What Are the Most Difficult Exams in the World in the Field of Arts and Sciences?

The arts and humanities are a rich and diverse field of study that requires mastery of many examinations that list of ap tests knowledge, interpretation, analysis, and contribution to ideas. This exploration reveals the top 10 most challenging exams in these fields, examining their duration, preparation, pass rates, and the global tapestry of candidates who undertake these intellectual challenges.

1. Oxford University Classics Prelims:

  • Duration: Rigorous and comprehensive, the Classics Prelims at Oxford embody a commitment to the timeless languages, literature, and philosophy of ancient civilizations.
  • Preparation: Scholars engage in years of intense study, delving into the nuances of classical texts and cultural contexts.
  • Pass Rate: With historical rates reflecting the selective nature of this examination, success heralds a deep understanding of classical antiquity.
  • Candidates: A global cohort of aspiring classicists converges at Oxford, each driven by a passion for unraveling the mysteries of the ancient world.
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Eligibility: undergraduate students pursuing a Classics degree or a related field.
  • Website: Oxford Classics Prelims

2. All Souls College, Oxford, Examination Fellowships:

  • Duration: A unique intellectual challenge, this examination tests the ability to engage with unseen texts, showcasing the essence of critical thinking.
  • Preparation: Intellectual acumen, combined with a broad understanding of the humanities, is the hallmark of successful candidates.
  • Pass Rate: Historically low, this exam sets the bar high, attracting only the brightest minds in pursuit of prestigious fellowships.
  • Candidates: A select few from diverse academic backgrounds vie for the honor of becoming an Examination Fellow at All Souls College.
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Eligibility: postgraduate scholars and researchers aspiring for a fellowship at All Souls College.
  • Website: All Souls College, Examination Fellowships
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3. Indian Civil Services—Civil Services Examination (UPSC):

  • Duration: A comprehensive examination, the UPSC Civil Services test includes humanities subjects, requiring a deep understanding of literature, philosophy, and more.
  • Preparation: Aspiring civil servants navigate an extensive syllabus, blending specialized humanities knowledge with broader general awareness.
  • Pass Rate: Reflecting the intensity of the assessment, the overall pass rate is modest, marking the gravity of success.
  • Candidates: A multitude of candidates from diverse backgrounds compete for a limited number of esteemed positions in the Indian Civil Service.
  • Country: India
  • Eligibility: Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline.
  • Website: UPSC (Civil Services Examination)

4. Cambridge University History Tripos:

  • Duration: Multifaceted and nuanced, the History Tripos exams at Cambridge University span various historical periods and themes, demanding a broad historical perspective.
  • Preparation: Success requires in-depth research, critical analysis, and a comprehensive understanding of historical contexts.
  • Pass Rate: Moderately set, the pass rate reflects the rigor of the examination and the high standards upheld by Cambridge.
  • Candidates: Scholars worldwide, drawn to the pursuit of historical excellence, converge at Cambridge for the History Tripos.
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Eligibility: undergraduate and postgraduate students in history or related fields.
  • Website: Cambridge History Tripos

5. The College Board Advanced Placement (AP) Art History Exam:

  • Duration: A test of artistic knowledge spanning various cultures and epochs, the AP Art History Exam challenges students to comprehend and contextualize art.
  • Preparation: Mastery of diverse artistic styles, techniques, and historical contexts is imperative for success.
  • Pass Rate: Reflecting the depth of understanding required, the pass rate varies as students demonstrate their commitment to advanced art history studies.
  • Candidates: High school students worldwide embrace the challenge, showcasing a dedication to the arts at an advanced level.
  • Country: Global (primarily in the United States)
  • Eligibility: high school students taking advanced art history courses.
  • Website: AP Art History
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6. French Baccalauréat, Literature Stream (Bac L):

  • Duration: A comprehensive assessment of literature, philosophy, and languages, the Bac L examination in France shapes the academic landscape for French students.
  • Preparation: The intensive study of French literature, philosophy, and related subjects forms the foundation for success.
  • Pass Rate: Moderately set, the pass rate underscores the academic rigor and cultural significance of the French Baccalauréat.
  • Candidates: French students undertaking the literature stream undergo a comprehensive examination, setting a high standard for humanities education.
  • Country: France
  • Eligibility: Students completing their secondary education.
  • Website: French Baccalauréat, Bac L

7. China National College Entrance Examination (Gaokao)—Liberal Arts Stream:

  • Duration: The Gaokao, a national college entrance examination in China, includes a liberal arts stream assessing students in literature, history, and philosophy.
  • Preparation: The rigorous preparation encompasses a broad range of humanities subjects, reflecting the comprehensive nature of the examination.
  • Pass Rate: In the face of intense competition, success requires a strong academic foundation and critical thinking skills.
  • Candidates: Millions of Chinese students partake in the Gaokao, underscoring its significance in shaping the future of humanities education.
  • Country: China
  • Eligibility: graduating high school students aspiring for higher education.
  • Website: China National College Entrance Examination (Gaokao)
  • Duration: The essays section of the bar exam evaluates candidates’ legal writing and analytical skills, representing a crucial milestone in the legal profession.
  • Preparation: Law graduates navigate a comprehensive review, demonstrating mastery of legal principles and effective written communication.
  • Pass Rate: Variable yet demanding, the pass rate signifies the gravity of entering the legal profession.
  • Candidates: Aspiring lawyers worldwide undertake the Bar Exam, making it a pivotal assessment in legal career trajectories.
  • Country: Global (country-specific variations)
  • Eligibility: law graduates preparing for legal practice.
  • Website: Legal Education Board, Bar Exam
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9. The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM)—ARCT Performers:

  • Duration: Assessing musicians’ performance abilities at an advanced level, the ARCT Performers examination by RCM demands technical proficiency and interpretive skills.
  • Preparation: Musicians invest years in honing their craft, showcasing not only technical mastery but also a deep understanding of the musical repertoire.
  • Pass Rate: Attaining the ARCT Performers designation requires exceptional musical talent, marking a pinnacle in the journey of musical excellence.
  • Candidates: Musicians globally pursue the ARCT Performers designation, reflecting a commitment to excellence in musical performance.
  • Country: Global
  • Eligibility: musicians aiming for advanced certification in performance.
  • Website: Royal Conservatory of Music, ARCT Performers

10. National College Entrance Examination (SENESCYT)—Literature Track (Ecuador):

  • Duration: The literature track of the SENESCYT examination in Ecuador assesses students’ knowledge of literature, philosophy, and related subjects.
  • Preparation: The intensive study of Ecuadorian and world literature forms the foundation for success in this comprehensive examination.
  • Pass Rate: In a competitive landscape, success requires a deep understanding of literature and critical thinking skills.
  • Candidates: Students in Ecuador aiming for higher education undertake the SENESCYT examination, emphasizing the importance of humanities education.
  • Country: Ecuador
  • Eligibility: graduating high school students aspiring for higher education.
  • Website: SENESCYT (National College Entrance Examination)
Difficult Exams in the World in the Field of Arts and Sciences?
Difficult Exams in the World in the Field of Arts and Sciences?


The pursuit of arts and humanities excellence requires intellectual prowess, cultural appreciation, and scholarly exploration. These examinations not only lead to academic and professional success but also showcase the pursuit of knowledge and creativity in the diverse world of the arts and humanities. As candidates from around the world face these challenges, they contribute to global understanding and shape the future of intellectual inquiry in these fields.

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