The Most Difficult Thing to Learn: Ranking the Hardest Skill to Master

Choose the thing you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 17, 2024 06:42
Are you ready to dive into the world of challenges? StrawPoll brings you the ultimate ranking to determine the most difficult thing to learn! From mastering quantum physics to conquering a new language, we've got it all. Join thousands of curious minds as they cast their votes and share their opinions on this intellectual battleground. Don't see your toughest learning challenge on the list? No worries! Go ahead and suggest a missing option to make this ranking even more comprehensive. So, buckle up and prepare for an exhilarating ride through the labyrinth of knowledge, where every vote counts and the leader is yet to be crowned. Let the battle of wits begin!

What Is the Most Difficult Thing to Learn?

  1. 1
    Quantum Mechanics
    Jcfisica · Public domain
    It is a complex and abstract theory that explains the behavior of matter and energy on a microscopic level.
    Quantum Mechanics is a branch of physics that provides a fundamental framework for understanding the behavior of matter and energy at the microscopic level. It describes the strange theories and phenomena that occur on scales much smaller than those of classical physics.
    • Wave-particle duality: Matter and energy can exhibit both wave-like and particle-like behavior.
    • Superposition: Particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously until observed or measured.
    • Quantization: Certain properties, such as energy and angular momentum, are quantized and can only take discrete values.
    • Uncertainty principle: There is a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties can be known simultaneously.
    • Quantum entanglement: Particles can become entangled, where the state of one particle is instantly correlated with the state of another, regardless of the distance between them.
    Quantum Mechanics in other rankings
  2. 2
    Mandarin Chinese
    LiliCharlie (user name) · CC BY-SA 4.0
    It is a tonal language with many characters, making it difficult for non-native speakers to learn.
    Mandarin Chinese, also known as Putonghua or Standard Chinese, is the most widely spoken language in China and one of the most influential languages in the world. It is based on the Beijing dialect and is the official language of both China and Taiwan.
    • Number of speakers: Over 1.3 billion native speakers
    • Script: Uses Chinese characters (Hanzi) and Pinyin (Romanized Chinese)
    • Tonal language: Mandarin Chinese uses four tones (plus a neutral tone) to distinguish different meanings of words
    • Syllable structure: Relatively simple syllable structure with predominantly consonant-vowel (CV) patterns
    • Word order: Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) word order
    Mandarin Chinese in other rankings
  3. 3
    It involves the study of limits, derivatives, and integrals, which can be challenging for many students.
    Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with continuous change and motion. It encompasses two main branches: differential calculus, which focuses on rates of change and slopes of curves, and integral calculus, which deals with accumulation and area under curves. Calculus provides a powerful framework for understanding and solving problems in physics, engineering, economics, and other scientific fields. It is considered one of the most challenging subjects in college due to its abstract concepts and complex problem-solving techniques.
    • Differential Calculus: Deals with rates of change and slopes of curves.
    • Integral Calculus: Concerned with accumulation and area under curves.
    • Fundamental Theorem of Calculus: Connects the concepts of differentiation and integration.
    • Limits: Examines the behavior of functions as inputs approach certain values.
    • Derivatives: Measures the rate of change of a function.
  4. 4
    It requires strategic thinking, planning, and foresight, making it a challenging game to master.
    Chess is a strategic board game played by two players on a checkered gameboard consisting of 64 squares. It is believed to have originated in India around the 6th century, and later spread across the world. The objective of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king, putting it under attack in such a way that there is no legal move to escape. Chess is renowned for its deep complexity and has captivated players for centuries.
    • Players: 2
    • Board: 8x8 checkered gameboard
    • Pieces: 6 types - King, Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight, Pawn
    • Movement: Each piece has specific rules for movement and capturing
    • Objective: Checkmate the opponent's king
  5. 5
    It requires discipline, practice, and skill, making it difficult for many people to learn.
    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
  6. 6
    It requires logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail, making it a complex field to master.
    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.
  7. 7
    It involves the study of the universe and its properties, which can be challenging due to its vastness and complexity.
    Astrophysics is a branch of science that combines principles of physics and astronomy to study the physical properties of celestial objects, such as stars, planets, galaxies, and the universe as a whole. It aims to understand the fundamental processes governing these objects and their interactions through the application of various scientific methods and theories.
    • Interdisciplinary Field: Astrophysics combines concepts from physics, astronomy, mathematics, and other scientific disciplines.
    • Study of Celestial Objects: Astrophysics focuses on analyzing the properties, behavior, and evolution of stars, galaxies, black holes, and other cosmic entities.
    • Cosmology: Astrophysics investigates the origins, structure, and evolution of the universe at large scales.
    • Quantum Mechanics: Astrophysics employs quantum mechanics to understand the behavior of subatomic particles, which plays a crucial role in stellar nucleosynthesis, fusion reactions, and more.
    • Relativity: Astrophysics incorporates Einstein's theory of general relativity to study gravitational interactions, spacetime curvature, and phenomena like gravitational waves.
  8. 8
    Martial arts
    pfctdayelise · CC BY-SA 2.5
    It requires physical and mental discipline, endurance, and strength, making it difficult to master.
    Martial arts in other rankings
  9. 9
    It involves critical thinking, analysis, and interpretation of complex ideas, making it a challenging subject to study.
    Philosophy is an academic discipline that explores fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, existence, values, ethics, and reasoning. It aims to analyze and understand concepts such as truth, morality, consciousness, and reality through critical thinking and logical reasoning.
    • Abstract Thinking: Philosophy promotes abstract thinking, which helps in analyzing complex problems and understanding different perspectives.
    • Logical Reasoning: It enhances logical reasoning skills, enabling individuals to evaluate arguments and identify fallacies.
    • Analytical Skills: Philosophy fosters analytical skills by developing the ability to break down complex ideas and concepts.
    • Problem Solving: Philosophy equips individuals with problem-solving abilities by encouraging critical assessment and forming coherent arguments.
    • Ethical Reasoning: It cultivates ethical reasoning, enabling individuals to evaluate moral dilemmas and make informed decisions.
  10. 10
    It requires years of study, memorization of complex medical terminology, and practical application of medical knowledge, making it one of the most challenging fields of study.
    Medical School is an advanced level of education dedicated to training aspiring doctors and medical professionals in various branches of medicine. It is a highly demanding and rigorous program that aims to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and practical experience required to become competent medical practitioners. Medical schools are typically associated with universities, teaching hospitals, and healthcare institutions.
    • Duration: Medical school programs generally last for four years, but can vary depending on the country and curriculum.
    • Prerequisites: Applicants to medical school typically need to have completed a bachelor's degree in a related field, including pre-medical coursework.
    • Curriculum: The curriculum of medical school covers a wide range of subjects, including basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry), clinical sciences (internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics), and specialized areas (dermatology, cardiology, neurology).
    • Clinical Rotations: Medical students engage in clinical rotations, which involve supervised practical training in various medical specialties, allowing them to apply their knowledge in real-world healthcare settings.
    • Licensing Exams: Upon completion of medical school, graduates are generally required to pass national licensing exams to become certified medical practitioners.
    Medical School in other rankings

Missing your favorite thing?


Ranking factors for difficult thing

  1. Complexity
    The intricacy and multifaceted nature of the subject or skill being learned. Complex topics or skills typically require a higher level of mental effort and cognitive processing to understand and master.
  2. Prerequisites
    The amount of prior knowledge or foundational skills needed to successfully learn the new subject or skill. Subjects that require extensive background knowledge can become more difficult to grasp for beginners.
  3. Time investment
    The time it takes to learn a subject or skill can greatly affect its difficulty level. Skills that take a long time to master can be perceived as more challenging due to the upfront commitment required.
  4. Individual differences
    Each person has different abilities, learning styles, and interests. What may be difficult for one person to learn might be easier for another based on their personal strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.
  5. Accessibility of resources
    The availability and quality of learning materials, such as textbooks, online resources, and expert guidance, can significantly impact the learning experience, and in turn, affect the difficulty level of the subject or skill.
  6. Motivation
    Motivation plays a crucial role in the learning process. If a learner has low motivation or interest in the topic or skill, they may perceive it as more difficult to learn.
  7. Practice and feedback
    Concepts or skills that require consistent practice and timely, constructive feedback to improve can be seen as more challenging due to the ongoing effort and time required.
  8. Application and transferability
    Learning subjects or skills that have limited real-world applications or transferability to other contexts can be perceived as more difficult due to their lack of immediate relevance and practicality.
  9. Cultural and linguistic factors
    For certain subjects, cultural and linguistic differences can influence the difficulty level. For instance, learning a language with entirely different grammar rules and writing systems can be harder for some learners.
  10. Abstractness
    Subjects or skills that involve abstract concepts or ideas can be harder to grasp than those dealing with concrete and tangible concepts, as they require higher cognitive processing and visualization abilities.

About this ranking

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


  • 150 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

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

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More information on most difficult thing to learn

Learning is a never-ending process, and it is a challenging journey that everyone experiences differently. However, some things are universally considered more difficult to learn than others. The ability to master a subject depends on numerous factors, such as the complexity of the subject matter, the individual's cognitive abilities, and the learning environment. Some people find mathematics challenging, while others struggle with foreign languages or programming. The most challenging thing to learn varies from person to person, but it is safe to say that it is a significant hurdle that requires dedication, patience, and perseverance. In this article, we will explore the most challenging things to learn and how to overcome them.

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