - 55% 


California Bar Exam



40 hours per week over 8-10 weeks



Gaokao Exam in China

The Gaokao is China's National Higher Education Entrance Examination for undergraduate admissions. Eligible final-year high school students take a 9-hour, 2-day test in early June, covering subjects like Chinese, Mathematics, and a foreign language. 


The passing score varies by province, with less than 0.25% entering elite colleges. In 2023, 12.91 million candidates took the exam, making it one of the toughest and most popular in China.

Administered By

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China


College Entrance Examination


9 Hours

Acceptance rate 

85% (in 2022)

Application fee 

INR 1700 (¥150)

IIT JEE Advanced

IIT JEE is the key to India's 23 IITs. Administered in two parts—JEE Main and JEE Advanced—it's the national-level exam for engineering colleges. Success in JEE Main is a prerequisite for JEE Advanced eligibility.

Administered By

National Testing Agency (NTA)




3 Hours

Total Marks


Application fee

INR 1000 for general candidates 

INR 900 for general EWS and OBC (NCL) candidates

INR 800 for female candidates

JEE Main is administered by the National Testing Agency and held twice a year. The top 2.5 Lakh students qualify for JEE Advanced, conducted by seven IITs.

Administered By





3 Hours

Total Marks

Varies every year

Application Fee

INR 3200 for general candidates

INR 1600 for female, SC, ST, and PwD candidates

Successful candidates can seek admission to IITs and other renowned technical institutes, making it one of India's most crucial and challenging exams.


Civil Services Exam (CSE)/UPSC

The UPSC Civil Service Exam (CSE) is India's national test for administrative roles like IAS, IPS, and IFS. It comprises three stages: Preliminary, Mains, and Interview. The Preliminary stage includes General Studies I and II (CSAT).

CSE Prelims

Administered By

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)


2 Hours (for each paper)

Total Marks

200 (for each paper)

Successful candidates in the UPSC Civil Service Prelims qualify for the Mains Exam, featuring 9 papers conducted over 5-7 days.

CSE Mains

Administered By

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)


3 Hours (for each paper)

Total Marks

250-300 (for each paper)

UPSC Civil Service Mains qualifiers face interviews within 3-4 months, with a maximum score of 275. Upcoming test dates released.

Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2024 

26 March 2024

Civil Services Main Exam 2024 

20 September 2024


GATE is a standardised test for postgraduate admissions in Engineering and Sciences, also used for entry-level engineering jobs. Conducted jointly by IISc and seven IITs, it happens annually in February. The participating IITs include Roorkee, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Chennai, and Mumbai.

Administered By

Indian Institute of Science and seven Indian Institutes of Technologies

Test Mode



3 Hours

Application Fee

INR 1800 for general candidates

INR 900 for Female/ST/SC/PwD candidates

GATE 2024 Examination

03, 04, 10, and 11 February 2024

Mensa International

Mensa International, the world's oldest high-IQ society, boasts over 150,000 members in 90+ countries, with 3,881 in Mensa India. It's not a test but an organisation for top test scorers, accepting those with a 98 percentile or above in a standardised IQ test. It serves as a non-political platform for social, cultural, and intellectual interaction.


132 and above


148 and above

Mensa accepts the top 2% of test scores, with the minimum score varying based on the specific test attempted.



The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, globally recognised in finance and investment, is pursued by those with backgrounds in finance, accounting, economics, or business. The CFA journey comprises three levels. Level I has two sessions lasting 2 hours and 15 minutes each, while Level II and III have two sessions of 2 hours and 12 minutes each. 


Upon completing all levels, individuals become CFA charter holders, qualifying for senior and executive roles in investment, asset, and risk management. The designation is a prestigious credential for those seeking expertise and leadership in the financial industry.



The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardised test for graduate admissions, taken by around 7 lakh students annually. Widely accepted in the USA, Canada, and globally, it is common for MBA, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and education programs. 


Administered by ETS, GRE scores assess your potential for graduate studies, complementing other application materials.

Administered By 

Educational Testing Services

Test Mode



3 Hours and 45 minutes

Total Score


Application fee

INR 22,550

GRE General Test can be taken every 21 days, up to five times in 12 months. GRE Subject tests are subject-specific, lasting 2 hours and 50 minutes, with varying patterns for each subject.


CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert)

CCIE, or Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert, is a top-tier IT certification by Cisco Systems, recognised globally. It spans six expertise tracks: Routing and Switching, Service Provider, Security, Collaboration, Data Center, and Wireless. The certification involves qualifying and hands-on lab exams, and major providers include Cisco, Juniper, HP, and Dell.


Qualifying Exam

Hands-on Lab Exam

Test Mode


Lab Test


2 Hours

8 Hours

Number of Questions



Application Fee

INR 33,345 ($400)

INR 1,33,382 – 1,50,054 ($1600 - $1900)

Lab test fees for CCIE vary based on your choice between a Cisco kit option or a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) option.


California Bar Exam

The California Bar Exam, overseen by the Supreme Court of California and administered by the State Bar's Committee of Bar Examiners, is taken by around 16,000 individuals annually with a 50% success rate. The two-day test includes essay questions, a performance test, and the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) covering various legal topics.

Application Fee

INR 70,844 ($850 for non-attorneys)

INR 1,25,019 ($1,500 for attorneys)

California Bar Exam 2024 Test Dates

27-28 February 2024

California Bar Exam 2024 Result Declaration

03 May 2024.

Upon passing the California Bar Exam and fulfilling admission criteria, candidates can apply to the State Bar of California for attorney licensure.



The JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) is a challenging exam evaluating the Japanese proficiency of non-native speakers administered by the Japan Foundation. It has five levels (N1 to N5), with N5 being the easiest and N1 the toughest. 


Comprising Reading and Listening modules it's crucial for those intending to study, work, or migrate to Japan. The test occurs twice a year, typically in early July and December. Success requires solid language knowledge, especially in Vocabulary and Grammar.

Administered By

Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services

Test Purpose

Japanese Language Proficiency Test


Varies across each level 



Test Fee

N1 – INR 1,947

N2 – INR 1,829

N3 – INR 1,682

N4 – INR 1,534

N5 – INR 1,416

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How to Apply for the Toughest Exam in World?

Now that you completely understand the top 10 hardest exam in world, you should also look for steps to prepare for the toughest exam in world. Please note that application processes are crucial in exam preparation, and mishandling such processes can disrupt plans. Therefore, timely completion with thorough preparation is vital.


Follow our compiled guidelines mentioned below concerning the toughest exam in world for a smooth application experience.


  • Check Eligibility: You must ensure that you meet all entry requirements.

  • Application Deadline: You should review the entire timeline, noting key dates.

  • Gather Documents: You must prepare all necessary documents in advance.

  • Read Instructions: You must carefully read and follow application instructions.

  • Apply Early: To avoid issues, you must finish your application well before the deadline.

  • Fee Payment: You must pay the required fees on time through available methods.

  • Cross-check Information: You must double-check and edit during the specified window if needed.

  • Confirmation: Save and print the confirmation/acknowledgment for reference.

  • Seek Help: You must contact authorities promptly for any technical issues or discrepancies.

  • Stay Updated: Be aware of exam updates on the official website. 


Tips for Exam Preparation

Are you planning to take an exam? Before diving into your study period, understand how to initiate your journey. Here's a concise list to guide your preparation; customise it based on your exam type and preferences.


  • Set up a dedicated study space with proper lighting and minimal distractions.

  • Understand the exam thoroughly, including format, duration, and question types.

  • Create a practical timetable to track your progress and stay motivated.

  • Keep study plans realistic to avoid burnout or disappointment.

  • Develop a habit of making notes for effective learning and revision.

  • Use visual aids like maps and flowcharts to enhance concept retention.

  • Practice with previous year's papers, mock tests, and sample papers to understand the exam pattern.

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses through mock tests and focus on challenging areas.

  • Take short breaks to maintain a balanced study routine and avoid burnout.

  • Initiate early revisions using study notes and flowcharts to reinforce critical points.



To conclude, the toughest exam in world, though challenging, yields valuable outcomes. Consistent practice is crucial, especially for those aspiring to study abroad. Standard requirements include language proficiency (IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, Duolingo), entrance tests (GRE, GMAT, USMLE, LSAT), and other qualifiers. Use exam preparation as an opportunity to cultivate effective learning habits. 


You can speak to our expert counsellors at any Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC) branch for further queries. You can also avail of our free counselling services. If you cannot travel to our offices, we also have the option of online counselling services, which you can avail by visiting our website. Our expert counsellors will also assist in your successful study abroad journey. Reach out to or call us at 1800-1230-00011



Q. Do Indians require CFA to practice as a chartered accountant?

Ans. No, the CFA is not mandatory for chartered accountants. While globally recognised, CFA is pursued mainly by those with finance, accounting, economics, or business backgrounds.


Q. What distinguishes JEE Main from JEE Advanced?

Ans. JEE Main is the initial engineering college entrance test. The top 2.5 Lakh JEE Main qualifiers can attempt JEE Advanced, conducted by seven IITs on a rotational basis. JEE Main happens twice a year, whereas JEE Advanced occurs annually.


Q. Which exam is considered the toughest in India?

Ans. JEE Advanced, also known as IIT JEE, is regarded as the most challenging exam in India. Comprising JEE Main and JEE Advanced, the latter is attempted by the top 2.5 Lakh JEE Main qualifiers for admission to the prestigious IITs.


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