All of us have given a lot of exams both major and minor. Rather we spend a good fraction of our life-giving exams and an even bigger part preparing for them. On top of that nobody appreciates the stress and burden all these exams carry.

There are people who often say that exams don’t determine your life or your worth. The statement is true in the long run, but in those moments those exams do matter. The important thing to remember is that later in life, it’ll all be in the rearview mirror. This is why beating yourself over it is not worth it.


All of us at some point in our lives have wondered, “Who was that spawn of the Devil that invented exams?”, wondering who came up with this terrifying form of evaluation.

Well, as per historical records, it was Henry Fischel who came up with this concept in the late 19th century. Henry Fischel was an American businessman and philanthropist (a lot of philanthropy he did!)

While he is the one that “invented” examinations, there are beliefs that point towards the existence of the concept of exams in earlier times as well. This may also be the case because ever since humans have organised into society there has been the need to determine whether people are ready for taking up certain tasks.

At its heart that is what the concept of an exam is, to determine preparedness and knowledge. If you look at it objectively even an interview (job or otherwise) is a test or an exam.


With time everything changes, and so have tests. test and assessments have changed and diversified to a large extent.

Now various assessments have a much more holistic approach and they involve a lot more segments. Evaluation of all these different segments together gives an overall picture of the competency of the person taking the test.

It is clear that the method and the portion have considerably changed by the addition of the various segments. The format is another thing that has changed considerably. Presentation of the question and expectation of the answer have changed considerbly despite the basic question and answer form stays the same.

Various Formats

The various forms an exam may take are Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), problem or case-based exams, oral exams, Open-book tests, or an essay exam.

MCQs present the examinee with multiple options from which they have to choose the correct answer. Problem or case-based exam mostly focus on the analytical skills of the candidate. Determination of knowledge while also testing either public speaking skills or fluency of a language are tested through the in-person oral exams. Open-book tests allow referring to the material you have or are provided on the subject. Judging in-depth knowledge about a given topic is the purpose of essay exams.

Toughest Exams in the World

Exams are held throughout the world today, in various formats and on various topics. This also means that not all exams are made equal. There are some exams that are not that difficult while there are those that make students quiver in their boots.

These 15 exams are considered the toughest in the world.

15. Gaokao

Gaokao is a National-Level entrance test conducted in China, it is done for admissions at the university level. The infamy of this difficult exam is so widespread that many universities in Europe and America accept Gaokao scores.


IIT stands for the Indian Institute of Technology, it is the most reputed engineering college in India. A large population of youth aspiring to be engineers dream to graduate from IIT. JEE stands for Joint Entrance Exam.

The JEE exam is held in two phases, JEE Mains and JEE Advance. There is a minimum score that the student must secure if they wish to give the JEE Advanced exam, which is the only possible way to get into IIT.

The examination has a large amount of syllabus which is also varied. At the Mains level, everything taught in class 11th and 12th in the topics of  Physics, Chemistry, and Maths is covered. As a student moves onto the advanced level the difficulty of these questions increases. On top of the difficulty, the unpredictability of the questions makes it one of the toughest exams in the world.

Every year around 10 Lakh students appear for these exams while the seats available in the IITs are only around 13376.

13. UPSC Exam

UPSC or the Union Public Services Commission Exam are exams conducted by the Indian government. These exams are used to find people qualified for various posts across the service department, those being; Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Services (IFS), and Indian Revenue Services (IRS) among others.

These tests are held in three phases. The first phase is the preliminary round, which is an objective type paper covering, again, a vast syllabus split into two papers both having general knowledge. The second phase is a subjective-type paper round split into seven parts, as opposed to the two-part, objective-type first phase.

Following these two rounds comes the toughest part of the examination, the interview round. This is by far the most crucial and excruciating round of all. Your general awareness, personality, and logical thinking are judged by a panel in the interview round.

These attributes make it one of the most difficult competitive examinations in India and the world.

12. Mensa

The Mensa Society has in its league members whose IQ is so high that they are the top 2% of the world. The society has a strong presence around the world due to conducting one of the truest ways to determine one’s IQ.

The organisation conducts a strenuous exam that analyses a person’s intelligence in order to determine their IQ. The parameters of the test include logical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning.

11. GRE

The Graduate Record Examination is quite an important exam for all those wishing to study in the United States of America and a few other countries. The exam determines the universities that they will be eligible for. Conducted in order to analyse the proficiency of the candidates, the score they manage to secure stays valid for five years. The examination is mostly conducted for master’s level and PhD programs at various universities.

10. CFA

The harshest exam in the field of finance across the world, the Chartered Financial Analyst exam has three levels. All these aim to test the candidate about all the necessary tools and techniques that a person of finance should know.

The paper, at all levels, has 240 questions to be solved in six hours. Clearing all three levels of  CFA (Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3) is no small feat.


Cisco Systems uses the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert to hire networking experts. The structure of the exam itself may seem intimidating to many.

The exam is a two-phase exam with six parts. Only those who clear the first are allowed to appear for the second. The duration of the second stage is eight hours and barely any candidates manage to clear it.

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This National Level examination which tests a candidate on the topics of Engineering, Science, Maths and General Aptitude is conducted for determining the competency of a candidate for a Master’s degree. Many countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates along with few universities of Germany and Singapore accept the score of the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering.


The Law National Aptitude Test, conducted by Oxford University, is for anyone who wishes to pursue law at their law school. It has raised its status and has become one of the leading law tests in the world and in conducted in more than 100 centres all around the world.


The United States Medical Licensing Examination has to be taken up by anyone who wishes to practice medicine in the United States of America.

A 3-step examination that analyses the candidate’s practical knowledge and skill for the proper execution of patient care.

5. CA

The Chartered Accountant exam is conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). The exam has 3 levels: CA foundation, Intermediate, and Final. While the first two-stage may be relatively easy, passing the final level is a behemoth task.

4. California Bar Exam

This prestigious exam assesses who is qualified to be inducted into the Bar Society. The exam is conducted twice every year once in February and then in July.

3. All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

This historic examination selects people for a 7-year fellowship program at Oxford University. All appearing candidates are required to write four essays on two general and two specific topics.

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2. IES

All engineers who wish to be employed in various government departments of the country take up the Indian Engineering Services exam. Most engineers from Mechanical, Electrical and Electronics, and Civil Engineering appear for this exam.

1.Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

The toughest exam in the world is conducted by the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) in order to improve the standards of beverage service by sommeliers. The components tested are theory, service, and blind tasting.