Top 10 Toughest Exams In The World: Even The Brightest Could Fail To Crack Them

The competition for getting into some of the world’s most prestigious institutions or getting lucrative jobs is fierce. But as the world population continues to increase, more and more students are taking these exams. Competition has become greater than ever before and students are under so much pressure to get into the top institutes that sometimes they end up committing suicide when they fail. Here we take a look at the top 10 toughest exams in the world.

Top 10 toughest exams in the world

10- CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert)

This is more of a certification rather than an entrance exam for an education institution. It’s one of the toughest exams in the world, nonetheless. Networking heavyweight Cisco conducts this test to recruit network engineers. The examination assesses a candidate’s ability to plan, operate, and troubleshoot converged network infrastructures on different Cisco equipment. The exam is divided into six parts within two phases. The practical phase lasts eight long hours. Cisco claims less than 1% network engineers around the world manage to receive this certification.

9- IES (Indian Engineering Services)

It’s a four-stage competitive exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in India. The UPSC recruits IES to look after the managerial and technical services of the Indian government. It consists of six tests. Every year, hundreds of thousands of engineers appear for this exam because the jobs offered are pretty lucrative.

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8- Mensa

The Mensa Society is the oldest high IQ society in the world. Each country has its own Mensa Society. There is no age limit to take this test. The Mensa IQ Test is an insanely difficult IQ test. You can try your luck to become a member of the Mensa Society, but you have to score at least 98th percentile.

7- CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)

The CFA is a professional certification awarded by the CFA Institute. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is one of the toughest exams in the world. Less than 20% applicants manage to clear it, most of them after repeated attempts. An average candidate takes four attempts to clear the exam. Once you complete the program, you become a “CFA Charterholder.”

6- CA (Chartered Account)

If you thought the CFA was too tough, give India’s CA examination a try. The CA is a three-level examination conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). Candidates give their blood, sweat, and tears over several years trying to pass each of the three levels. Most of them give up after repeated attempts. Only about 10% candidates manage to pass the exam.

5- All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

This Fellowship exam is conducted by the Oxford University. The most ridiculous part about this exam is not that it’s incredibly tough (which it is), but the fact that the University picks just two people for Fellowship out of all the candidates. Until a few years ago, the University required candidates to write essays based on a single word topic. You need boatloads of factual knowledge and an equally imaginative mind to crack this one.


The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have given some of the top Silicon Valley executives including Google CEO Sundar Pichai. But to get into the IITs, you have to crack one of the toughest exams on the planet. The IIT-JEE is a nightmare for engineering hopefuls in India. Other institutes such as NITs, CFTIs, and IIITs accept students based on the same exam. More than half a million students take this exam every year, but only a few thousands make it to the IITs.

3- Gaokao or National College Entrance Exam

The Gaokao is arguably the toughest exam in China. Students take this test during the last year of their high school and hope to make it to one of the top colleges in the country. The exam is conducted over 9 hours across two days. It’s mandatory for students willing to pursue higher education. That’s why nearly 10 million candidates appear every year. Only about 0.2% candidates score enough to get into the top colleges. The Gaokao has been such a big cause of anxiety among teenagers that many documentaries have been made on this exam.

2- UPSC (Union Public Service Commission)

The UPSC conducts this exam every year to recruit for various government jobs. The exam is conducted in three levels spread over several months, with the final level being a personal interview. It is one of the toughest exams in the world. Even people who clear the IIT-JEE fail to crack the UPSC exams. The success rate is a miserable 0.1% to 0.4%.

1- Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

This is an exam of expert winemakers. The Court of Master Sommeliers was established in 1977. You can take the Master Sommelier Diploma exam only if you have passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Advanced Sommelier Certificate. You not only have to pass a verbal theory exam, but there will also be a blind tasting of six kinds of wines, and a practical restaurant service. Most candidates give up after 5-6 attempts. Over the last 40 years, only 229 people have been able to crack this exam.

There they are, the toughest exams in the world. There are many other competitive exams such as GRE, CAT, GMAT, and LNAT, but they are still not as difficult as these above.