Winston Churchill speaking about examinations, once said; “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Experts believe that the ladder to the next level of academic, and professional heights is through examinations. However, it is a universal truism that some tests stand out for their difficulty and rigor.
These examinations are not merely assessments of knowledge; they are crucibles that challenge the mental and emotional fortitude of those who dare to attempt them.

Here are the top 10 toughest examinations in the world in 2024.

Gaokao: Gaokao is China’s determining university placements examination. It is a two- day entrance examination and the number of candidates per year is 12 million.

Gaokao is regarded as one of the most challenging examinations globally, and it is the country’s National College Entrance Examinations (NCEE), that stands as a formidable hurdle for high school seniors aspiring to enter college.

Held typically in early June, success in the Gaokao examination opens doors to promising academic and professional opportunities, along with favourable prospects for marriage in China.

IIT JEE Examination: This Indian national-level examination serves as the sole gateway for securing admission to undergraduate programmes leading to degrees in Engineering, Science, or Architecture.

It is ranked among the most challenging examinations in India, the IIT JEE Advanced stands as the country’s second toughest examination. Aspiring candidates vying for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) must undertake the rigorous IIT-JEE advanced assessment, and it is a 3- hour examination.

UPSC Examination: This is another Indian examination administered by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), a national-level examination that comprises three stages; prelims, mains, and a rigorous interview round.

Successful candidates secure positions in prestigious services such as the Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS), and Central Civil Services.

It is regarded as the third toughest examination globally, the civil services examination, also known as the IAS examination, is a pinnacle for Indian aspirants aspiring to serve their nation in administrative roles.

Mensa: The Mensa is a British standardized intelligence admission test, used to determine if an individual has a high IQ. If an individual scores in the 98th percentile or higher on the test, they are eligible for membership in the organisation.

The word Mensa means table in Latin and is also reminiscent of the Latin words for mind and month, suggesting the monthly meeting of great minds around a table.

GRE: The acronym GRE means Graduate Record Examinations and it is a United States of America/ Canada standardised test. It is part of the admissions process for many graduate schools in the United States and Canada and a few other countries.

The GRE is owned and administered by Educational Testing Service, and examination started in 1936, that is 88 years ago.

The purpose of the test is for admissions to master’s and doctoral degree programmes in various universities.

CFA: Like GRE, CFA is a United States/Canada standardized test. The acronym CFA, a Chartered Financial Analyst, charter is a designation given to those who have completed the CFA® programme and completed acceptable work experience requirements.

The CFA programme is a three-part examination that tests the fundamentals of investment tools, valuing assets, portfolio management, and wealth planning.

CCIE: This United States qualifying examination, Implementing and Operating Cisco Enterprise Network Core Technologies, focuses on candidates’ knowledge of enterprise networking infrastructure.

In order to get CCIE certified, students need to pass CCIE written and CCIE Lab examinations. It is not an examination that applicants can pass by cramming a few nights before. It requires months of preparation, dedicated practice, and hands-on experience with Cisco products and technologies.

CCIE written examination fee is $450 (N630,000), while the lab test fee is $1600 (N2,240,000).

GATE: The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) is an Indian entrance examination conducted that primarily tests the comprehensive understanding of undergraduate subjects in engineering and sciences for admission into postgraduate programmes.

The examination started in1983 (41 years ago), and it is administered by the Indian Institutes of Technology. The examination is usually held in February 1-2 week, every year, and the duration is three hours.

USMLE: The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step examination programme for medical licensure in the United States sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners.

The examinations started in 1992, that is 32 years ago, and the tests are often referred to as “bar none” the toughest examinations, even harder than medical school or law school examinations; with pass rates that hover around 50 percent and were much lower during the recent pandemic.

California Bar Examination: California is universally regarded as the toughest state for taking the bar examination. This notion is not dissuaded by the state’s low bar-pass rate.

In addition to the performance test, five essay questions, and the multistate bar examination, the California examination takes two days.

The pass rate of California’s bar exam has slightly increased since the state announced it would be lowering the cut score from 1440 to 1390 and spreading the exam over two days rather than three, but it is still widely considered the most challenging in the country.


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