The Most Difficult English Exam, Ranked

Choose the exam you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 25, 2024 06:30
Students across the globe face numerous challenges while preparing for English exams, with difficulty levels varying widely from one test to another. This can lead to confusion about which exams require more intensive study and preparation. By ranking the difficulty of these exams, we aim to provide clarity and aid students in their preparation efforts. The ability to see how others perceive the complexity of each English exam can guide new test-takers in making informed decisions about where to focus their studying energies. Voting on the difficulty of these exams not only helps create a more accurate gauge but also enables a shared understanding that benefits the wider community of learners.

What Is the Most Difficult English Exam?

  1. 1

    C2 Proficiency (formerly known as CPE - Certificate of Proficiency in English)

    The highest level qualification provided by Cambridge Assessment English, showing mastery in English.
    • Sections: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking
    • Difficulty Level: Very High
  2. 2

    BULATS (Business Language Testing Service)

    An English language assessment service for the workplace and business-related language skills.
    • Sections: Listening and Reading, Speaking, Writing
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate for business professionals
  3. 3

    CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced)

    An exam for high-level English learners who need to prove their language skills for university or a professional environment.
    • Sections: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking
    • Difficulty Level: High
  4. 4

    PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English Academic)

    An English language test aimed at non-native English speakers wanting to study abroad.
    • Sections: Speaking and Writing, Reading, and Listening
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate to High
  5. 5

    TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

    An academic English test for non-native speakers aiming to enroll in English-speaking universities.
    • Sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing
    • Difficulty Level: High for academic English
  6. 6

    GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) English Literature Subject Test

    A standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States and Canada, focusing specifically on English literature.
    • Sections: Literary Analysis, Identification, Cultural and Historical Contexts, History and Theory of Literary Criticism
    • Difficulty Level: High for non-English majors
  7. 7

    OET (Occupational English Test)

    An English language test for healthcare professionals.
    • Sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking specific to healthcare
    • Difficulty Level: High for non-healthcare professionals
  8. 8

    Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE)

    A contemporary four skills qualification testing reading, writing, speaking and listening in an integrated way.
    • Sections: Reading & Writing, Speaking & Listening
    • Difficulty Level: Varies by level
  9. 9

    Michigan English Test (MET)

    An examination for test takers who want to evaluate their general English language proficiency in social, educational, and workplace contexts.
    • Sections: Listening, Reading, Grammar, and Vocabulary
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  10. 10

    IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

    A major English language test for higher education and global migration.
    • Sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking
    • Difficulty Level: Varies by band score aim

Missing your favorite exam?

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About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult English exam. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or exam is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 0 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each exam once every 24 hours. The rank of each exam is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

Additional Information

More about the Most Difficult English Exam

Many students find English exams challenging. These tests often assess various skills. Reading comprehension, writing, listening, and speaking are common areas of focus. Each section requires different abilities and preparation.

Reading comprehension tests understanding of texts. Students must read passages and answer questions. These questions often ask for details, main ideas, or inferences. Some passages are straightforward. Others are complex, with difficult vocabulary and nuanced meanings.

Writing sections usually involve essays. Students must write clear, coherent, and grammatically correct pieces. Prompts may require argumentative, descriptive, or narrative essays. Good writing needs structure, logic, and strong language skills. Many find this part demanding due to time constraints and the need for creativity.

Listening sections test the ability to understand spoken English. Students listen to conversations, lectures, or announcements. They then answer questions based on what they heard. This section can be tough due to accents, speed of speech, and background noise.

Speaking sections evaluate verbal communication skills. Students might have to describe a picture, discuss a topic, or respond to questions. This part can be stressful. It requires clear pronunciation, correct grammar, and fluency. Nervousness often affects performance.

Preparation for these exams involves various strategies. Reading a lot helps improve comprehension and vocabulary. Writing practice is essential. It helps in organizing thoughts and presenting them clearly. Listening to English media, like podcasts or news, can improve listening skills. Speaking practice with friends or tutors builds confidence and fluency.

Many students use study guides and practice tests. These resources provide a sense of the exam format and question types. They also help identify weak areas. Some students join preparatory courses. These courses offer structured learning and expert guidance.

Time management is crucial during preparation and the exam itself. Students must balance speed and accuracy. Skimming texts, planning essays quickly, and answering listening questions promptly are important skills.

Stress management is also key. High-stakes exams can cause anxiety. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and positive visualization, can help. Regular breaks during study sessions prevent burnout.

Success in these exams opens doors. It can lead to academic opportunities, scholarships, and career advancements. For many, the effort and stress are worth the rewards.

In conclusion, English exams are challenging due to their comprehensive nature. They test multiple skills under time pressure. Preparation requires practice, strategy, and stress management. Despite the difficulty, success in these exams can significantly impact one’s future.

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