10 Toughest Exams in the World

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Life could be so much fun without exams! Ah I see you second my thought but wait there is more, that sort of fun comes with terms and conditions read a life infested with prolonged misery spent in either other competitions or just procrastinating. An addiction seems sweet but it’s the thing that we dislike become the reason for our eventual good.

We have hereby compiled the list of world’s toughest exams in their own category. It not only incorporates the factors like pattern of the examination or the syllabus one is required to master but a plethora of them including psychological and societal factors. Some of them are tough on individualistic ground while the expectations and hype attached to others make them so difficult.

10) Mensa


Mensa is the society of highest IQ holders. How much percentile you require? Let’s just say 98 is the minimum. With its location worldwide and headquarters in Carthorse, Lincolnshire, England; Mensa has over 110,000 highly intelligent members. It is also the only test which is not age restricted. Hence, the youngest member is mere 2 years and 5 month old with an astounding IQ of 141 and the oldest member is 102 years old.

Roland Berrill who was an Australian barrister along with a British Scientist cum lawyer, Dr. Lancelot War came up with the idea of a society made up of people who ranked high on Intelligent Quotient. In 1946 they laid the groundwork for a society which would comprise of intellectuals from over 50 countries just six decades into its formation. What started from the Lincoln College in Oxford became the beacon of identifying, encouraging and stimulating human intelligence.

9)  LNAT


LNAT or the National Admission Test for Law is an aptitude test for the main law universities in United Kingdom. Currently over 9 law universities have adopted it. Established on the leading requirement of Oxford University, LNAT was aimed at a better sorting process, as it was difficult for the law universities to choose between applicants with only slightly varied A-Level scores. The exam is not restricted primarily to U.K citizens so all applicants natural or overseas have to apply for it in order to be considered for the law universities based in United Kingdom.

This rigorous 150 minutes exam tests the applicant on the basis of reading comprehensions and logical reasoning skills. There are 10 sets in the reading portion with 2 to 5 questions per set; one includes an essay that could take up around 40 grueling minutes to attempt which is basically on open ended topics regarding societal issues especially related to student strata of the society.

8) College Scholastic Ability Test


CSAT or College Scholastic Ability Test is also known as Suneung in South Korea. This is one of the most exhaustive standardized tests in existence. Held every year on the second Thursday of November the importance of the test is illustrated by the fact that on the test day all employees working with the South Korean Government are directed to arrive late at work so as not to cause traffic jams which might lead to any unfortunate delay of an applicant.

South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the OCED countries and quite a considerate percentage of most of the youth’s suicide cases are due to despair and depression which is resultant of the disappointment in CSAT. The sincerity for the exam is such that the students start preparing for it as early as from elementary school. Since the country has highest number of post-secondary degree holders the pressure of expectations is unmatchable.

7) GRE


GRE or The Graduate Record Examination is a standard test one is required to take for seeking a seat in many American Graduate Schools as well as other English Speaking Countries. So what makes it tougher is not just the level of difficulty of the examination but the stiff competition as well. Education Testing Service or ETS came up with it in 1949. It is a computer based examination and tests the candidates primarily on the basis of critical thinking, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Though the importance of this examination as an admission criteria differ from institute to institute while some just consider it a mere formality others take it as an important selection basis.

The paper consists of six sections. The first is analytical writing including timed issues and argument tasks. Next five comprises of two verbal reasoning sections alone with two quantitative reasoning and one experimental or research based section. The duration for the exam is exact 225 minutes with one minutes section break and a 10 min break post third section.



LSAT or the Law School Examination test is held in United States, Canada, and Australia. This test stretches over half a day. It aims to assess the reading comprehension, logical analysis and verbal reasoning attainments of the applicant.

The representatives from Harvard and Yale Law School came together on the initiated enquiry of Frank Bowels, Admission Director of Columbia Law School to draft the pattern of LSAT exam in 1947 while the first exam was finally held in 1948. Held by the Law School Admission Council, passing this test gives the applicant an edge over his/her GPA. Although it has existed since 1948 the prevalent form however was incorporated in the year 1991. An applicant has just 3 chances in a period of 2 years to clear the exam. The test evaluates the applicant on the basis of five sections which includes multiple choice questions, aptitude test and a 30 minute writing sample.



IIT is one of premier engineering institutes in the world, the entrance for which is the IITJEE or The Indian Institutes of Technology Joint Entrance Examination (or simply JEE). It is held in two phases; JEE main and JEE advanced. It has an admission ratio of 10,000:5,00,000 thus making it one of the toughest engineering exam in the world. Each year only 1 out of every 50 that apply makes it to IIT. In fact many students who do not get through IIT either try again or seek admission in MIT, Harvard, Princeton and Caltech some even on full scholarship. The aspirants claim that there is nothing beyond IIT.

The exam is objective and divided in two questions papers of 3 hours each. Both sections measure the skills of the candidate in Physics, Chemistry and Math as well the comprehensive, reasoning and analytical abilities. The students exacted preparing from as early as 5th grade and sacrificing on extracurricular hours with an added marathon of more than 8 hours of diligent studies as the fastest step towards the institute of one’s dream.

4) CAT


Established on the initiation of planning commission of India, the IIM or Indian Institute of Management is the premier business school of India and amongst the top 10 in the world. It offers postgraduate, doctoral and executive education programs and even the diploma and fellowship from this institute are at par with MBA and PhD respectively. There are 13 institutes and they admit students for their business administration programs on the basis of CAT or Common Admission Test.

This test scores the applicant on the basis of four skills: quantitative, data interpretation, verbal ability and logical reasoning. What makes it all the tougher is the negative marking and section-wise cutoff!  Due to the number of applicants on the rise every year the test is now held in a window of approximately three weeks in the months of October and November. The test itself is computer based and exactly 150 minutes long.

3) All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam


All the entrance exams in the world test students and churn out geniuses but All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam test geniuses and bring out the cleverest people on earth. Only the top 500 oxford graduates who qualify with a first class honors and students from other universities with equivalent academic achievements are eligible to take this exam. The Examination fellowship is of even years each and two fellow examinations are elected each other. We’d like to underscore that although selecting none is quite rare but the college has awarded single fellowship on many occasions.

The exam is held on two days in late September and includes two examinations of three hours each day. The most noted was the cherry pie test or as the one last romantic, mystical trial aptly put by an applicant. It was the most grueling one word based essay test however it was axed in 2010 and the word for the year 2008 was ‘novelty’.



Many exceptionally bright children who clear CAT post IIT-JEE choose to appear for UPSC exams as well.  And many of them who term CAT and JEE as cakewalk deem UPSC as the toughest exam they have had to face.  Recruitment to IAS or Indian Administrative Service is on the basis of an exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission of India or UPSC. The exam is known as UPSC exam or simple ‘Civils’, working for the government is tantamount to any job in corporate or technological arenas.

The Exam is conducted in two phases: Preliminary – which is an objective type examination and Mains- which include a thoroughly subjective examination along with an interview. From around 3 Lakh students that apply every year only 16,000 make it to final exam and 1000 join the Indian Administrative Service. The exam is held annually, the prelim in month of March and mains in the month of December so the candidates who have cleared the objective type prelim examination have only 8 grueling months to prepare themselves for Mains and the interview.

1) National Higher Education Entrance Examination


National Higher Education Entrance Examination is better known as ‘Gaokao’ and is perhaps one of the most important landmark in a Chinese teenager’s life. It won’t be an overstatement to say the least that one’s academic future wholly depends on one’s performances in ‘Gaokao’. It is a pre-requisite for admission to all the higher education universities in China. The vehemency of this exam is such that ‘n; of documentaries have been made on this subject recording the mental stress a teenager preparing for Gaokao has to undergo. Each year more than 7 million people apply for it in 2006; however the number easily crossed a 9.5 million mark.

Being a high-school level and pre-undergraduate level exam it encompasses all subjects. But what puts it on our list is the psychological stress that comes along with it. It is not just the students that are affected but also their teachers and parents.  Cases of suicides, nervous breakdowns and clinical depression see a jaw dropping rise during this duration.  Some parents are reported to have getting their female wards prescribe to birth control pills in order to avoid undergoing menstruation.





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