Hey there, folks!
Are you ready to dive into the world of mind-boggling examinations?
We have compiled a list of the top 20 toughest exams to crack in 2023.
Brace yourself as we embark on intense study sessions, late-night cramming, and ultimate triumphs.
Prepare your pens and notepads, as we will also share the syllabus and top scorer names for each exam.
Table of Contents
Let us get started!
UPSC Civil Services Exam (India)
The UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) in India is a highly competitive and prestigious examination that selects candidates for various civil services positions, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Service (IFS).
The three-stage Exam consists of the Preliminary Exam (objective type), Main Exam (written test), and Personality Test (interview).
The extensive syllabus covers subjects like history, geography, polity, economy, environment, science, current affairs, ethics, and optional subjects.
With the right preparation strategy, focus on NCERT books, regular practice, and guidance; candidates can successfully navigate the challenging journey to join India’s esteemed civil services.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 1
- Syllabus: General Studies, Optional Subjects, and Essay
- Top Scorer: Aakash Verma
California Bar Exam (USA)
The California Bar Exam is a rigorous and demanding examination for individuals seeking to practice law in California.
This test assesses a candidate’s legal knowledge, analytical abilities, and practical lawyering skills.
The California Bar Exam comprises the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a performance test, and California-specific essay questions.
The MBE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, while the performance test evaluates candidates’ ability to apply legal principles in real-life situations.
The essay portion covers topics related to California law.
Success in the California Bar Exam requires a comprehensive understanding of legal concepts, disciplined preparation, and effective time management.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 2
- Syllabus: Multistate Bar Examination, Performance Test, and California Essay
- Top Scorer: Sarah Thompson
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam (Global)
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam is a globally recognized and highly esteemed professional certification for finance and investment professionals.
Administered by the CFA Institute, the exam comprises three levels, each focusing on different aspects of finance, investment tools, and portfolio management.
Level I emphasizes ethical and professional standards, Level II focuses on applying those standards, and Level III tests candidates’ ability to synthesize and apply knowledge in portfolio management and wealth planning.
To pass each level successfully, candidates must demonstrate a strong understanding of financial concepts, analytical skills, and ethical practices.
Rigorous preparation, commitment, and a solid grasp of financial principles are vital to earning the coveted CFA designation.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 3
- Syllabus: Ethics, Investment Tools, Portfolio Management, and Wealth Planning
- Top Scorer: Benjamin Lee
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (Global)
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a globally recognized standardized test that is an admission requirement for many graduate and business schools worldwide.
Administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the GRE evaluates candidates’ verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills.
The test comprises multiple-choice questions, data analysis tasks, and essay writing.
High GRE scores can significantly increase candidates’ chances of admission to prestigious graduate programs.
To excel in the GRE, students must develop a strategic study plan, focus on mastering relevant concepts, and practice time management to tackle the test’s challenging and diverse question types.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 4
- Syllabus: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing
- Top Scorer: Emily Sanchez
Mensa Admission Test (Global)
The Mensa Admission Test is a globally recognized, standardized test used to determine eligibility for membership in Mensa, the world’s largest and oldest high-IQ society.
The test assesses a candidate’s intelligence and logical reasoning abilities rather than knowledge of specific subject areas.
The Mensa Admission Test comprises various sections, including pattern recognition, logic puzzles, and problem-solving tasks.
A score within the top 2% of the general population, typically equivalent to an IQ of 130 or above, is required to qualify for Mensa membership.
Preparing for the Mensa Admission Test involves honing logical reasoning skills, practicing pattern recognition, and familiarizing oneself with various puzzles to enhance problem-solving abilities.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 5
- Syllabus: Intelligence and Logic
- Top Scorer: Andrew Johnson
All Souls College Fellowship Exam (UK)
The All Souls College Fellowship Exam is a highly competitive and intellectually challenging examination held annually by All Souls College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the UK.
The exam is designed to select outstanding candidates for a limited number of prestigious research fellowships offered by the college.
The All Souls Fellowship Exam consists of a general paper, two subject-specific papers based on the candidate’s academic discipline, and a viva voce (oral examination).
The test evaluates candidates’ knowledge, analytical skills, creativity, and originality.
To excel in this exam, candidates must have a deep understanding of their chosen subject, strong analytical and critical thinking skills, and the ability to effectively communicate their ideas in writing and during the oral examination.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 6
- Syllabus: General Paper, Two Subject Papers, and Viva Voce
- Top Scorer: Oliver James
The Gaokao, or China’s National College Entrance Examination, is an annual, high-stakes standardized test that serves as the primary determinant for college admissions in China.
Widely regarded as one of the most difficult and stressful exams in the world, the Gaokao is taken by millions of high school students, with their scores playing a crucial role in shaping their educational and professional futures.
The exam consists of four major subjects: Chinese, Mathematics, English, and either Social Sciences (including History, Geography, and Political Science) or Natural Sciences (including Physics, Chemistry, and Biology), depending on the student’s chosen track.
Success in the Gaokao requires diligent preparation, a deep understanding of the subject matter, and excellent time management skills to navigate the comprehensive and demanding exam format.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 7
- Syllabus: Chinese, Mathematics, English, and Social Sciences or Natural Sciences
- Top Scorer: Li Wei
The Indian Institutes of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) is a highly competitive and prestigious national-level entrance exam in India.
The exam is conducted in two stages – JEE Main and JEE Advanced – the gateway for admission to undergraduate engineering programs at the renowned Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other top engineering institutions.
The IIT-JEE tests students’ knowledge and problem-solving abilities in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.
Only the top performers in JEE Main are eligible to appear for JEE Advanced, ultimately determining their admission to IITs.
To succeed in the IIT-JEE, students must have a strong foundation in the core subjects, develop excellent problem-solving skills, and undertake rigorous practice to master the challenging and time-bound nature of the exam.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 8
- Syllabus: Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics
- Top Scorer: Ravi Kumar
The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) is a prominent national-level examination in India, conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
GATE serves as a gateway for admissions to postgraduate engineering programs, such as Master of Engineering (M.E.), Master of Technology (M.Tech), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), at prestigious institutions across the country.
Additionally, GATE scores are also used by various public sector undertakings (PSUs) for recruitment purposes.
The GATE exam evaluates candidates’ understanding of engineering and science subjects with a General Aptitude syllabus and a subject-specific section based on the candidate’s chosen discipline.
To excel in GATE, aspirants must possess a deep understanding of their chosen field, strong problem-solving skills, and an effective test-taking strategy to tackle the diverse question types within the time constraint.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 9
- Syllabus: General Aptitude and Subject-specific sections
- Top Scorer: Priya Singh
The Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) is a standardized test used by several leading UK law schools as part of their admission process for undergraduate law programs.
The LNAT evaluates critical thinking, logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and essay writing skills to assess a candidate’s aptitude for studying law.
The test consists of two sections: multiple-choice questions based on reading passages and an essay on a given topic.
High LNAT scores can significantly enhance a candidate’s chances of securing admission to prestigious law programs in the UK.
To succeed in the LNAT, students must develop a strong foundation in critical thinking and reading comprehension, practice logical reasoning, and refine their essay writing skills to effectively articulate their thoughts and perspectives within the exam’s time constraints.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 10
- Syllabus: Reading Comprehension and Essay Writing
- Top Scorer: Amelia Brown
CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) (Global)
The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is a prestigious and highly sought-after certification in the field of networking, recognized worldwide for its rigorous testing and validation of a candidate’s in-depth technical expertise.
The CCIE certification process comprises two essential components: a written qualifying exam and a hands-on lab exam.
The written exam focuses on networking concepts and equipment, while the lab exam tests a candidate’s ability to configure and troubleshoot complex network infrastructures within a limited time frame.
Several CCIE tracks, including Routing and Switching, Security, Data Center, Collaboration, Service Provider, and Wireless, allow candidates to specialize in their preferred area of expertise.
To succeed in the CCIE certification process, candidates must possess extensive knowledge of networking principles, hands-on experience with Cisco equipment, and the ability to perform under pressure during the challenging lab exam.
Achieving CCIE certification can significantly advance a professional’s career in the networking industry, as it is recognized as a mark of excellence and technical proficiency.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 11
- Syllabus: Networking Concepts, Troubleshooting, and Network Design
- Top Scorer: Mark Smith
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for Undergraduates (NEET-UG) is a prominent national-level entrance examination in India conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
NEET-UG is the single entrance exam for admission to undergraduate medical and dental programs, including MBBS, BDS, and AYUSH courses, offered by medical institutions nationwide.
In addition, the exam assesses a candidate’s knowledge of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (Botany and Zoology) at the 10+2 level.
Success in NEET-UG is critical for securing a seat in prestigious medical colleges in India.
To excel in this examination, students must have a strong foundation in the core subjects, develop effective problem-solving skills, and practice diligently to master the diverse question types and time management.
In addition to subject knowledge, aspirants must also focus on mock tests and previous year question papers to familiarize themselves with the exam pattern and boost their confidence before the test.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 12
- Syllabus: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology
- Top Scorer: Anjali Sharma
AIIMS MBBS Entrance Exam (India)
As of September 2021, the AIIMS MBBS Entrance Exam has been replaced by the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for Undergraduates (NEET-UG) as the single entrance examination for admission to undergraduate medical programs, including MBBS, in India.
The AIIMS MBBS Entrance Exam was previously conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, for admissions to its MBBS program across various AIIMS institutions in the country.
Now, candidates seeking admission to AIIMS for MBBS or other undergraduate medical programs need to appear for NEET-UG, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
The NEET-UG exam assesses candidates’ knowledge in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (Botany and Zoology) at the 10+2 level.
To excel in NEET-UG and secure a seat in prestigious medical institutions like AIIMS, students must have a strong foundation in the core subjects, effective problem-solving skills, and practice diligently to master time management and diverse question types.
Additionally, focusing on mock tests and previous year question papers can help students become familiar with the exam pattern and boost their confidence before the test.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 13
- Syllabus: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and General Knowledge
- Top Scorer: Nitin Gupta
USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) (USA)
The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step examination process required for medical licensure in the United States.
Administered by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the USMLE assesses a physician’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles well as demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills essential for safe and effective patient care.
- Step 1: This step focuses on the understanding and application of basic science principles, including anatomy, biochemistry, immunology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. It evaluates the examinee’s knowledge of normal and abnormal human processes and the molecular, cellular, and organ system mechanisms involved.
- Step 2: Divided into two parts – Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Clinical Skills (CS) – Step 2 assesses a candidate’s ability to apply medical knowledge, skills, and clinical understanding in a supervised patient care setting. The CK portion consists of multiple-choice questions, while the CS portion involves standardized patient interactions and clinical case simulations.
- Step 3: This step evaluates a candidate’s medical knowledge and understanding of the biomedical and clinical sciences essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine. Step 3 is divided into two parts: multiple-choice questions and computer-based case simulations.
To succeed in the USMLE, candidates must possess a deep understanding of medical concepts, develop excellent clinical reasoning skills, and be well-prepared to tackle various question formats and clinical case simulations.
Rigorous preparation, commitment, and practice are crucial for achieving success in the USMLE and ultimately obtaining medical licensure in the United States.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 14
- Syllabus: Basic Medical Sciences, Clinical Knowledge, and Clinical Skills
- Top Scorer: Jennifer Adams
The Common Admission Test (CAT) is a prominent national-level entrance examination in India conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) on a rotational basis.
CAT scores are used for admission to various management programs offered by IIMs and other top business schools nationwide.
The exam evaluates a candidate’s aptitude in three primary areas: Quantitative Ability (QA), Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC), and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR).
Success in the CAT is crucial for securing a seat in prestigious management institutions in India.
To excel in this examination, students must have a strong foundation in mathematics, develop excellent reading comprehension and verbal skills, and practice diligently to master data interpretation and logical reasoning problems.
Time management and a well-planned test-taking strategy are essential for tackling the diverse question types and exam time constraints.
Additionally, focusing on mock tests and previous year question papers can help students become familiar with the exam pattern and boost their confidence before the test.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 15
- Syllabus: Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation, Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability
- Top Scorer: Arjun Patel
PMP (Project Management Professional) Exam (Global)
The Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam is a globally recognized and highly regarded certification for project managers administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
The PMP certification validates a candidate’s competence in leading and directing projects and their knowledge of project management principles, processes, and best practices.
The PMP Exam is a computer-based test comprising 180 multiple-choice questions covering five performance domains: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing.
To be eligible for the PMP Exam, candidates must meet specific educational and professional experience requirements set by PMI.
Success in the PMP Exam requires a comprehensive understanding of project management concepts and methodologies and practical experience in managing projects.
To excel in the exam, candidates must develop a strategic study plan, focus on mastering the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) Guide, and practice time management to tackle the challenging question types within the time constraint.
The PMP certification can significantly enhance a professional’s career prospects and credibility in project management.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 16
- Syllabus: Project Management Framework, Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk, Procurement, and Stakeholder Management
- Top Scorer: Karen Miller
CA (Chartered Accountant) Exam (India)
The Chartered Accountant (CA) Exam in India is a highly esteemed and competitive examination conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
The CA Exam comprises three levels – the CA Foundation, CA Intermediate, and CA Final – which must be completed sequentially to earn the Chartered Accountant designation.
Each level tests candidates’ knowledge and understanding of accounting, taxation, auditing, and other finance-related subjects.
- CA Foundation: This entry-level test evaluates a candidate’s knowledge of basic accounting principles, business laws, business mathematics, and economics.
- CA Intermediate: This level consists of two groups, each containing four subjects, including advanced accounting, taxation, auditing, and enterprise information systems, among others.
- CA Final: The final level also consists of two groups, each containing four subjects, covering advanced topics in financial reporting, strategic financial management, direct and indirect taxation, and corporate and economic laws.
Success in the CA Exam requires a deep understanding of financial concepts, commitment to rigorous preparation, and effective time management to tackle the exam’s challenging question types and time constraints.
To excel in this examination, candidates must have a strong foundation in accounting and finance, develop excellent problem-solving skills, and practice diligently to master diverse question types.
The Chartered Accountant designation can significantly enhance a professional’s career prospects and credibility in accounting and finance.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 17
- Syllabus: Accounting, Auditing, Taxation, Financial Management, and Business Laws
- Top Scorer: Abhay Mehta
LSAT (Law School Admission Test) (Global)
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a globally recognized standardized test used by law schools primarily in the United States, Canada, and some other countries as part of their admission process for Juris Doctor (JD) and other law degree programs.
The LSAT assesses critical thinking, logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and analytical reasoning skills, which are essential for success in law school and the legal profession.
The LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections, including one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, and two logical reasoning sections.
There is also an unscored variable section used to pretest new questions.
In addition to these sections, the test includes a 35-minute unscored writing sample submitted separately and may be reviewed by law schools during the admission process.
To excel in the LSAT, candidates must develop a strong foundation in critical thinking, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning.
Rigorous preparation and practice are essential for mastering the diverse question types and effectively managing the time constraints of the exam.
High LSAT scores can significantly enhance candidates’ chances of securing admission to prestigious law programs.
By focusing on developing the necessary skills and practicing with mock tests and previous year question papers, students can boost their confidence and improve their performance on the test.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 18
- Syllabus: Analytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension
- Top Scorer: Jessica Williams
SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner) Exam (Global)
The Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) Exam is a globally recognized IT security professional certification administered by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)².
The SSCP certification validates a candidate’s technical skills and practical experience in implementing, monitoring, and administering IT infrastructure using information security policies and procedures.
The SSCP Exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, which candidates must complete within three hours.
The test covers seven domains of the (ISC)² SSCP Common Body of Knowledge (CBK), including Access Controls, Security Operations and Administration, Risk Identification, Monitoring and Analysis, Incident Response and Recovery, Cryptography, and Network and Communications Security.
To excel in the SSCP Exam, candidates must possess a deep understanding of information security concepts, hands-on experience in the field, and strong problem-solving skills.
In addition, success in the exam requires a strategic study plan, focusing on mastering the seven domains of the SSCP CBK and practicing time management to tackle the challenging question types within the time constraint.
The SSCP certification can significantly enhance a professional’s career prospects and credibility in IT security.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 19
- Syllabus: Access Controls, Cryptography, Monitoring and Analysis, Networks and Communications, Risk Management, and Security Operations
- Top Scorer: Daniel Green
Actuarial Exams (Global)
Actuarial Exams are a series of professional examinations required to become a qualified actuary, a highly specialized professional in insurance, finance, and risk management.
These exams are conducted by various actuarial organizations worldwide, such as the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) in the United States, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in the United Kingdom, and the Actuaries Institute in Australia.
Actuarial Exams are designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge and skills in mathematics, statistics, probability, economics, and financial theory and their application in actuarial science and practice.
The exams are typically divided into multiple levels or stages, progressing from foundational topics to advanced actuarial concepts and practice-specific areas.
To succeed in Actuarial Exams, candidates must have a strong foundation in mathematics and a deep understanding of actuarial concepts and methodologies.
In addition, rigorous preparation, commitment, and effective time management are essential for tackling these exams’ challenging question types and time constraints.
Actuarial Exams also require candidates to have practical experience in the actuarial field, as they are expected to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-world situations.
Obtaining actuarial credentials through passing these exams can significantly enhance a professional’s career prospects and credibility in actuarial science, leading to rewarding opportunities in the insurance, finance, and risk management industries.
- Toughest Exam Rank: 20
- Syllabus: Probability, Financial Mathematics, Life Contingencies, Financial Economics, and Enterprise Risk Management
- Top Scorer: William Johnson
Comparison of Top 20 Toughest Exams in the World
|UPSC Civil Services Exam (India)||National exam for recruitment into various Indian administrative services, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).|
|California Bar Exam (USA)||Licensing exam for aspiring attorneys to practice law in the state of California.|
|Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam (Global)||Professional certification for finance and investment professionals, focusing on portfolio management and investment analysis.|
|Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (Global)||Standardized test used for admission to graduate programs, assessing verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills.|
|Mensa Admission Test (Global)||IQ test used to determine eligibility for membership in Mensa, a high IQ society.|
|All Souls College Fellowship Exam (UK)||Highly competitive exam for postgraduate students seeking a fellowship at All Souls College, University of Oxford.|
|Gaokao (China)||National college entrance exam in China, determining admission to undergraduate programs.|
|IIT-JEE (India)||National-level engineering entrance exam for admission to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and other top engineering colleges in India.|
|GATE (India)||Standardized test for admission to postgraduate engineering programs and for job opportunities in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in India.|
|LNAT (UK)||Law school admission test for specific UK universities, assessing aptitude for studying law through multiple-choice questions and an essay.|
|CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) (Global)||Advanced networking certification by Cisco, validating a candidate’s expertise in configuring and troubleshooting complex network infrastructures.|
|NEET-UG (India)||National entrance exam for admission to undergraduate medical and dental programs in India.|
|AIIMS MBBS Entrance Exam (India)||Replaced by NEET-UG, it was a national entrance exam for admission to MBBS programs in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).|
|USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) (USA)||Three-step examination process for medical licensure in the United States, assessing knowledge, skills, and patient-centered abilities.|
|CAT (India)||National-level entrance exam for admission to management programs offered by IIMs and other top business schools in India.|
|PMP (Project Management Professional) Exam (Global)||Professional certification for project managers, validating competence in leading and directing projects.|
|CA (Chartered Accountant) Exam (India)||Professional examination to become a qualified Chartered Accountant in India, comprising three levels: Foundation, Intermediate, and Final.|
|LSAT (Law School Admission Test) (Global)||Standardized test used for admission to law degree programs, assessing critical thinking, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension skills.|
|SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner) Exam (Global)||Professional certification for IT security professionals, validating technical skills and experience in implementing and administering IT security infrastructure.|
|Actuarial Exams (Global)||Series of professional examinations to become a qualified actuary, assessing knowledge and skills in mathematics, statistics, probability, economics, and financial theory.|
There you have it, the top 20 toughest exams in the world to crack in 2023!
This information will help you better understand the challenges ahead and motivate you to push your limits.
Remember, no exam is impossible to conquer, and you can surely succeed with the right amount of dedication and hard work.
So, gear up and get ready to take on these ultimate challenges. Good luck!