Which is the Toughest Exam in India? Updated List (2024 )

June 27, 2024
which is the toughest exam in india

Quick Summary

  • The toughest exams in India include JEE, UPSC CSE, CLAT, GATE, CAT, NEET, etc.
  • UPSC CSE tops the list with 0.1 to 0.3% selection rate.
  • It is important to combine hard work and smart work, proper planning and execution for success.

Table of Contents

India is well known for conducting some of the most difficult exams in the world. But do you know which is the toughest exam in India? In fact, it has always been a topic of debate whether the toughest exam in India is UPSC CSE or JEE or CLAT. These exams mostly involve objective-type multiple-choice questions and require utmost dedication while preparing.

Actually, UPSC CSE or IAS Exam is the toughest exam in India. This exam has a rigorous selection process. The success rate is generally very low, with only a small percentage of candidates making it to the final list.

In this blog, you will discover more about the hardest exams in India, including IIT JEE, CA, NEET, AIIMS, GATE, NDA, CLAT, UGC-NET, and IES.

Top 10 Toughest Exams in India

Let’s explore the details of India’s top 10 toughest exams and explore what makes them difficult.

  • Joint Entrance Exam (JEE)
  • UPSC Civil Services Examination (UPSC CSE)
  • Common Law Admission Test (CLAT)
  • National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)
  • Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE)
  • National Defence Academy (NDA)
  • Common Admission Test (CAT)
  • UGC National Eligibility Test (UGC NET)
  • Chartered Accountant (CA)
  • National Institute of Design Finance

UPSC Civil Services Examination (UPSC CSE)

The toughest exam in India is UPSC CSE, held annually by the Union Public Service Commission for recruiting candidates into civil services such as IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, and associated roles. The eligibility to appear for UPSC is a recognized university graduation.

The exam comprises three stages: preliminary, main written, and personality tests. Prelims contain two multiple-choice papers, while mains have nine descriptive papers. Merit is based on main and personality test scores, testing consistency and problem-solving skills, emphasizing current events and book knowledge. Despite many yearly applicants, the selection rate is under 1%.

Candidates appeared10 lakh (approx.)
Selection rate0.1 to 0.3%
Duration of examPrelims – 2 hours each for both papers Mains – 3 hours each for 9 papers
Purpose of examRecruitment for the posts of IAS, IPS, IFS, and central services as per the rules of the Department of Personnel & Training

Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)

The National Testing Agency (NTA) administers the national JEE exam, attracting numerous students annually. It consists of two papers: Paper 1 for B.E/B.Tech and Paper 2 for B.Arch/B.Planning courses. There are two levels: JEE Main for NITs, IITs, and other government institutes, and JEE Advanced for IITs, IISc, and RGIPT, with questions from physics, chemistry, and math.

The number of JEE Advanced questions varies yearly, making it one of India’s toughest exams, fostering intense competition among candidates for top rankings and IIT admissions.

Candidates appeared6 lakh approx.
Selection rate25 – 30%
Duration of exam3 hours
Purpose of examto get admission to engineering colleges
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Common Law Admission Test (CLAT)

The Consortium of National Law Universities administers the annual CLAT exam for admission to undergraduate and postgraduate law programs at 24 national law universities in India. 

The exam features 150 questions across five sections—Logical reasoning, Legal aptitude, English, General Knowledge, and Maths—conducted offline. Qualifying candidates can pursue careers in law, judiciary, higher education, and civil services. A minimum cut-off mark is necessary, with no maximum age limit for candidates.

Candidates appeared60,000 approx.
Selection rate3% approx.
Duration of exam2 hours
Purpose of examFor admission to undergraduate and postgraduate law colleges

National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)

The National Testing Agency conducts the NEET exam. It is the toughest exam in the medical field conducted for admission to various undergraduate courses like Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), AYUSH, and veterinary courses every year. The questions revolve around Chemistry, Physics, Zoology, and Botany subjects.

The total mark is 720 for this exam. The competition and cut-off are both increasing at a fast pace. It is a single-stage exam. There is no defined maximum age limit, but the minimum age should be above or equal to 17 years.

Candidates appeared18 lakh approx.
Selection rate6.5 – 7%
Duration of exam3 hours
Purpose of examFor admission to undergraduate courses like Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), AYUSH, and veterinary courses

Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE)

The Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) committee conducts the GATE exam, an all-India exam, in eight regions nationwide. The committee has diverse members from the National Coordinating Board and Department of Higher Education, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, and IISc.

Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) will use the final GATE score. PSU recruits students for jobs like Indian oil, GAIL and Hindustan Petroleum.

The exam pattern will be based on multiple-choice, multiple-select questions, or numerical answer types. There will be 2 sections – General aptitude and candidate’s selected section.

Candidates appeared7 lakh approx.
Selection rate17%
Duration of exam3 hours
Purpose of examTo test student knowledge in Engineering and Science and for recruitment in companies like GAIL

National Defence Academy (NDA)

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has the authority to conduct the NDA exam, India’s toughest exam for the defence line. The selected candidates will get a chance to enter the Army, Navy and Air Force wings of the NDA.

The exam is conducted twice a year. The Supreme Court recently gave a verdict in 2021 and allowed women to sit for the NDA exam.

Also Read: NDA Previous Year Papers – PDF Download

The exam pattern will be based on a written test and Service Selection Board (SSB) interview. It has questions from the mathematics and general ability sections. The general ability test syllabus contains topics from English and general awareness. The mathematics paper is 300 marks, and the general ability test has 600 questions. The candidates will be able to serve the nation after getting selected in this exam.

Candidates appeared3 lakh approx.
Selection rate0.1%
Duration of exam2.5 hours each for both papers
Purpose of examTo serve in the Army, Navy and Air Force wings of the NDA  

Related Read: Toughest Competitive Exams after 10th in India | Complete List

Common Admission Test (CAT)

The CAT is a national-level exam. IIM conducts it on a rotational basis. It is a computer-based test for admission to the Master in Business Administration (MBA). A student with a 50% aggregate score in a Bachelor’s degree can apply for the exam, and the aggregate score is 45% for reserved categories.

The paper has 3 sections: quantitative aptitude, logical reasoning and data interpretation, verbal ability, and reading comprehension. The questions will be in the form of multiple-choice and non-multiple-choice questions.

This year, 66 questions are expected to be asked. CAT scores will be determined based on the scaling and normalization process, as the exam is conducted in multiple shifts.

Candidates appeared2.30 lakh approx.
Selection rate2%
Duration of exam2 hours
Purpose of examPursuing MBA courses in business schools

UGC National Eligibility Test (UGC NET)

The National Testing Agency (NTA) is responsible for conducting the UGC NET exam for the University Grants Commission (UGC). The exam is conducted to become assistant professors or seek junior research fellowships. It is conducted twice a year.

The required eligibility is that aspiring candidates must have 55% marks in their Master’s degree. It has two papers. Both are conducted in online mode.

The common paper includes questions about teaching and research aptitude, general awareness, reasoning ability, and reading comprehension. Paper 2 is subject-specific. The candidates need to get 40% marks to qualify for the paper. The reserved candidates should get 35% as minimum marks.

Candidates appeared5 lakh approx.
Selection rate9% approx.
Duration of exam3 hours
Purpose of examgetting eligibility for the posts of assistant professor and junior research fellowship award in Indian universities and colleges

Chartered Accountant (CA)

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has been conducting the CA exam since beginning. The degree is equivalent to a postgraduate degree at Delhi University (DU). The candidates need to clear 3 levels – foundation, intermediate and final. It is held twice a year.

The foundation course will be based on multiple-choice questions, but the other stages will include multiple-choice and descriptive questions.

The foundation exam has 4 papers, and the intermediate and final exam has two groups with 4 papers each. This exam is one of the toughest and demands more study time and hard work. The candidates must clear all the stages to fulfil their dream of becoming a chartered accountant.

Candidates appeared93,729 approx.
Selection rate25%
Duration of exam3 hours for the final exam
Purpose of examcandidates who will qualify will become certified chartered accountants

National Institute of Design Entrance

The NID Design Aptitude Test (DAT) is conducted at the national level by the National Institute of Design. The candidates give the NID DAT exam for admission into undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

There will be two stages – NID DAT prelims and NID DAT mains. Both stages are qualifying in nature. The candidates should have attained 19 years before applying for the exam. The merit list will be prepared based on obtained scores in prelims and mains. The NID conducts counselling in 2 stages.

Candidates appeared15000
Selection rate14%
Duration of exam3 hours
Purpose of examadmission for undergraduate and postgraduate design programs

Similar Read: World’s Most Toughest Exams: Complete List

Strategies to Crack Tough Exams

  1. Understand the Exam Pattern and Syllabus: Gain a comprehensive understanding of the exam structure, marking scheme, and topics covered in each section.
  2. Create a Study Plan: Develop a well-structured study schedule allocating time for each subject/topic, focusing on weaker areas while revising stronger ones.
  3. Quality Study Material: Use trusted and recommended study materials, including textbooks, online resources, previous years’ papers, and mock tests.
  4. Practice Regularly: Regular practice through mock tests and sample papers helps in time management, improves accuracy, and familiarizes you with the exam format.
  5. Time Management: Practice solving questions within the stipulated time frame to enhance speed and accuracy during the actual exam.
  6. Revision is Key: Regularly revise concepts, formulas, and important topics to retain information effectively.
  7. Seek Guidance: Consider joining coaching classes or online courses specifically designed for exam preparation. Expert guidance can provide valuable insights and tips.
  8. Stay Updated: Keep abreast of current affairs, general knowledge, and recent developments in relevant fields through newspapers, magazines, and online sources.
  9. Health and Well-being: Maintain a healthy lifestyle, get adequate rest, and manage stress effectively to ensure peak performance during the exam.
  10. Believe in Yourself: Stay confident and maintain a positive mindset. Believe in your preparation and abilities.


In summary, India hosts several challenging exams, and while the debate over which is the toughest exam in India leans towards JEE, the reality is that each exam on our list, from UPSC CSE to NID, demands extensive preparation and commitment.

Success in these tests requires a blend of hard work, strategic planning, quality study materials, regular practice, effective time management, consistent revision, seeking guidance, staying updated, and prioritizing mental and physical well-being. Each exam assesses distinct skills and knowledge, making them rigorous but achievable with the right approach and mindset.

Evaluate numerous career choices to choose the right career path for yourself. Dive in to our guide on Career Advice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Which is the toughest exam in India? 

The Union Public Service Commission can be considered the toughest exam in India. The success rate is around 0.1 % to 0.3% in India. The final merit score will be based on marks in the mains and interview process. Maintaining equal dedication and energy at all stages is difficult in this exam.

Which is the toughest exam in the world?

The Gaokao exam in China is the toughest in the world. The candidates are tested for critical thinking ability through this exam. It is an entrance examination for all higher educational institutions in China. The future of many children depends on this exam. Sometimes, it becomes difficult for the appearing candidates to tackle these exams.

Which are the top 5 toughest exams in the world? 

The top 5 toughest exams in the world are the Gaokao exam in China, the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) in India, the UPSC civil services examination (UPSC CSE), the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) exam and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) of USA. These exams test the knowledge as well as the thinking abilities of candidates.

What is the most popular exam in India? 

The UPSC civil services exam, considered the toughest exam in India, can be seen as the most popular exam in the country. A highly respected position is offered, and the nation and its people can be served by the candidates. The selection percentage is also less than 1%.

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