UPSC Civil Service Exam (IAS), IIT JEE Entrance Exam, GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) are among the toughest exams in India. Get details on the top 10 toughest exams in India.
Competitive exams are designed and framed to measure aptitude, mental stability, technical skills, physical fitness, and other aspects. These exams are conducted either orally, online, or via pen-and-paper or in a setup that requires the test taker to perform the exam with a particular set of skills. Thousands of exams are conducted in India every year; most of them easy to crack, but few are considered the toughest. The article covers the details of the top 10 toughest exams in India.
Top 10 Toughest Exams in India
Although we move to higher levels of education, so do the exams see an increase in difficulty. The primary benefit of preparing for these competitive exams is to help students reaffirm their knowledge in the specific field. Most importantly, it allows the student to identify their strengths and weaknesses regarding their professional skills.
Hyperlinks, the standardized competitive exam, was first introduced in ancient China (which was labelled the 'Imperial Examination'), Europe was introduced to it only during the late 19th century. This version was modelled after the Chinese mandarin examinations under the advocacy of British colonial administrators. The aim was to select candidates for specific government positions. Since then, exams have been revisioned, rebooted, and rewritten to fit more modern requirements better.
The respective sections are provided so that one can learn about a specific exam in detail. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 toughest exams in India. Brace yourself!
- UPSC Civil Service Entrance Examinations (IAS)
- IIT JEE Entrance Examinations
- GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)
- CAT (Common Entrance Test)
- NDA (National Defence Academy)
- National Institute of Design Entrance Examination
- NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test)
- UGC- NET (University Grants Commission- National Eligibility Test)
- CLAT (Common Law Admission Test)
- Chartered Accountant Exam
UPSC Civil Service Entrance Examinations (IAS)
UPSC IAS exam is one of the most difficult and competitive exams in India to exist today. Aspirants must cover a large syllabus, Indian History, Indian Geography, and Laws on Human Rights considered crucial subjects. If you had to guess, how many candidates apply to write IAS exams? If your answer were between 8-10 lakhs, you'd be right!
The exam is conducted in three levels:
- Level 1: The Preliminary Exam
- Level 2: The Main Exam
- Level 3: Personality Test or Interview
A median of over 8 lakh candidates appeared for the IAS exams every year, with 2017 and 2018 seeing approximately 10 lakh candidates. Unfortunately, the pass rate among candidates is between 0.1% and 0.3%. Here's a bit more context on that for a particular year.
As per the 69th Annual report, approximately 10 lakh candidates apply for the preliminary exams. However, only around 5 lakh candidates appeared for the Prelims, and out of those candidates, only close to 13,000 of them made it to level 2, which is the main exam. After that, only around 3000 candidates were able to get to level 3. This level further funnelled the candidates, out of which only half of that number were selected for processing. The final vacancies, however, showed up as 796. This shows the nature of their strict selection procedures.
The responsibilities of those working in central government services such as the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Foreign Service, the Indian Police Service, etc., require one to have diverse skills, deep knowledge, and strong resilience to handle them. This is why both the UPSC IAS exams and their processes are naturally rigorous and claustrophobic.
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IIT JEE Entrance Examination
IIT-JEE is an engineering entrance exam that allows students to gain admission into the top engineering institutes in India. It is considered to be the second toughest exam in India. Students seeking admissions at centrally-funded technical institutions are shortlisted based on two core levels of IIT-JEE: JEE Main and JEE Advanced. Students must clear JEE Main in order to write JEE Advanced.
Students who pass JEE Main can apply for undergraduate programmes in Engineering, Architecture, or Science provided by the college of their choice, except for any IIT-based or IISc-based institute; they will accept only successful JEE Advanced candidates. It is done by providing their All-India Rank (AIR) number in the exam; the higher your rank, the better your chances of gaining admissions.
The success rate recorded so far is that 1 out of 45 candidates are successful in the exam. If we keep this as a calculable ratio for future prospects, then we can assume that, for instance, only 2,200-10,000 candidates out of 1 lakh may pass the exam. Similarly, nearly 12 to 14 lakh students appear for JEE Main every year, and only around 2.2 lakh students are qualified for JEE Advanced. However, among the 2 lakh students qualified, only 11,000 students make it to the top engineering institutes in India.
The new changes from JEE Main 2019 allow candidates to appear twice for the entrance exam in a given year. And the best scores among the two exams will be taken for the rank procedure as per the regulations laid by the authorities.
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GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)
The GATE exam is conducted to admit students into Masters and Doctoral courses in Engineering, Technology, Architecture, and Science. And is a solid admission criterion to various government engineering colleges, including IITs and NITs.
The GATE score, once obtained, is valid for up to 3 years, starting from the announcement date. It's also accepted by selected government PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings). However, before enrolling for the exam, some eligibility criteria need to be met.
Although there is no age limit, ensure to meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Secure at least a Bachelor's degree in the related Engineering or Science stream.
- Secure at least a Master's degree from any branch of Mathematics, Science, Statistics, or Computer Applications.
- Students in the final year of either a Bachelor's or Master's degree programme.
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CAT (Common Entrance Test)
CAT is an entry-level exam that is a great gateway for admissions to premium management and business schools in India. Candidates are evaluated based on skills in English, Mathematics, and Logical Reasoning.
CAT entrance scores are accepted in all IIMs and other similar institutes and universities that offer MBA programs. However, every year, only a staggering 1,500 candidates out of 2 lakhs succeed in obtaining admissions to IIMs annually. If we had to calculate the success rate in percentages, then we'd conclude that the success rate is close to 2% only.
Most candidates think they won't get anywhere if they fail. While we could say that the data helps prove that CAT is one of the toughest entrance exams in India, it also proves that failure is all too common here. So, if one plans to drop their aspirations right after the first failure, please don't. Instead, consider learning from that experience, preparing yourself better for the next time, and trying again.
Writing CAT exams would mean students need to meet the following criteria:
- Secure at least a Bachelor's degree with at least 50% (45% for other categories) or above CGPA.
- Secure the degree from a university recognized either by the MHRD or by the UGC Act, 1956.
Anyone in their final year of their Bachelor's programme may also apply. If selected, they can join the programme only after presenting a transfer certificate from their previous institution's headmaster/principal.
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NDA (National Defence Academy)
NDA exams are conducted to push candidates into the Army, Air Force, or Navy. The candidates are picked based on a written examination, psychological aptitude test, intelligence test, personality test, and an interview. This exam is conducted twice a year, in April and September.
There are different eligibility criteria for different National Defence Wings. But generally speaking, any student who has completed or written their class 12 exam can prepare and appear for the NDA Test. The interview is carried out by the SSB, i.e., the Services Selection Board of the Ministry of Defence. To be eligible for the interview, students need to have cleared all the previous tests. However, here's where things get rough.
Around 4 lakh candidates appear for the test, out of which only a meagre 6,000 are called for the SSB interview. That's accounting for 66.7% of the candidates failing the exams. It may not be the exams themselves, but rather the strenuous SSB interview that contributes to the high failure rate; the interview lasts for a total of 5 days.
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National Institute of Design (NID) Entrance Examination
The National Institute of Design Entrance Examination or the NID Design Aptitude Test is a design assessment test focusing on aptitude, which the NID Admission Committee conducts. It intends to check the students' creativity levels in the design. The NID ranks are awarded based on their merit obtained through the test. However, all major cities in India conduct the examination whenever scheduled.
NID entrance is conducted to offer design course admissions to the following.
But if one wants to obtain a seat for design programmes, one needs to clear the following two exams.
After clearing NID DAT Prelims, candidates are allowed to appear for NID DAT Mains. NID Prelims is conducted as a traditional pen-and-paper test, whereas the Mains is conducted as two parts: studio test and personal interview.
NID DAT Prelims
Prelims is conducted to test a candidate's qualities and attributes on design. It includes testing knowledge and comprehension of the subjects involved, their analytical and creative thought process, and their visualization skills. Qualifiers can then appear for the Mains exam.
The exam is almost 3 hours long, and the total marks equal 100. Although the paper is divided into objective-type and subjective-type questions, it's largely the subjective-type questions that can be difficult to crack, given their subjective nature itself.
NID DAT Main
Mains is primarily a studio test and is also dependent on the specialization that the candidate went for. The interview is conducted by the faculty or the official head of their respective specialization. There's pressure involved because a total of 100 seats are allotted based on merit for B.Des in Industrial Design, Communication Design, Textile, or Apparel & Lifestyle Accessory Design departments.
The number of candidates applying for a seat in these programmes is way too less. It means that the elimination procedure is likely to be strict.
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NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test)
Until 2018, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) exam was conducted by the CBSE, the Central Board of Secondary Education. In 2019, the board was switched to the National Testing Agency (NTA).
Interestingly, NEET itself replaces a previous exam system called the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), which was the standard until 2012. However, the pattern that NEET follows is similar to that of AIPMT.
Regardless, NEET is the exam students need to clear to get admissions to MBBS and BDS courses in government or private medical colleges across India. The exam is held once a year (in May). So if a student ever plans to join one of those courses, they must pass the NEET exam to gain admission into any medical college in India. So, what makes it tricky? Let's have the numbers tell us that.
As of the latest data, the number of registered candidates for the NEET exam included 15 lakh candidates, out of which only 13 lakh candidates appeared. Thus, about 7.7 lakh candidates qualified for the exam. This gets us close to 56.5% of candidates who passed their exams.
Add to it the problem with obtaining seats in different colleges (where the seat allocation is only in the ten-thousands range). Finally, students may have a ranking problem; candidates, no matter how high they score, will still need to rank higher to obtain seats. Stiff competition, fewer allocations, and general test stress make NEET one of the toughest exams to land on this list.
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UGC-NET (University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test)
The University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC NET), a national-level hiring exam conducted to select Assistant Professors and Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) candidates in Indian universities and colleges. UGC NET qualified candidates are permitted to teach at school and college levels in various Indian universities and colleges.
The exam is tough enough for candidates to fail on their 4th or 5th attempts. As a result, only 6% of them account for success in these exams. On top of that, a category-wise reservation policy is applied to these successful candidates, which means depending on the category, candidates would be chosen by colleges respectively. Since 2018, the exam has been conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) and continues to cover 83 subjects in a total of 88 NET Exam-supported cities.
In terms of UGC NET eligibility, a candidate must have secured at least 55% marks in their master's degree examination (which can be from any field) and must have graduated from a UGC-recognised college or university.
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CLAT (Common Law Admission Test)
Now, the CLAT exam is conducted to determine which candidates are eligible to take admissions to five-year programmes, such as Bachelor of Arts (Integrated with Law), Bachelor of Law, or Master of Law (LLM). 16 National Law Universities accept the scores a candidate obtains from CLAT exams in India.
Sixty thousand students appear for CLAT annually. Out of that number, only 5% (3,000 candidates) make it to National Law University. But, there is a structural change in the CLAT exam paper. There are now fewer questions to deal with; the numbers dropped from 200 to 150, and a comprehension section with 300-450-word passages are provided instead.
However, it doesn't change how the scoring works; every wrong answer deducts 0.25 marks from your total score. This can be a big setback to your performance, which is why the candidates take so much caution in getting their answers right.
Chartered Accountant Exam
The CA Foundation Exam is a preliminary exam conducted by the ICAI, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, which was established in July 1949 for regulating the chartered accountancy profession in India.
The ICAI exams are carried out in three levels of CA exams:
- CA Foundation
- CA Intermediate
- CA Final
The first exam is a national-level prelim examination conducted during January, June, November, and December annually. It was previously represented as the Common Proficiency Test (CA CPT). If a candidate clears the exam, then they get to apply for the ICAI Chartered Accountancy courses. But if one were to clear all the exams, they become a certified Chartered Accountant in India, the toughest certification in India.
The competition between the students to score higher marks plays an important role in motivating the students. The most important part is that people get used to the competition early as from their childhood, making it easier to face the competition in the latter part of life.
It increases knowledge more than what is given in the textbooks to score higher marks in the exams. It also improves confidence by analyzing the level of knowledge a candidate has in the specific topic. And as the studies progress, the number of revisions required decreases, improving the learning skills.
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