Details on top 10 toughest exams in India. UPSC Civil Service Entrance Examinations (IAS), IIT JEE Entrance Examinations, GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)
Competitive exams are designed to measure aptitude, mental stability, physical fitness, technical skills, and other aspects. These exams are conducted either orally, or 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. That’s why this article provides details on 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 benefits 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 with regards to their professional skills.
Hyperlinks the standardised competitive exam was first introduced in ancient China (which was labeled the ‘Imperial Examination’), Europe was introduced to it only during the late 19th century. This version was modeled 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 better fit more modern requirements.
As to the respective sections are provided so that you can learn about a specific exam in detail. 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)
- Level 1: The Preliminary Exam.
- Level 2: The Main Exam.
- Level 3: Personality Test or Interview.
Aspirants are required to cover a large syllabus, with Indian History, Indian Geography, and Laws on Human Rights considered to be the crucial subjects. If you had to guess, how many candidates apply to write IAS exams? If your answer was between 8-10 lakhs, you’d be right!
A median of over 8 lakh candidates appeared for the IAS exams, 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.
Candidates for the 2018 examination saw approximately 10 lakh candidates apply for the preliminary exams. However, only 4.94 lakh candidates wrote the Prelims, and out of those candidates, only close to 13,370 of them made it to Level 2, which is to write the Main exam. After that, only 2,568 candidates were able to get to Level 3. This level further funnelled the candidates, out of which only half of that number — close to 1,060 — were selected for processing. The final vacancies, however, showed up as 980. 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 you to have diverse skills, deep knowledge, and strong resilience to handle them. This is why both the UPSC IAS exams as well as their processes are naturally rigorous and claustrophobic.
IIT JEE Entrance Examination
IIT-JEE is an engineering entrance exam that allows you to gain admission into the top engineering institutes in India. It’s also 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. You must first clear JEE Main in order to write JEE Advanced.
Students who pass JEE Main can apply for undergraduate programmes in Engineering/Architecture/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. This is done by providing their All-India Rank (AIR) number in the exam; the higher your rank, the better your chances of gaining admissions.
Speaking of success, every 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. Among 2 lakh students, only 11,000 students make it to the top engineering institutes in India.
The new changes in JEE Main 2019 allow candidates to appear twice for the entrance exam in a given year. The best scores among the two will be used to rank as per the regulations laid by the authorities.
GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering)
The GATE exam is conducted for the purpose of admitting students into Masters and Doctoral courses in Engineering, Technology, Architecture, and Science. It is a solid ticket to various government engineering colleges, including IITs and NITs.
The GATE score obtained is valid for 3 years, starting from the announcement date. It’s also accepted by selected government PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings).
Before enrolling for the exam, there are some eligibility criteria you need to meet. Although there is no age limit, ensure you meet at least one of the following criterion:
- Secure at least a Bachelor's degree in the related engineering/science stream.
- Secure at least a Master's degree from any branch of mathematics, science, statistics, or computer applications.
- Be in your final year of either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programme.
CAT (Common Entrance Test)
CAT is an entry-level exam which 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 exam scores are accepted by IIMs and other similar universities and institutes offering courses on MBA. 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 you plan to drop your aspirations right after your first failure, please don’t.
Consider learning from that experience, and preparing yourself better for the next time, and try again.
Writing CAT exams would mean you 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 recognised either by the MHRD or by the UGC Act, 1956.
Anyone in their final year of their bachelor’s programme may also apply. If they are selected, then they can join the programme only after presenting a transfer certificate from their previous institution’s headmaster/principal. This certificate has to be at least recent to June 30 2020.
NDA (National Defence Academy)
NDA exams are conducted to push candidates into the Army, Air Force, and/or Navy. The candidates are picked based on written examination, psychological aptitude test, intelligence test, personality test, and finally, an interview. This exam is conducted twice a year; April and September.
There are different eligibility criteria for different national defense 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 will be carried by the Services Selection Board (SSB) of the Ministry of Defence. To be eligible for that interview, you’ll need to have cleared all the previous tests.
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.
National Institute of Design (NID) Entrance Examination
The National Institute of Design Entrance Examination (AKA the NID Design Aptitude Test) is a design aptitude test conducted by the NID Admission Committee. It intends to check the students' creativity levels in design. They are ranked based on merit provided through the test. All major cities in India hold this examination whenever scheduled.
NID offers course admissions to aspirants, such as:
- Bachelor of Design (BDes)
- Graduate Diploma Programme in Design (GDPD)
- Master of Design (MDes)
But if you want to obtain a seat for those programmes, then you’ll need to write two exams: NID DAT Prelims, and NID DAT Mains. If you clear NID DAT Prelims, you’re allowed to appear for NID DAT Mains. If you need to know more about this, visit their website. Prelims is conducted in the traditional pen-and-paper format, while Mains is conducted in two parts: one, a studio test; two, a personal interview.
NID DAT Prelims
Prelims is conducted to test a candidate’s qualities and attributes on design. Mostly their knowledge and comprehension of the subjects involved, their analytical and creative thought process, and their visualisation skills. Qualifiers can then appear for the Mains exam.
The exam is rather tedious in that it is almost 3 hours long, and the total marks set equals 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 largely a studio test, and is also dependent on the specialisation that the candidate went for. The interview itself is conducted by the faculty or the official head of their respective specialisation. The reason why there’s pressure involved is because a total of 100 seats are allotted based on merit for BDes in Industrial Design, Communication Design, Textile, and/or Apparel & Lifestyle Accessory Design departments.
For the number of candidates applying for a seat in these programmes, that number is way too less. This means that the elimination procedure is likely to be strict.
NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test)
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is an exam conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) right until 2018, when the board was switched to the National Testing Agency (NTA) in 2019.
What’s interesting is that NEET itself is a replacement to 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 you need to obtain admissions to MBBS and BDS courses in some government or private medical colleges across India. The exam is held once a year (in the month of May), so if you ever plan to join one of those courses, it’s mandatory for you to pass this exam in order to gain admission into any medical college in India. So, what makes it difficult? 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. About 7.7 lakh candidates qualified in 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) and you have yourself a ranking problem; candidates, no matter how high they score, will still need to rank higher in order to obtain seats. Stiff competition, fewer allocations, and general test stress makes NEET one of the toughest exams to land in this list.
UGC-NET (University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test)
The University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test (UGC NET) is a national-level exam conducted to select Assistant Professors and Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) candidates in Indian universities and colleges. These qualified candidates are then permitted to teach at school as well as college levels. But, that’s easier said than done.
The exam is tough enough for candidates to fail on their 4th or 5th attempts. Only 6% of them account for the success in these exams. On top of that, a category-wise reservation policy is applied to these successful candidates, which means depending on your category, you 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 at 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.
CLAT (Common Law Admission Test)
Now, this 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). The scores you obtain from CLAT exams are accepted by 16 National Law Universities in India. But, there’s a reason why being a lawyer can come with a lot of baggage.
60,000 students appear for CLAT annually. Out of that number, only 5% (3,000 candidates) make it to National Law University. For the current year, the CLAT exam paper’s structure has seen some changes. 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 blow to your performance, which is why there’s so much caution taken by the candidates in getting their answers right.
Chartered Accountant Exam
The CA Foundation Exam is conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), which was established in July 1949 for regulating the chartered accountancy profession in India. The ICAI conducts three levels of CA exams:
- CA Foundation
- CA Intermediate
- CA Final
The first exam is a national-level prelim examination that is conducted during the months of January, June, November, and December annually. It was formerly known as the Common Proficiency Test (CA CPT). If you clear the exam, then you get to apply for the ICAI Chartered Accountancy courses. But if you were to clear all the exams, then you become a certified Chartered Accountant in India. Once again, it’s a lot easier to say it than to do it, for they are some of the toughest certification exams in India.
The competition between the students to score higher marks is good as it makes way for more learning. It 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. As the studies progress, the number of revisions required decreases, thus improving the learning skills.