Toughest Exam in India: Top 5 Toughest Exams in India

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : July 13th, 2022

Amongst the Toughest Exams in India, UPSC, CAT, and CLAT Exams occupy the top positions. Exams are a significant part of our education system, that test the thinking and knowledge-retaining ability of the students. Exams in India are descriptive, multiple-choice, or interview-based. To qualify for India’s Most Toughest Exam, it is very essential to have a robust timetable, approachable exam strategy, and perseverance, along with the determination to clear the exam.
The Most Toughest Exam in India is said to be that of the UPSC CSE, or the IAS Exam. The success rate of the candidates appearing in the exam is less than even 1 percent. 

Through the article, we will be shedding light on India’s Most Toughest Exams, how to approach and clear the Top 5 Toughest Exams in India, and a general overview of them.

Table of Content

Top 5 Toughest Exams in India

UPSC Civil Services, Common Admission Test (CAT), Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), IIT-JEE, and Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) Exams are said to be India’s most toughest exams. These exams are conducted and designed in such a way that they measure the candidates’ aptitude, technical skills, physical fitness, and mental stability. 

Let's discuss these exams in detail.

  1. UPSC CSE Exam, also known as IAS Exam 
  2. CAT Exam for MBA
  3. CLAT for Law Admissions
  4. JEE - Joint Entrance Exam for Engineering Colleges
  5. GATE Exam

UPSC Civil Services Exam

The UPSC Exam is said to be the most toughest exam in India. It is the most competitive and difficult exam that is conducted in India. The UPSC Exam is conducted in three stages- UPSC PrelimsUPSC Mains, and Interview. The Exam recruits candidates for the top services of the nation, such as the IAS, IPSIFSIRS, and many other Group A and B services under the Central Government. 

Every year, around 10-12 lakh candidates fill up the UPSC form after the UPSC Notification is out. Around, 6-8 lakh aspirants sit for the Preliminary exam, and only 15-17 thousand get selected for the Mains exam. Following this, only a handful (about 1500-200) candidates are selected for the final round, or the Interview round. The entire selection process for the UPSC exam is extremely rigorous. 

The UPSC Syllabus is vast and covers major subjects like History, Polity, Geography, Economy, Environment & Ecology, Science, and Technology. Current Affairs and Static GK Questions are also of great importance in the exam. 

Exam Name

UPSC CSE/ UPSC Civil Services Examination/ IAS Exam 

Conducting Body

UPSC - Union Public Service Commission

Exam Level

National

Exam Periodicity

Yearly

Exam Mode

Offline 

Exam Type

Pen-Paper; OMR sheet

UPSC Exam Date 2022

The UPSC Prelims was conducted on 5th June 2022

The UPSC Mains is scheduled from 16th September 2022.

UPSC Exam Date 2023

The UPSC Prelims will be conducted on 28th May 2023

The UPSC Mains will be conducted from 15th September 2023 onwards.

CAT: Common Admission Test

CAT Exam is the most popular MBA entrance exam conducted in India, to get admission into the premier IIMs of the country. CAT is a computer-based MBA entrance test, conducted at the national level for admission to all 20 IIMs and other top MBA colleges. The exam consists of three sections namely Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Aptitude (QA). The CAT exam question paper covers both MCQ & Non-MCQ questions. 

Exam Name

CAT 2022

CAT Full-Form

Common Admission Test

CAT Official Website

iimcat.ac.in

Exam Conducting Body

One of the IIMs on a rotational basis 

Yet to be announced for CAT 2022

Exam Type

National Level, MBA Entrance Exam

Exam Frequency

Once a year

Exam Mode

Online

Language

English

Exam Helpdesk No.

1-800-209-0830 (Toll-Free)

Applicants must go through the CAT Exam Notification to ensure that they understand all the important details about the exam. The basic eligibility to appear for the CAT Exam is to hold a graduate degree from a recognized university or equivalent. CAT applicants must check the CAT Eligibility Criteria before applying for the exam.

CLAT: Common Law Admission Test

The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is a national level Law entrance exam conducted by the Consortium of NLUs for both UG & PG Courses. The CLAT Exam Consortium is headquartered at NLSIU Bangalore. The CLAT Exam for UG comprises 150 questions from five subjects, ranging from English Language and Current Affairs, General Knowledge, Legal Reasoning, Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Techniques, to be solved in 120 minutes. 

One should go through the CLAT Exam Pattern to get a better understanding.

Before filling out the CLAT application form, candidates need to check the CLAT Eligibility Criteria.

Features

Highlights

CLAT Full-Form

Common-Law Admission Test

Exam Frequency

Twice a year

Exam Type

Law Entrance Test

CLAT Exam Mode

Offline

CLAT Exam Duration

2 hours

Accepting Colleges

CLAT Exam Colleges List 2022

Official Website

https://clatconsortiumofnlu.ac.in/

IIT JEE: Indian Institute of Technology- Joint Entrance Exam

The IIT JEE is a national-level common entrance exam conducted for admission to various engineering colleges, such as IITs, NITs, etc. in India. The IIT JEE exams are conducted by NTA. 

The IIT JEE Exam is conducted in two stages- JEE Mains and JEE Advanced. The IIT JEE Mains is the first stage of the entrance exam twice a year (January and April) to offer admissions into various government and private colleges. The JEE Advanced is the second and final phase of the IIT JEE Exam. The exam is conducted by selected IITs on a rotational basis to offer admission to 23 IITs. Only the top 2.4- 2.5 lakh candidates of JEE are eligible to appear for the JEE Advanced exam.

Overview of the JEE Main Exam

Particulars

Details

Conducted 

by

National Testing Agency

Exam Level

National Level Exam

Languages in which exam is conducted

Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu

Mode of Application

Online

Mode of Exam

Computer Based Test (CBT)

Total Marks

300

Exam Duration

3 Hours

Overview of the JEE Advanced Exam

Particulars

Details

Conducted 

by

National Testing Agency

Exam Level

National Level Exam

Mode

Computer-based and pen-paper-based test

Type of Questions

Objective Type or Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)

Marking Scheme

4 marks for every correct answer, -1 for every wrong answer, and 0 for every un-attempted question

Subjects

Paper 1: Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics

Paper 2: Mathematics, Aptitude Test, and Drawing Test

Total Marks

360 for Paper 1 and 390 for Paper 2

GATE: Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering

GATE Exam is a national-level engineering entrance exam for admission into Master's Programs and recruitment in PSUs. The exam has 29 disciplines and candidates can opt for more than 1 subject as per the latest guidelines. The exam is conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, and Roorkee on behalf of the National Coordination Board (NCB)-GATE, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education (MoE), Government of India. 

The GATE score remains valid for three years from the date of the announcement of results.

Exam Name

GATE 

GATE Exam Full-Form

Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering

GATEOfficial Website

http://gate.iitd.ac.in/

Exam Conducting Body

Conducted jointly by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

GATE 2023 conducting Institute

IIT Kanpur

Exam Type

National Level

Exam Frequency

Once a year

Exam Mode and Type

Online; MSQ/MCQ/NAT

Language

English

GATE Exam Duration

3 Hours

Most Toughest Exam in India

The IAS Exam or the UPSC Exam is the most toughest exam conducted in India. The exam is conducted to test the academic expertise of a candidate, and also their ability to present in a coherent manner. To prepare for the UPSC Exam, one needs a disciplined and dedicated lifestyle. The Exam is conducted in three stages, Prelims, Mains, and Interview. Though the UPSC Prelims Syllabus and UPSC Mains Syllabus are integrated, the UPSC Preparation Strategy for both exams is completely different. Below we have provided an overview of the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains Exam Pattern for a better understanding of the exam.

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

Paper Name

Type

Nature of Paper

No. of questions

Marks for Each Paper

Duration

General Studies 1

Objective

Merit Ranking

100

200

2 hours

General Studies 2 (CSAT)

Objective

Qualifying

80

200

2 hours



UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

Paper

Subject

Nature of Paper

Duration

IAS Total marks

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

Qualifying in Nature (25% i.e.75 marks required)

3 hours

300

Paper B

English

3 hours

300

Paper I

Essay







Marks will be counted to determine the Final Merit list.

3 hours

250

Paper II

General Studies I

3 hours

250

Paper III

General Studies II

3 hours

250

Paper IV

General Studies III

3 hours

250

Paper V

General Studies IV

3 hours

250

Paper VI

Optional I

3 hours

250

Paper VII

Optional II

3 hours

250

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Toughest Exam in India FAQs

  • The UPSC CSE or the IAS Exam is considered to be the toughest exam in India. The exam is conducted in three stages and the UPSC Syllabus is vast to cover.

  • Indeed, UPSC is tougher than IIT JEE, stating the fact that only 0.2% - 0.4% of the total candidates make it to the final list of the UPSC after the UPSC Results are declared. Whereas, the IIT JEE is an undergrad-level exam with a much higher success rate.

  • The Top 10 Hardest Exams in India are:

    1. UPSC
    2. GATE
    3. CAT
    4. CLAT
    5. NDA
    6. IIT JEE
    7. National Institute of Design Entrance Examination
    8. NEET
    9. UGC-NET
    10. Chartered Accountant (CA) Exam


  • IAS Exam is considered to be the toughest exam in India because of the vast UPSC Syllabus and the rigorous process of selection it follows. It is also considered the toughest exam because the success rate is less than even 1%. The diversity of subjects demands more determination and long study hours.

  • To crack any competitive exam after graduation, one needs to be disciplined in their approach. One needs to follow a solid preparation strategy, stick to basic notes and books and revise them from time to time. One also needs to take periodic tests or mocks to access their level of preparation.

  • There is no comparison between the two exams - UPSC or GATE. Both have totally different exam patterns and objectives of the exam. There is no comparison between the two as one can prepare for GATE in 3-5 months, completely starting from zero but for UPSC, a dedicated full year of study with perseverance and determination is required.

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