A List of Top 10 Toughest Exams in India:
Have you ever been curious about gaining knowledge about the top 10 toughest exams of India? India is one such nation where exams and interviews are considered to be crucial for the overall development and growth of an individual looking for a good career opportunity or educational qualification at a premier institution/university. It is on the basis of these exams that an individual is considered for premier institutes and good qualifications across different industries and businesses. It is therefore essential to become well acquainted with the different national examinations that are conducted by esteemed educational institutions of India as well as government institutions. With anticipation in mind and fear in the heart, it might become difficult to hold oneself together in the process of preparation! But don’t worry we’ve got you covered!
Here’s a list of the top 10 toughest exams in India throughout the year with bare minimum acceptance rates and passing percentages.
1. Indian Administrative Services (IAS): Examination for Civil Services:
Overview: The examination for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) is considered to be one of the toughest examinations of India. The examination is officially registered as the Civil Services Exam (CSE). An individual aspiring to serve in the civil services departments of the Government of India needs to necessarily pass all the various components of the examination in a limited number of attempts. The examination is conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) and the selected candidates are considered eligible for service in various departments including Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
Exam Paper Pattern and Eligibility:
The exam is divided into three major components including the Prelims, The Mains, and the Final Interview. One must be able to successfully clear all these components in a maximum of six attempts till one completes the age of 32 years if one belongs to the General Category of Indian Citizens. The number of attempts allowed to aspirants belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category is nine till one completes 35 years of age and the number of attempts allowed to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) is unlimited till one completes the age of 37 years.
The first component of the examination, the Prelim Examination is conducted for a total duration of 2 hours per subject paper. A candidate cannot appear for the Main Examination until they successfully clear the Prelims.
The Main Examination is conducted for a total duration of 3 hours per subject paper. This is the second component of the examination and is much more tough and comprehensive in pattern and nature of questions as opposed to the Prelims.
The last component of the examination is the Final Interview or the Personality Test. A rare percentage of 5-6% of appearing candidates successfully reach this stage of the examination and a much shorter ratio of selected candidates successfully clear this stage and are recruited in the civil services departments of the Government of India.
The CSE exam is of a total mark of 1750 including 275 marks that are additionally added after successfully clearing the Final Interview component. The minimum passing mark required to clear the CSE exam is 960.
Syllabus: The syllabus of the examination includes choosing one language of the candidate’s choice from either English or the national language, Hindi. Apart from one language, the candidate needs to choose between 25 different subjects apart from appearing for the main subjects that primarily include History, Indian Political Sciences, Geography, Environment and Ecology, Current Affairs, International Relations, Science and Technology and Indian Economy. In addition to the 25 optional subjects, aspirants are also offered various options in literature.
2. Examination for Chartered Accountants (CA) by Institute of Charted Accountants of India (ICAI):
Overview: The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) conducts a three-level national examination for individuals seeking careers in accountancy, finance, banking, management, and so on. The examination is specifically designed for commerce graduates acquainted to subjects including accountancy, finance, banking, management, marketing, business administration, human resources, taxation, laws of business, professional ethics and so on.
Paper Pattern and Eligibility: The given examination is divided into three components that primarily include the CA Foundation Exam which is primarily termed as the Common Proficiency Test (CPT), the CA Intermediate Exam or the Integrated Professional Competence Course (IPCC) and the last component is the CA Final Exam.
Unlike other national level examinations, the CA exam does not have a specific restriction for the number of attempts to clear all three components of the exam. One can appear for an examination as many times as they wish to. The only condition posed by the authorities is that one needs to renew/reissue their registration for the CA Final Exam after a period of 5 years i.e. 10 attempts in total for 2 rounds of the same examination each year.
The first round of the examination is conducted generally between May and June and the second round is conducted between November and December of each year.
The specific eligibility for candidates appearing for the CA Foundation or the CPT exam is that of passing the examination for grade 10 from a recognized examination body that is constituted in the Constitution of India such as the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Indian Certificate for Secondary Education (ICSE) and other registered State Boards in higher secondary school (10+2) or equivalent.
In addition, candidates should register themselves in a diploma course for two years post completion of grade 10 in school and upon successfully completing the diploma course, should register and successfully complete their education in an undergraduate degree program of a recognized University for a minimum period of three years in subjects related to commerce are also eligible to appear for the CPT exam. The candidate should have scored a minimum of 50% aggregate in all subjects taken in the degree program in order to be directly eligible for the CA exam.
Syllabus: The CA exam includes different subjects of assessment that are largely varied for each level. The major subjects that are covered across different levels include Accounting, Taxation, Government Laws on Banking and Finance, Business Ethics, Business Mathematics, Logical Reasoning and Statistics, Commercial Knowledge, and Business Economics.
It is essential to note that each examination is divided into two groups comprising four subjects each. An appearing candidate is given the flexibility to appear for either or both of the groups of examination in each round of examination. A candidate can choose to appear for one group of the examination in a given round and re-appear for another round in order to give examination for the second group. By attempting such a preparatory mechanism one could avoid the necessary stress, anxiety and disappointment arising of preparing intensively for a given level of examination.
3. National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET):
The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET), previously termed the All India Pre-Medical Test is an undergraduate level medical entrance examination test that is primarily designed for all students aspiring to get admission in medical science colleges including majors/specializations in dentistry, pharmacy, homeopathy, Ayurveda, yoga, siddha, umami, and other related fields. The examination is conducted and facilitated by the National Testing Agency (NTA) which is primarily responsible for coordinating with and regulating the seat allocation procedure with the Directorate General of Health Services, a governing body for health and medicine under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India. The seat allocation procedure is based strictly on merit basis on the obtained results of each aspirant. A typical aspirant aims of studying in an undergraduate degree program in MBBS and/or MD.
Paper Pattern: The NEET examination for Undergraduate Students constitutes of 180 questions in total. Out of these 180 questions, 45 questions involve topics such as Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Chemistry. The typical format of posed questions includes multiple-choice questions (MCQs) that involve one correct option out of the available 4-5 options. A correct response upon assessment awards the candidate of 4 points in total and an incorrect response involves negative marking by deducting 1 point from the total. The exam is conducted for a total duration of 3 hours and 20 mins and is of 720 marks in total.
A minimum accepted score out of 720 to be eligible for admission in reputed medical institutes/colleges of India is that of 150 out of 720 for the general category of Indians and it is slightly lower around 108 to 137 for those belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
Syllabus: The exam typically includes subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, and Biology at a high school level (Grades 11 and 12) and involves modules from textbooks and study material approved and formulated by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in India for Central and State Board Schools of India.
Eligibility: The minimum eligibility to appear for the NEET exam is that of successfully clearing high school education of 10 + 2 or equivalent from a recognized exam conducting body constituted under the Constitution of India. The stream chosen by the individual during the grade 12 examination should be that of Sciences including subjects such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology and with English as a compulsory core subject along with the above three.
4. JEE- Joint Engineering Exam:
The Joint Engineering Exam (JEE) is one of the toughest examinations in India. It is an exam oriented toward undergraduate students aspiring to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Sciences, Information Technology, Software, Programming, and so on. The acceptance rate for the examination is quite low. Aspirants appearing for the JEE largely seek admissions in premier engineering institutes of India such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), National Institute of Technology (NIT) and several other private and national institutes of engineering such as BITS Pilani, Dhirubhai Ambani International Institue of Computer and Technology (DAIICT), Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), etc. The acceptance rates of the IIT colleges in India as well as reputed national engineering colleges are even lower than American Ivy League Colleges such as Harvard University, Stanford University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and so on. Degree programs requiring a qualification in JEE involve Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) and B.E. (Bachelor of Engineering). The exam is divided into two components namely, the JEE Main and the JEE Advanced examinations.
Syllabus: The typical syllabus of different components of the examination include Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry equivalent as well as more complex than those taught in Grade 11 and 12 in high school. The JEE Main primarily involves questions that are covered in topics taught in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics in high school under the study material approved and developed by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Individuals need to pass the JEE Main exam in order to qualify for the second level of the examination, the JEE Advanced.
The JEE Advanced examination involves topics related to Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics but of a much more complex and rigorous nature than those posed as questions in the Main Examination. The questions in the JEE Advanced are generally posed at a level of practical application rather than assessing students’ theoretical understanding of a concept.
Eligibility: The JEE Main examination does not have a particular age limit but it does have an eligibility criteria which needs to be fulfilled. One must necessarily complete high school education with a 10+2 qualification by clearing an examination conducted by a recognized examination body under the Constitution of India with a Science stream including subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and other related engineering subjects.
Individuals clearing the JEE Advanced examination with good marks get accepted in the topmost IIT colleges in India. Those unable to do so are unable to get good acceptances across reputed national colleges of engineering.
5. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS):
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is primarily a set of autonomous medical institutions across the capital of New Delhi. These institutions cumulatively conduct an entrance examination for medical aspirants who aspire to study in premier and top-notch medical institutions in India. The AIIMS entrance exam is much more difficult and rigorous in its pattern than that of the NEET medical entrance exam. All aspirants seeking to clear this examination begin their preparation approximately 2-3 years before its commencement.
Eligibility: AIIMS aspirants need to satisfactorily clear the NEET exam for undergraduate students and also possess an educational qualification equivalent to 10+ 2 in high schooling with primary core subjects under the Science stream as Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
Paper Pattern and Structure: The AIIMS entrance examination is designed and structured close to the NEET exam for undergraduate students and involves topics in Biology, Physics and Chemistry that are taught and included in high school textbooks and course material designed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). The major difference that comes in this particular examination is that the multiple-choice questions posed in this examination are that it also involves sections on Current Affairs and General Knowledge that require reflection on skills of reasoning, logic and thought assertion.
6. CLAT: Common Law Admission Test:
Individuals seeking careers in law and legal administration need to appear for the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT). The CLAT is a national level examination for undergraduate students looking to pursue a degree in LLB, B.A. LLB. All National Law Universities (NLUs), autonomous law institutions, self-financed and private law institutions, and PSUs mandatorily require a good score in CLAT to be accepted as a potential student. The examination is conducted on a yearly basis in May by the Consortium of National Law Universities.
Paper Pattern and Syllabus: The CLAT exam is conducted for a duration of 2 hours and involves multiple-choice questions for topics including General Knowledge, Current Affairs, Logical Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Aptitude, and Legal Aptitude. The exam is of a total mark of 200 and an aspirant needs to obtain a score of approximately 115 to 140 in order to get into a good law college.
Eligibility: A candidate needs to appear for a grade 12 examination from an accepted educational board registered under the Constitution of India and needs to score a minimum percentage of 40 % in the final examination.
7. CAT: Common Admission Test for MBA Students:
The Common Admission Test (CAT) is an examination oriented for individuals seeking careers in business administration, marketing, human resources, finance, stock markets, brokerage and overall business management. Individuals must necessarily pursue a postgraduate degree of Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in order to successfully set up a business/start-up project into implementation and/or assist in the family business. The test is a completely computer administered test. The test is conducted each year in November/December by the Indian Institutes of Management. All candidates who successfully clear the examination are able to secure admission to premier institutions such as the different Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) across different cities of India. The acceptance rate of these institutions is based on different criteria such as previous experience in business, internships, leadership skills, time management, planning, language proficiency, sincerity, openness to new ideas and concepts, creativity and divergent thinking abilities.
Syllabus: The exam covers three different sections that include Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability.
Exam Pattern: The exam involves a total of 66 multiple-choice questions that are divided across three sections with 40 minutes provided to complete each section. The total duration of the examination is 120 mins or 2 hours. The total marks for the entire exam have been revised from 200 to 198 in 2021. The Verbal Ability section has the maximum weightage. There are no minimum passing marks in the exam but one requires to score a percentile score of 99+ to get accepted in a good IIM. All the MCQ based questions have a negative marking of -1 for each wrong response and a reward of +3 marks for correct responses. Although, there is no negative marking for non-MCQ based questions.
Eligibility: Any individual appearing for the final year in a Bachelor’s program from an institution identified under the University Grants Commission (UGC) or who completed their graduation in a recognized institution with a minimum aggregate of 50% overall can apply for the CAT exam. The exam can be given for a total of 9 attempts.
8. GATE: Graduate Aptitude Test for Engineering:
The Graduate Aptitude Test for Engineering (GATE) is an entry-level examination for graduate students seeking a postgraduate degree in engineering and applied sciences. The exam is an updated version of the JEE exam for aspiring undergraduate engineering students. This graduate level examination is also conducted by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) to provide graduate admission to engineering students looking to continue pursuing education in IITS and other recognized national institutes of engineering. A typical program that requires GATE qualification involves M. Tech, M.E. The primary aim of the exam is to appreciate engineering subjects in a much deeper format.
Eligibility: The GATE examination requires candidates to have a qualification equivalent to 10+2+3 or in other words, a high school education till grade 12 and a graduate degree of a minimum of 3 years from a reputed university of engineering and technology.
Exam Pattern and Syllabus: The typical exam pattern involves three sections that are General Aptitude comprising of 15 marks, Engineering Mathematics of 13 marks and Core Subject 72 marks (anything from Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics/Computer Science). The total mark for the exam is 100. There are a total of 29 papers differing based on subjects in the exam and the duration of the exam is 3 hours. The examination is administered online and restricted to being conducted in English only. A total of 65 questions are asked in the examination that are of different formats including multiple-choice questions, multiple select questions and numerical answer type questions.
The exam assesses students on skills of Recall, Reasoning, Logic, Comprehension, etc.
9. National Defence Academy (NDA) Exam:
The National Defence Academy (NDA) Exam is a national exam administered by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) of India. Individuals seeking careers in the armed forces, military, navy, air force and national security and aviation need to successfully clear the given examination. The examination is conducted twice each year.
Eligibility: Individuals who are unmarried men and women between the ages of 16.5 and 19.5 can apply for the NDA exam.
Paper Pattern: The exam is conducted section-wise with 2 and ½ hours allocated for each section and comprises 900 marks in total. The exam comprises of two sections that are namely the General Aptitude Test (GAT) and Mathematics. The questions included in the GAT primarily constitute 600 marks and the Mathematics section is of 300 marks. Out of a total of 270 questions, 150 are included in the GAT section and 120 are included in the Mathematics section. The Mathematics section has a negative marking of 0.83 and the GAT section has a negative marking of 1.33.
Those individuals who pass the written test are shortlisted and called for the Intelligence and Personality Test (SSB) which involves an interview. All the questions are multiple-choice questions.
10. UGC NET: University Grants Commission- National Entrance Test:
The National Entrance Test (NET) is a national level examination that is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on behalf of the University Grants Commission (UGC). The given examination is conducted by individuals seeking to explore job opportunities as assistant professors and for qualifications under Junior Research Fellowship Grants in universities and colleges across India.
Eligibility: In order to appear for the UGC NET examination, an individual needs to possess a postgraduate qualification from a reputed institution in India that is recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC). In addition, an individual also needs to pursue a postdoctoral qualification (Ph.D.) with significant research experience and acquaintance with educational fields.
Exam Pattern: The duration of the UGC NET exam is of a total of 3 hours and the exam is divided into two papers. The first paper involves general questions on research and aptitude that are common for all aspirants. The second paper involves subject-specific questions that must align with the individual’s major in postgraduate education and PhD research. The typical subjects included in the second paper include sociology, anthropology, political science, history, mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, architecture and so on. The total marks of the exam are 300 which are divided between the two sections. The first paper includes 50 questions of 1 mark each and the second paper includes 100 questions of 2 marks each.
An individual must be able to score 40% in the first paper and 35% in the second paper to qualify for the post of assistant professor in universities and colleges across India.