The Most Difficult Professional Examination, Ranked

Choose the professional examination you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Jul 23, 2024 06:32
Determining which professional examinations are the most challenging can significantly benefit students and young professionals as they prepare their study strategies and career paths. By understanding which tests are seen as the toughest, individuals can better allocate their time and resources to ensure preparation is as efficient and effective as possible. This site allows users like you to vote on the examinations you believe are the most formidable, creating a dynamic ranking that reflects the collective experiences and opinions of your peers. Your input helps others make informed decisions about their educational and professional futures, while also providing valuable insights into the relative difficulties of these critical assessments.

What Is the Most Difficult Professional Examination?

  1. 1

    Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam

    A licensure examination for accountants in the United States, known for its comprehensive coverage of accounting practices.
    • Pass Rate: Around 50%
  2. 2
    Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam

    Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam

    One of the hardest financial credentials to achieve, known for its rigorous testing of investment management skills.
    • Pass Rate: Around 42%
  3. 3
    California Bar Exam

    California Bar Exam

    Known for being one of the most difficult bar exams in the United States.
    • Pass Rate: Around 40-60%
  4. 4

    United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)

    A three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States, known for its difficulty and breadth of medical knowledge required.
    • Step 1 Pass Rate: Around 94% for first-time takers
  5. 5
    French Foreign Legion Basic Training

    French Foreign Legion Basic Training

    Not a traditional academic exam, but the selection process and basic training for entry into the French Foreign Legion are extremely rigorous and challenging.
    • Duration: 15 weeks of basic training
    • Completion Rate: Varies
  6. 6
    Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N1

    Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) N1

    The highest level of the JLPT, testing advanced knowledge of Japanese language and culture.
    • Pass Rate: Around 30%
  7. 7

    Mensa IQ Test

    A high IQ society that requires individuals to score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test.
    • Qualification Percentile: Top 2%
  8. 8

    Indian Civil Services Examination

    One of the toughest and most competitive exams in India, for entry into the prestigious Indian Administrative Service and other civil services.
    • Pass Rate: Less than 1%
  9. 9

    Master Sommelier Diploma Exam

    This is a prestigious examination in the wine industry, known for its low pass rates.
    • Pass Rate: Less than 10%
  10. 10


    A highly competitive and challenging college entrance examination in China.
    • Participants: Over 10 million annually

Missing your favorite professional examination?

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About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult professional examination. 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!


  • 115 votes
  • 10 ranked items

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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.

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More about the Most Difficult Professional Examination

Many professions require rigorous exams to certify expertise. These exams ensure only the most knowledgeable and skilled individuals enter the field. The difficulty of these exams varies, but some are known for their extreme challenges.

Preparation for these exams often takes years. Candidates must study vast amounts of material. They need to understand complex concepts and apply them in practical scenarios. The depth of knowledge required is immense. This often includes not just theoretical understanding but also real-world application.

The format of these exams can add to their difficulty. Many include multiple-choice questions, essays, and practical tasks. Some have oral examinations where candidates must demonstrate their knowledge in front of experts. These formats test not just knowledge but also the ability to think clearly under pressure.

Time constraints also play a significant role. Candidates must answer many questions within a limited period. This requires quick thinking and efficient time management. The pressure of the clock can make even well-prepared candidates falter.

The pass rates for these exams are often low. Many candidates do not pass on their first attempt. This can be discouraging, but it also highlights the high standards these professions maintain. Those who do pass often have to retake the exam multiple times.

Support systems are crucial for success. Many candidates join study groups or seek mentors. These resources can provide guidance and moral support. They can also offer insights into the exam process and help candidates focus their study efforts.

The financial cost of preparing for these exams can be high. Study materials, courses, and exam fees add up. This can be a significant burden, especially for those who need to retake the exam multiple times. However, the potential rewards often justify the investment.

The mental and emotional toll is also significant. The stress of preparing for and taking these exams can be overwhelming. Many candidates experience anxiety and self-doubt. Maintaining a healthy balance between study and personal life is crucial.

Despite the challenges, many professionals view passing these exams as a significant achievement. It validates their hard work and dedication. It also opens up new career opportunities and can lead to higher earning potential.

In conclusion, the most difficult professional exams require extensive preparation, deep knowledge, and the ability to perform under pressure. They test not just what candidates know, but how they apply that knowledge. The journey to passing these exams is tough, but the rewards can be substantial.

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