Top 10 Toughest Exams in India in 2024

Shubhangi Pandey

Updated On: February 22, 2024 02:30 pm IST

UPSC, NEET, CLAT and CAT are some of the most challengeing entrance exams in India. Check out the complete list of the top 10 toughest exams in India along with their eligibility, application details, schedule, selection criteria and more. 

Top 10 Toughest Exams in India

Have you ever heard of exams like UPSC, NEET, JEE Mains, and UGC NET? Well, these are considered among the Top 10 Toughest Exams in India. These exams are meant to evaluate your quantitative and qualitative aptitude, knowledge retention, mental acuity, and physical fitness (in certain cases). Those who clear these exams with high scores go on to become successful in the fields of Medicine, Engineering, Government Services, and Business Management.

These top 10 toughest exams in India have a combination of factors such as vast syllabus, a high number of applicants and competition, complex questions, strict evaluation standards, an adaptive nature, time constraints, and a reputed and promising career after cracking them. All these factors make these entrance exams challenging for aspirants to overcome.

Enlisted below are the top 10 toughest exams in India. 

  1. UPSC CSE
  2. JEE Mains
  3. UGC NET
  4. UPSC ESE/IES
  5. UPSC NDA
  6. CA (Chartered Accountancy) Course Admissions
  7. CLAT
  8. NEET 
  9. CAT
  10. GATE

Top 10 Toughest Exams in India: Eligibility Criteria & Dates

Candidates planning to appear in competitive exams can refer to the information provided in the table below. Here are important details regarding the Top 10 Toughest Exams in India and their eligibility criteria, Application start and close dates, and upcoming exam dates.

Name of the Exam

Eligibility Criteria

Upcoming Exam Date

Upcoming Application Dates (2024)

UPSC CSE 2024

  • Age: 21 to 32 years
  • Qualification: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Minimum Marks: None
  • May 26, 2024
  • Start Date: February 14, 2024
  • Last Date: March 5, 2024

JEE Mains 2024

  • Age: No Age Limit
  • Qualification: Class 12th Pass
  • Minimum Marks: 75% aggregate marks in class 12th
  • January 24 to February 1, 2024
  • Start Date: November 1, 2024
  • Last Date: December 4, 2024

UGC NET June 2024

  • Age: Should not be more than 30 (for JRF)
  • Qualification: Master’s Degree
  • Minimum Marks: 55% aggregate marks in Master’s
  • June 10 to June 21, 2023
  • Start Date: March 2024 (Expected)
  • Last Date: March 2024 (Expected)

UPSC ESE/IES 2024

  • Age: 21 to 30 Years
  • Qualification: B.Tech
  • Minimum Marks: None
  • Prelims: February 18, 2024
  • Mains: June 26, 2024
  • Start Date: To be announced
  • Last Date: To be announced

UPSC NDA 1 2024

  • Age: 16 to 19 years
  • Qualification: Army-Class 12th IAF and Navy 0 Class 12th with PCM as a core subject
  • Minimum Marks: None
  • April 21, 2024
  • Start Date: To be announced
  • Last Date: To be announced

CA (Chartered Accountancy) Course Admissions

  • Age: No age limit
  • Qualification: Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree
  • Minimum Marks: 55% Aggregate in Previous Exams
  • December or January 2025
  • Start Date: August 2024
  • Last Date: August 2024

CLAT 2024

  • Age: No upper age limit
  • Qualification: Class 12th Minimum Marks: 45% aggregate marks
  • November or December 2024
  • Start Date: July 2024 (Expected)
  • Last Date: November 2024 (Expected)

NEET UG Exam 2024

  • Age: 17 to 25 years
  • Qualification: Class 12th
  • Minimum Marks: 50% aggregate marks
  • May 5, 2024
  • Start Date: February 9, 2024
  • Last Date: March 9, 2024

CAT 2024

  • Age: No age limit
  • Qualification: Bachelors
  • Minimum Marks: 45% to 50% aggregate marks
  • November 2024 (Expected)
  • Start Date: August 2024 (Expected)
  • Last Date: September 2024 (Expected)

GATE 2024

  • Age: No age limit
  • Qualification: Bachelor’s
  • Minimum Marks: None
  • February 03, 04 and 10 and 11, 2024
  • Start Date: August 31, 2023
  • Last Date: October 12

Why are these Top 10 Entrance Exams Tough?

Given below are the possible reasons why these top 10 entrance exams in India are known for their toughness.

  • Vast Syllabus: These entrance exams of India typically cover a vast range of subjects or topics. This makes it necessary for the candidates to do thorough preparation and they delve deep into each subject to understand concepts and theories. 
  • High Competition: The popularity and prestige associated with these top 10 entrance exams attract a large number of aspirants, leading to intense competition. Limited seats available relative to the number of applicants further heighten the competitiveness.
  • Difficulty Level of Questions: The exams often feature questions that require a high level of analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and application of knowledge. Candidates are tested on their ability to think critically and solve intricate problems within a limited timeframe.
  • Pressure and Stress: These entrance exams sure shot offer promising and respectful career pathways, hence they create immense pressure on candidates. The pressure to perform well mixed with the fear of failure can contribute to heightened stress levels among aspirants.
  • Adaptive Nature of Exams: Some exams, like the JEE Mains and CAT, adapt their difficulty levels based on candidates' performance, making them more challenging for high-performing individuals. This adaptive nature adds another layer of complexity, requiring candidates to maintain consistency and excellence throughout the exam.

Detailed Information on Top 10 Toughest Exams in India

Here is a piece of detailed information on the top 10 toughest exams in India in 2024:

Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Exam- UPSC CSE

UPSC CSE Exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for the recruitment of Indian Government Bureaucrats. This national-level exam is conducted in two parts; Prelims and Mains. The number of qualifying papers in Prelims and Mains are 2 and 7, respectively. Here’s more information regarding the examination patterns and marking scheme of UPSC CSE:
  • Field: Civil Services
  • Exam Conducting Body: Union Public Service Commission
  • Official Website: upsc.gov.in
  • Exam Mode: Offline
  • Medium: English and Hindi
  • Total Marks: Prelims- 400, Mains- 1750
  • Negative Marking:  0.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer in the Prelims exam whereas in the Mains exam, 0.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer in the Objective-type paper.
  • Types of Questions: Prelims- Objective, Mains- Both Objective and Subjective
UPSC Civil Services Eligibility Criteria 2024UPSC CSE Exam Pattern 2024
UPSC CSE Syllabus 2024UPSC CSE Selection Process 2024

Joint Entrance Examination Mains (JEE Mains)

JEE Mains Exam is conducted for nationwide admission to Engineering courses. This exam is conducted in two stages; JEE Main and JEE Advanced. The JEE Mains syllabus revolves the topics related to Physics, Chemistry and Maths in classes 11 and 12. The total number of questions asked in JEE Main exam is 90 (30 questions from each section). Check out more details about the JEE Mains Exam below:
  • Field: Engineering
  • Exam Conducting Body: National Testing Agency (NTA)
  • Official Website: jeemain.nta.nic.in
  • Exam Mode: Computer-Based-Test (CBT) 
  • Medium: English, Hindi,  Bengali, Kannada, Assamese, Gujarati, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Telugu, Punjabi, Tamil, and Urdu.
  • Total Marks: Mains- 300, Advance- 360
  • Negative Marking: 0.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer for the Main exam and for JEE Advance, there are full, partial and zero marking systems for different types of questions.
  • Types of Questions: Mains- Objective, Mains- Both Objective and Subjective
JEE Main Eligibility Criteria 2024JEE Main Exam Pattern 2024
JEE Main Syllabus 2024 PDFBest Books for JEE Main 2024

University Grants Commission National Eligibility Test- UGC-NET

UGC NET is one of the top 10 toughest exams in India. The difficulty level of this examination is generally between Moderate to Difficult. The question paper of UGC NET is set to examine the knowledge of people who plan to pursue a professional career in the field of Education, as Assistant Professors and Research Associates. Candidates can refer to the pointers below for more information regarding the marking scheme and examination pattern:
  • Field: Education
  • Exam Conducting Body: National Testing Agency (NTA)
  • Official Website: ugcnet.nta.nic.in
  • Exam Mode: Online
  • Medium: Hindi and English
  • Total Marks: Paper 1 - 100 marks, Paper 2 - 200 marks
  • Negative Marking: No negative marking
  • Types of Questions: Objective type
UGC NET June 2024UGC NET 2024 Eligibility Criteria
UGC NET Exam Pattern 2024UGC NET Syllabus 2024

Indian Engineering Services- IES

UPSC IES/ESE is a national-level recruitment exam held for students who have graduated in any field of Engineering, like Computer engineering, Mechanical, Chemical and more. This exam is conducted in two stages; Prelims and Mains. Once a candidate clears the UPSC IES or ESE exam which is one of the toughest exams in India, he/she gets appointed for the posts of Executive Engineer, Assistant Director, Electrical Engineers at Indian Railways and more. Check out the exam pattern and marking scheme of the UPSC ISE/ESE exam:
  • Field: Civil Services
  • Exam Conducting Body: Union Public Service Commission
  • Official Website: upsc.gov.in
  • Exam Mode: Offline
  • Medium: Hindi and English
  • Total Marks: Prelims- 400 marks, Mains- 600 marks and Interview- 200
  • Negative Marking: 0.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer in the Prelims exam, whereas in the Mains exam, 0.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer in the Objective-type paper, not the subjective type. 
  • Types of Questions: Objective type and Subjective, both.
UPSC ESE Eligibility Criteria 2024UPSC ESE Exam Pattern 2024
UPSC ESE Syllabus 2024UPSC ESE Selection Process 2024

National Defence Academy- NDA 

UPSC NDA Exam is also conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. Just like UPSC CSE and UPSC IES/ESE, this is also a national-level recruitment exam. UPSC NDA is conducted twice a year and this exam is conducted for Selection to the National Defence Academy (NDA) and Indian Naval Academy Course (INAC). For more information on his exam, refer to the pointers below:
  • Field: Defence
  • Exam Conducting Body: Union Public Service Commission
  • Official Website: upsc.gov.in
  • Exam Mode: Offline
  • Medium: English and Hindi
  • Total Marks: 900 Marks
  • Negative Marking: For Mathematics - 0.83 marks for incorrect answers whereas for GAT- 1.33 marks are deducted for every wrong answer. 
  • Types of Questions: Objective type
NDA Eligibility 2024NDA Exam Pattern 2024
NDA Syllabus 2024NDA Selection Process 2024

Chartered Accountant Exam- CA

ICAI CA Exam is conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). This exam is conducted twice a year. It is a national-level examination which is held for the issuance of certificates for candidates who are eligible to become a professional auditor in India. Here’s more information related to the ICAI CA exam:
  • Field: Finance
  • Exam Conducting Body: Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI)
  • Official Website: icai.org
  • Exam Mode: Online
  • Medium: Hindi and English (except for Paper 2 which is conducted only in English)
  • Total Marks: Paper 1- 400 marks and Paper 2- 100 marks
  • Negative Marking: None
  • Types of Questions: Objective type and Subjective type, both.
CA Course Syllabus & Subjects 2024CA (Chartered Accountancy) Course Career Opportunities
CA (Chartered Accountancy) CourseChartered Accountancy CA Salary

Common Law Admission Test- CLAT

In the field of Law, CLAT is the toughest exam in India. Candidates will appear in the CLAT Exam to secure admission in BA LL.B, B.Sc LL.B, B.Com LL.B, BBA LL.B, LLB, BSW LL.BBA and LLM courses. Separate CLAT exams are conducted for UG and PG admission. Read the pointers given below to get insights on the exam pattern and marking scheme:
  • Field: Law
  • Exam Conducting Body: Consortium of National Law Universities (CNLUs)
  • Official Website: consortiumofnlus.ac.in
  • Exam Mode: Offline
  • Medium: English
  • Total Marks: UG Exam- 120 marks, PG Exam- 120 marks
  • Negative Marking:  0.25 marks deducted for wrong answer
  • Types of Questions: UG Exam- Objective, PG Exam- Objective and Subjective type
CLAT 2024 EligibilityCLAT 2024 Exam Pattern
CLAT 2024 SyllabusBest Books for CLAT 2024 Preparation

National Eligibility cum Entrance Test- NEET

NEET UG exam is conducted by NTA to give admission to students in UG medical courses like MBBS, BDS, B.Sc Nursing, and other AYUSH UG courses. NEET UG  Exam is by far the hardest exam in comparison to other colleges mentioned in the list of top 10 toughest exams in India. The difficulty level of NEET can be less compared to other exams like UPSC and JEE, but the seat availability is very low, which makes it one of the toughest exams in India. 
  • Field: Medical
  • Exam Conducting Body: National Testing Agency (NTA)
  • Official Website: neet.ntaonline.in
  • Exam Mode: Offline
  • Medium: Hindi, English, Tamil, Bengali, Assamese, Kannada, Urdu, Gujarati, Odia, Marathi, Malayalam, Punjabi and Telugu.
  • Total Marks: 720
  • Negative Marking: 1 mark deducted for each wrong answer
  • Types of Questions: Objective type.
NEET Eligibility Criteria 2024NEET Exam Pattern 2024
NTA NEET Syllabus 2024 PDFBest Books for NEET 2024 Preparation

Common Admission Test- CAT

CAT Exam is conducted for admission into PG management programs like MBA, Executive MBA and PGDM. It is a popular entrance exam for MBA admissions. The CAT exam is conducted once a year. It provides admission into famous management institutes/colleges like IIM, MDI Gurugram, IMT, FMS, GLIM and many more. Check out the given details for more information:
  • Field: Management
  • Exam Conducting Body: The IIMs (Indian Institute of Management)
  • Official Website: iimcat.ac.in
  • Exam Mode: CBT mode
  • Medium: English
  • Total Marks: 198
  • Negative Marking: 1 mark is deducted for every wrong answer.
  • Types of Questions: Objective and TITA (type in the answer).
CAT Eligibility Criteria 2024CAT Exam Pattern 2024
CAT Syllabus 2024 PDFBest Books for CAT 2024 Exam

Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering- GATE

Qualifying GATE Exam with good scores helps students secure admission into top IITs, IISC, NITs, IIITs and other popular universities. More than 1000 colleges participate in the GATE exam as this exam is a national-level entrance test for candidates who plan to get admission into Master’s courses and other PG courses like ME and M.Tech. The topics covered in the GATE exam revolve around Engineering and Science. Keep reading for more information related to the GATE exam pattern and marking scheme. 
  • Field: Education
  • Exam Conducting Body: Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.  
  • Official Website: gate2024.iisc.ac.in
  • Exam Mode: Online
  • Medium: English
  • Total Marks: 100 marks
  • Negative Marking: Present. (A)For 1 mark question- 0.33 marks are deducted for each wrong answer, (B) For 2 marks question- 0.66 marks are deducted for each wrong answer and (C)For MSQ and NAT type questions- No negative present for these types of questions. 
  • Types of Questions: Numerical Answer Type (NAT), Multiple-Choice Question (MCQ) and Multiple Select Question (MSQ).
GATE Eligibility Criteria 2024GATE Exam Pattern 2024
GATE Syllabus 2024 PDFBest Books for GATE 2024

In conclusion, it can be said that UPSC CSE is one of the toughest exams in India based on the difficulty level of the questions. Not only that, every aforementioned exam in the list of top 10 toughest exams in India is hard to crack; it depends on the aspect of the examination that is being compared. In terms of probability of admission, NEET is the toughest exam and in terms of competition, JEE Mains is considered the hardest exam to crack.

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FAQs

What is the toughest exam in India?

Union Public Service Commission. UPSC is considered as the toughest exam in India. This exam is conducted for the recruitment of bureaucrats who work for the Indian government.

Is UPSC exam tougher than JEE and NEET?

Yes. UPSC exam is tougher than any other exam because of its vast syllabus. The syllabus for JEE and NEET exams is comprehensive and predefined, whereas the UPSC syllabus does not have any fixed proportion of knowledge that has to be covered in a single topic.

What are the names of  Top 10 Toughest Exams in India?

The list of Top 10 Toughest Exams in India is as follows

  • UPSC
  • IIT-JEE
  • UGC-NET
  • IES
  • NDA
  • CA
  • CLAT
  • NEET
  • CAT
  • GATE

Which exam is Tougher? NEET or JEE?

Both. In terms of syllabus and difficulty level NEET UG exam is considered to be tougher than JEE Mains but it is comparatively easier than JEE Advanced. In terms of competition, the number of seats offered to students in NEET is lesser than JEE Advance, so it's hard for a medical student to get into Top Medical Colleges of India. 

Can I crack any of the Top 10 Toughest Exams in India in the first Attempt?

Yes, it is possible to crack any of the Toughest Exams in India in the first attempt by putting in proper hard work and dedication.  Many brilliant minds like Tina Dabi (UPSC), Vibhu Upadhyay (NEET) and  Saumya Sharma (UPSC) were able to crack the toughest exams in India in the first attempt. It is not easy to crack these exams in the first attempt, a candidate must put efforts day in and out to be able to crack these exams in one go.

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