The Most Difficult Skill to Learn, Ranked

Choose the skill you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 20, 2024 06:26
Determining the most challenging skill to master can greatly assist learners in setting realistic expectations and preparing for the journey ahead. Learning curves vary widely among different skills; hence, understanding which ones present the greatest challenges can help allocate resources and time more effectively. By participating in voting for the most difficult skills, users contribute to a community-driven guide that aids others in making informed decisions about their learning paths. Each vote helps to shape a clearer picture of the skills landscape, highlighting those areas where extra dedication or support might be required.

What Is the Most Difficult Skill to Learn?

  1. 1
    Learning a new language can be a challenging task as it requires a lot of practice and patience. It involves acquiring new vocabulary, grammar rules, and pronunciation.
    Learning a new language is the cognitive adaptation that involves acquiring the ability to understand and communicate using a different language than one's native tongue. It requires developing the necessary linguistic skills, such as vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and comprehension, to effectively communicate with others who speak the target language.
    • Time and effort: Learning a new language can be a long and challenging process that requires consistent practice and dedication over an extended period of time.
    • Cultural understanding: Language learning often involves gaining insights into the cultural nuances, idioms, and expressions of the target language, which helps in improving communication and avoiding misunderstandings.
    • Listening and speaking: Developing listening and speaking skills are crucial aspects of learning a new language to engage in conversations and understand spoken language in various contexts.
    • Reading and writing: Acquiring reading and writing skills enables learners to comprehend written texts, express their thoughts through writing, and expand their vocabulary and grammar knowledge.
    • Memory and retention: Learning new vocabulary, grammatical rules, and language structures requires effective memory and retention strategies to recall and apply them in practical communication.
    Learning a new language in other rankings
  2. 2
    Playing a musical instrument requires a lot of dedication and practice. It involves developing a sense of rhythm, learning to read music, and mastering the physical techniques required to play an instrument.
    Playing a musical instrument is the ability to produce melodious sounds by manipulating a physical instrument using various techniques and methods. It involves understanding and executing musical notations, rhythms, and dynamics to create music.
    • Motor Skills: Requires precise coordination between the hands, fingers, and sometimes feet to produce desired sounds.
    • Note Reading: Ability to read and interpret musical notations accurately to play the correct notes.
    • Ear Training: Developing the ability to recognize and reproduce musical pitches, intervals, and melodies by ear.
    • Expression: Expressing emotions and feelings through nuanced playing, including varying dynamics, articulations, and phrasing.
    • Technique: Mastering specific fingerings, breath control, bowing techniques, or strumming patterns depending on the instrument.
    Playing a musical instrument in other rankings
  3. 3

    Critical thinking

    Richard Paul and Linda Elder
    Critical thinking is a complex cognitive skill that involves analyzing and evaluating information to make informed decisions. It requires the ability to think objectively, weigh evidence, and identify logical fallacies.
    Critical thinking is the process of analyzing and evaluating information or situations in a logical and systematic manner to form well-reasoned judgments or decisions. It involves actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information gathered from various sources.
    • Logic: Ability to assess the validity of arguments and identify logical fallacies.
    • Reasoning: Capacity to draw conclusions based on evidence and consider alternative viewpoints.
    • Problem-solving: Capability to identify and define problems, generate and implement solutions.
    • Reflection: Willingness to examine and dissect one's own beliefs, biases, and assumptions.
    • Analysis: Proficiency in breaking down complex information into components for examination.
    Critical thinking in other rankings
  4. 4
    Programming is a very complex skill that involves writing code to create software, applications, and websites. It requires knowledge of programming languages, algorithms, data structures, and problem-solving techniques.
    Programming is the process of designing and creating computer programs to perform specific tasks or solve problems. It involves writing instructions, known as code, in a programming language that computers can understand and execute.
    • Problem Solving: Programming involves breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable tasks.
    • Logic and Algorithms: It requires understanding and applying logical thinking and creating efficient algorithms to solve problems.
    • Syntax and Semantics: Programming languages have specific syntax and rules (semantics) that need to be followed to write correct code.
    • Data Types and Variables: Programs work with different data types and use variables to store and manipulate data.
    • Control Flow: Control flow structures like loops and conditional statements control the execution order of the code.
  5. 5
    Writing is a challenging skill that requires the ability to express thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. It involves mastering grammar, syntax, and style, as well as developing the ability to research, organize, and revise written work.
    Writing is considered one of the most difficult aspects of learning a foreign language. It involves learning to write coherently and accurately using the language's grammar, vocabulary, and writing conventions. Writing in a foreign language requires a deep understanding of the language's rules and structures, as well as the ability to express thoughts and ideas effectively.
    • Language Proficiency: Requires a high level of proficiency in the foreign language.
    • Grammar and Syntax: Correct usage of grammar rules and sentence structures is crucial.
    • Vocabulary: A wide range of vocabulary is necessary to express ideas accurately.
    • Spelling and Punctuation: Accurate spelling and proper punctuation are essential.
    • Writing Style: Adapting to the appropriate writing style of the foreign language is important.
  6. 6
    Public speaking is a challenging skill that involves delivering speeches or presentations to an audience. It requires the ability to communicate effectively, engage the audience, and handle nervousness and anxiety.
    Public speaking is the act of delivering a speech or presentation to an audience. It involves various verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to effectively convey a message or information to a large group of people. The skill of public speaking is important in many professional and personal contexts, such as delivering presentations at work, giving speeches at events, or even expressing oneself confidently in social situations.
    • Confidence: Public speaking requires the ability to project confidence and assertiveness while speaking in front of an audience.
    • Clarity: Effective public speaking entails clear and articulate delivery of ideas and concepts.
    • Engagement: Engaging the audience through compelling content and persuasive speaking techniques is a vital aspect of public speaking.
    • Body Language: Nonverbal cues such as eye contact, gestures, and posture play a significant role in public speaking.
    • Vocal Control: Mastering vocal techniques like tone, volume, pitch, and pacing is crucial for effective public speaking.
    Public speaking in other rankings
  7. 7
    Leadership is a complex skill that involves the ability to inspire and motivate others, make decisions, and solve problems. It requires the ability to communicate effectively, delegate tasks, and manage conflict.
    Leadership is the ability to inspire and guide individuals or a group towards a common goal, utilizing strategic thinking, effective communication, and influential decision-making. It empowers women to take charge, make positive change, and contribute to society and organizations as influential leaders.
    • Visionary: Having a clear vision and the ability to articulate it to others.
    • Confidence: Believing in oneself and encouraging others to have faith in their abilities.
    • Empathy: Understanding and considering the emotions and perspectives of others.
    • Resilience: Having the strength and determination to overcome challenges and persist in the face of adversity.
    • Collaboration: Fostering a cooperative environment, valuing diverse opinions, and promoting teamwork.
  8. 8

    Time management

    Peter Drucker
    Time management is a challenging skill that involves managing time effectively to achieve goals and meet deadlines. It involves prioritizing tasks, managing distractions, and developing efficient work habits.
    Time management is the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize tasks in order to make the most efficient use of time. It involves setting goals, creating schedules, and managing distractions to ensure productivity and maximize accomplishments.
    • Goal setting: The skill of defining clear objectives and identifying what needs to be accomplished.
    • Prioritization: The ability to determine the order of tasks and address the most important ones first.
    • Planning: Creating a schedule or action plan that outlines the necessary tasks and their deadlines.
    • Time allocation: Allocating appropriate amounts of time to each task based on its importance and complexity.
    • Organizational skills: Efficiently arranging tasks, resources, and information to enhance productivity and minimize confusion.
    Time management in other rankings
  9. 9
    Negotiation is a complex skill that involves reaching agreements with others through discussion and compromise. It requires the ability to communicate effectively, understand the needs and interests of others, and find common ground.
    Negotiation is a conflict management strategy that involves a formal or informal discussion between two or more parties with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. It is used when conflicting parties seek to resolve their differences by bargaining, making concessions, and finding common ground.
    • Flexibility: Negotiation allows for flexibility in finding creative solutions and accommodating the needs of all parties involved.
    • Participation: All parties actively participate in the negotiation process, allowing for open communication and understanding of each other's interests.
    • Compromise: Negotiation often involves compromising on certain issues to achieve a resolution that meets the needs of both parties.
    • Win-Win Outcome: The goal of negotiation is to reach a win-win outcome where all parties feel their interests have been adequately addressed.
    • Interest-Based: Negotiation focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying interests and needs of the parties involved, rather than just their stated positions.
  10. 10
    Empathy is a challenging skill that involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others. It requires the ability to listen actively, communicate effectively, and show compassion and understanding.
    Empathy is the profound ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It is a beautiful emotion that allows individuals to connect with and show compassion for others, fostering a sense of unity and understanding. Empathy involves putting oneself in someone else's shoes, fully comprehending their emotions, and responding with genuine care and concern.
    • Emotional resonance: Empathy involves experiencing an emotional resonance with another person, feeling their joy, sorrow, or pain.
    • Perspective-taking: It involves the ability to step outside one's own perspective and adopt the viewpoint of others, understanding their thoughts, beliefs, and experiences.
    • Non-judgmental stance: Empathy requires a non-judgmental stance, accepting others without criticism or bias.
    • Active listening: Empathy involves active listening, paying full attention to the speaker and validating their emotions.
    • Emotional intelligence: It is closely linked to emotional intelligence, as it requires recognizing, understanding, and managing one's own emotions.

Missing your favorite skill?


Ranking factors for difficult skill

  1. Complexity of the skill
    The overall complexity of the skill, including the number of steps or components involved, can determine its difficulty level. More complex skills often take more time and practice to master.
  2. Cognitive demands
    Skills that require a high level of cognitive processing or problem solving can be challenging to learn, especially if they involve abstract concepts or complex theoretical ideas.
  3. Physical demands
    Some skills, such as sports or playing a musical instrument, require physical coordination, dexterity, and strength. These physical demands can add to the difficulty of learning a skill.
  4. Prior knowledge and experience
    A person's background knowledge and previous experience can greatly impact the difficulty of learning a new skill. Someone with relevant experience or knowledge will have an easier time learning a similar skill than someone without it.
  5. Time commitment
    Skills that require a significant amount of time to learn or practice may be more difficult, as they may need a higher level of dedication and perseverance.
  6. Emotional challenges
    Some skills may involve emotional challenges or the ability to manage emotions effectively. This could include coping with failure, overcoming fear or anxiety, or developing self-confidence.
  7. Access to resources and guidance
    The availability of resources, such as teachers, mentors, instructional materials, or tools, can greatly impact the difficulty of learning a skill. Limited access to these resources can make a skill more challenging to learn.
  8. Unique individual factors
    Every person has their own unique strengths and weaknesses that can influence the difficulty of learning a new skill. These factors can include learning style, personal motivation, and neurological or physical differences.
  9. Social and cultural factors
    Some skills might be more difficult to learn due to social or cultural barriers, such as societal expectations or stereotypes.
  10. Rate of progression
    The rate at which a person can progress in learning a skill can also affect its difficulty. Skills that offer quick progress and visible improvements can be easier to learn, while those that require a longer time for noticeable progress may be more challenging.

About this ranking

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


  • 181 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

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

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More information on most difficult skill to learn

Learning new skills is an essential part of personal growth, but some skills can be more challenging to acquire than others. When it comes to identifying the most difficult skill to learn, opinions differ widely depending on personal experience and perspective. Some people argue that mastering a musical instrument requires years of dedication and practice, while others believe that learning a new language is the ultimate test of mental agility. Other skills that often make it onto the list of most difficult to learn include public speaking, programming, and advanced mathematics. These skills require a combination of cognitive ability, practice, and patience to master. Despite the challenges, mastering difficult skills can be incredibly rewarding. It can help individuals progress in their careers, build confidence, and develop new perspectives on the world. At StrawPoll, we believe that everyone has their own unique strengths and challenges when it comes to learning new skills. By exploring the most difficult skills to learn, we hope to inspire individuals to embrace new challenges and push themselves to reach their full potential.

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