10 of The Hardest Exams and Interviews Ever

Around this time of year, in many areas of the world students are bundling themselves into the library, filling up on coffee, and opening their notes to inspect the damage in preparation for the dreaded finals. If you're one of the many who feel like they're staring down the barrel of a gun rather just looking at a text book, then fear not; there are people who are worse of than you.

Similarly, if you're prepping for a job interview which is looking overwhelmingly unlikely to pay off then don't despair. Your odds are most probably a good sight better than some of the cliff-face style job applications that are around in 2014.

Just to make you feel a little better, we've gathered together a list of 10 of the most difficult, specific, and arduous exams and interviews around at the moment. No matter how bad things are, at least you (probably, god help you if you do) don't have to understand the workings of a jet engine for your next job interview and the odds of passing your next exam are (most likely) better than 3.1%

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

10 Rolls-Royce

If you're an engineering student with grades high enough to get to the interview stage with this century old car manufacturer you probably know your stuff. Successful applicants are invited to take part in a two part interview; one practical, and one behavioural.

The practical one is tough enough, with graduates being asked industry-specific questions such as 'Identify and explain each part in a jet engine' (parts of which can number up to 25,000) and explaining in detail why a material such as Cobalt is used in a specific situation. However, if you're done your homework (and have a degree in engineering) you've got a good chance of getting through this stage.

The problem for many of the more scientifically-oriented candidates is the second half of the interview: the behavioural section. This tests your ability to deal with suppliers, write contracts, and generally to work effectively with one of the most famous manufacturers in the world. Knowing your facts isn't enough, you'll also need to prove you're a wonderfully functional human being.


To get into MENSA, the club for where the super intelligent come together as equals, you'll need to have one one thing: an intelligence within the top 2% of the world's population (an IQ of 132 on the  Stanford-Binet scale).

The elite organisation sets out to do three things: "to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members".

Pictured above is 12-year-old Agnijo Banjeree who swept in with a result of 162 (top 1% of the population). As an Indian boy who grew up in Scotland, he's in the minority in a society dominated by American members, of whom there are more than 56,000, and British , who have about 23,500 members.

8 National Higher Education Entrance Examination (China)

If the mouthful of a title isn't enough to put you off, you might still be discouraged by the fact that the exam, commonly known as Gaokao (高考), is over twice as long as an SAT.  Even if you manage to make it through the gruelling revision period, you're unlikely to get a positive result. Only 60% of students who sit this exam make it on to university, and  a mere 0.2% will make it into a top-five school. The exam, which is taken in the final year of high school, takes place only once a year, and completely takes over the country.

The exam itself is extremely stressful for all involved, with an estimated 10% of teachers quitting each year due to the pressure. Students often go to extreme lengths to maximise their results with some female students taking hormones to delay their menstrual cycle until after the exam. In 2007 one family even went so far as to hide the death of a girl's father from her for two months to avoid a lower result.

7 United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)

If you're an American and want to practice medicine, you've only got one option: Pass the USMLE. The national exam is designed to test a fledgling doctor's knowledge, concepts, and principles as well as their patient skills.

Like the Rolls-Royce exam, you need to know your stuff, but you also need to know how to apply it to a real world situation. Pass rates are pretty high, but the score you receive is important, as it'll affect your first placement options and in reality your wider career prospects.


Hollywood's glamorous depiction of the FBI mean that the agency is never short of candidates looking for a gun and a badge. However, before you dive in and apply there are a few simple restrictions you'll need to know about: Firstly, you need to be younger than 37 and older than 23, you'll need a bachelors degree and a US driver's licence, and you'll need to be in a good enough physical condition to go through a rigorous training period. You're also counted out if you've got a felony conviction, a history of drug use, and (bizarrely) if you have defaulted on your student loan.


If you've got some time to kill, then maybe you'd like to try your hand at passing the Law School Admission Test. You'll need half a day, $165, and a proficiency in reading comprehension, logical, and verbal reasoning along with above-average smarts.

As of the end of the 60s you'll also need a set of fingers, as the test now requires a set of prints to prevent people hiring impostors (à la Suits) to take the test. There was actually a recent controversy (which is ironic given the fact this is a test for people looking to follow a career in law) about the storage of these prints and the Department of Homeland security's ability to access the fingerprints of America's future lawyers.

4 NASA astronaut candidate program

According to NASA's homepage 'The National Aeronautics and Space Administration accepts applications for the position of Astronaut Candidate on an as needed basis.' Even if you're at the top of your class, have attended space camp every year since you were 8, and are an accomplished rocket scientist, you're still going to have to wait for NASA to need some more astronauts.

On top of your degree from an accredited university, you must have followed your time as a student by at least 3 years of 'related, progressively responsible, professional experience' or a minimum of 1,000 pilot-in-command hours in jet aircraft. Essentially, they're looking for fighter pilot graduates.

3 Google

As many of you may have noticed, Google isn't hiring the people you'd expect it to. Stereotypical, hoody-wearing programmers with massive intellects aren't on their wish list at the moment. An IQ of over 130 is unattractive, as Google tends to hire people with 'emotional intelligence'.

You'll need to be able to "to process on the fly … to pull together disparate bits of information", and to be able to demonstrate "emergent leadership" (the ability to stand up and get your voice heard in a productive way). However easy this may sound, this isn't a walk in the park, as only 1.5% of Google applicants get hired.

2 All Souls Prize Fellowship Exam

Attending Oxford is impressive enough, but if that's not elite enough for you, then you might be interested in the All Souls exam. Since 1878 (though only since 1979 if you're a woman), anyone with a First in their Oxford undergraduate Finals has been invited to sit the All Souls Prize Fellowship Examination at the end of September.

The exam is difficult enough that only a small percentage of the students invited to sit it actually choose to go through with the exam. Sadly, the most interesting section of the exam has recently been removed from the paper. The section simply entitled 'Essay', which was made up of a single word (for example 'Miracles', 'Hope', or 'Novelty') was recently deemed 'too esoteric, even for Oxford'. Of about 50 candidates who make the grade to sit the exam and decide to take the plunge, 2 are usually elected. What do you get for passing this most elite-of-the-elite exams? You become a full-time, salaried Oxford Fellow with a vote, free on-campus accommodation, in-college catering and plenty of other perks for a full seven years.

1 Indian CA Final Exam

In 2013, to the horror of India's chartered account students, the pass rate for India's notorious exam dipped to 3.1%. Imagine sitting in a room filled with 100 students, and looking to your left and right knowing that only 3 of your fellow students are likely to pass the paper sitting in front of you.

Students tend to pursue the exam for five years, which takes real motivation knowing the likelihood of success is so low, and also that even if you do pass you'll be rewarded with the tantalising prize of a career as a chartered accountant...

More in Most Shocking