Toughest Courses in the World

8 min read
Blog Summary This comprehensive guide gives you a good understanding of some of the most difficult courses in the world. It provides insights into what makes a subject challenging, the intellectual mettle it requires, and the universities that are leaders in these disciplines. Get ready to explore courses that push the boundaries of knowledge and persistence, whether it's the theoretical enigmas of philosophy or the real-world demands of medicine.

Stepping out of the doors of the school and entering the world of higher education is no cakewalk. The change is big and it is one of those crucial moments where you have to make an informed decision on what your next step is going to be. As you contemplate the future at this juncture in your academic career, here is a guide on understanding the demands of some of the toughest courses that you could pursue. These courses often test the dedication, intellectual prowess and potential of students. Diving into these courses might feel like setting sail on a voyage into uncharted waters, but we have got you covered!  Keep reading to know what to expect in your upcoming academic venture. 

Factors Determining the Difficulty of Courses 

What makes a course tough? If you have wondered about this, then take a look at some of these factors that determine the degree of difficulty of the course you plan to pursue.

The toughest courses often have stringent entry requirements and limited availability, attracting highly motivated and passionate students. This competitive atmosphere not only heightens the learning environment's intensity but also raises the stakes for academic performance. Some of the crucial factors include:-

Proficiency in Fundamental Disciplines

Some courses like engineering and computer science are known for their rigorous demands in mathematics and science. The complexity here arises from the necessity for students to not only comprehend but also apply intricate mathematical and scientific principles to real-world problems. This foundational proficiency forms the bedrock of understanding complex subjects and solving practical challenges, making these courses particularly demanding.

Prerequisite Knowledge

Certain courses demand a specific level of prior knowledge or experience. For example, medical programs often require a strong background in chemistry and biology. Lack of these prerequisites can severely hinder a student's ability to keep pace with the curriculum, adding to the course's difficulty.

Conceptual Complexity

Degrees in philosophy and quantum physics are well known for their intrinsic complexity. These courses require students to use their critical thinking skills since they often dive into complex and obscure ideas. These courses are perceived to be more challenging because of the rigorous intellectual work required to generate and comprehend new information in these fields.

Volume of Content

Courses in fields like law and medicine are known for having a broad curriculum. The sheer variety of subjects taught demands an extraordinary ability to pick things up quickly and retain them. Considering the overwhelming amount of knowledge that has to be consumed and retained, students must invest a lot of time and energy to keep up with the requirements of the course.


The amount of reading, research, assignments, and practical work required both within and outside of the classroom largely determines how complicated a course is. A heavy task may be mentally and physically taxing, requiring careful time management.

Assessment Methods

The way a course evaluates student achievement has a big impact on how hard it is. Strict evaluation techniques, such as long research papers or exhaustive tests, increase the difficulty and stress of a course.

Course Duration and Faculty

Longer courses are more challenging since they demand more dedication and consistent work. The expectations, teaching style, and strictness of the faculty can also have a big influence on how hard the course is. Higher standards and more demanding teaching techniques from instructors might make the course more difficult.

Real-world Application

Courses requiring the practical application of theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios, such as those in engineering and medical fields, are particularly demanding. The necessity to apply classroom learning to practical, often unpredictable situations adds a layer of complexity that goes beyond academic understanding.

Top 10 Toughest Courses in the World

There are many challenging courses in the educational system that call for a great degree of commitment, intelligence, and perseverance. These courses provide a wide range of professional options in addition to pushing the limits of knowledge and learning. Below is a comprehensive summary of the top 10 toughest courses in the world and their specifics:

1. Engineering

Civil, mechanical, electrical, computer science, robotics, and chemical engineering are just a few of the many specialisations that fall under the umbrella of engineering. Students must have a solid background in science and maths, and you will be doing a lot of project-based learning and lab work. The training requires both practical problem-solving abilities and academic prowess.

2. Chartered Accountancy

Gaining proficiency in accounting, tax returns, financial evaluations, and financial statements is a requirement for this professional training. The field of chartered accounting is renowned for its demanding testing procedures and in-depth knowledge of several accounting techniques. This course is challenging because of its extensive focus on complex financial topics such as auditing, taxation, and financial reporting, along with a rigorous examination process that tests detailed knowledge and practical application.

3. Medicine

Understanding human anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and other medical specialities is essential in the vast area of medicine. A doctor must complete several years of intense coursework and hands-on training. Medicine is considered tough due to the vast amount of medical knowledge students must acquire, along with the need for practical skills in diagnosing and treating a wide range of medical conditions.

4. Quantum Mechanics

This area of study explores the basic ideas underlying matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic scales. It covers intricate subjects including quantum cryptography, quantum computing, and quantum physics. To succeed in this discipline, students must have a solid foundation in mathematics and physics. 

5. Pharmacy

Pharmacy focuses on pharmaceutical sciences and the study of drugs and medicines. It includes subfields such as medicinal chemistry, toxicology, and pharmacology. Pharmacy is challenging because it requires a comprehensive understanding of how drugs interact with the human body, necessitating a deep knowledge of chemistry, biology, and pharmacology.

6. Architecture

Studying architecture entails creating buildings and other structures, which calls for technical proficiency, creativity, and an awareness of sustainable resources. Students gain knowledge of design theory, construction management, and architectural history. Architecture is tough as it demands a unique combination of creative design skills and technical knowledge.

7. Law

Law is a thorough study of the legal system that requires strong research, analytical, and persuasive abilities. Students study a range of topics, such as criminal law, constitutional law, and legal research. The study of law is challenging due to the need to understand and interpret complex legal texts and principles, alongside developing strong argumentation, research, and analytical skills.

8. Astronomy

The study of the universe and celestial bodies is known as astronomy. This subject requires a thorough comprehension of mathematics and physics, and it frequently calls for sophisticated theoretical and empirical techniques. In addition to academic interest, you are required to exhibit the ability to conduct precise observations and develop theoretical models of celestial phenomena.

9. Statistics

Data analysis and interpretation are key components of statistics. It calls for both analytical thinking and mathematical skills. Regression analysis, statistical inference, and probability theory are taught to students. Research on this topic is essential for economics and other sciences.

10. Philosophy

Philosophy is an academic discipline that examines basic issues related to existence, knowledge, ethics, reason, the mind, and language. It necessitates the use of critical thinking, logical reasoning, and the capacity to examine and argue difficult concepts. Philosophy involves more than just academic knowledge; it also involves applying philosophical ideas to practical issues. Philosophy is challenging due to its abstract nature, requiring students to critically analyze, debate, and form reasoned arguments about complex and often subjective topics.

List of Most Difficult Courses in the World 

The table below gives you an encapsulation of the most difficult courses in the world, their academic requirements and the universities where you can make your dreams come true.  


Specialisations & Subjects Covered


Eligibility Criteria

Top Universities


Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Computer Science, Robotics, Chemical, etc.

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) in Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Computer Science, Chemical, Aerospace, Environmental, Biomedical, Industrial, Robotics, and Software Engineering.

Postgraduate: Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in the above specialisations; specialized programs like M.S. in Artificial Intelligence, M.Eng. in Nanotechnology, etc.

Doctorate: Ph.D. in various engineering disciplines.

60% in class 12 (science stream); 60% in bachelor's for PG courses.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
  • Stanford University, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA

Chartered Accountancy

Auditing, Taxation, Forensic Accounting, Management Accounting

Undergraduate: B.A. in Accounting, B.Sc. in Finance.

Professional Certification: Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification.

Postgraduate: Master of Accountancy (MAcc), M.Sc. in Taxation.

10+2 education; commerce degree recommended.

  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, USA
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, UK
  • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, Canada
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, UK


General Medicine, Paediatrics, Anatomy, Cardiology, Radiology, Pharmacology

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, Pre-Medicine programs.

Postgraduate: Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Master’s in various specialisations like Cardiology, Neurology, etc.

Residency and Fellowship Programs: Specialized training in fields like Surgery, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, etc.

High school diploma, MCAT for U.S. programs; 10+2 with 50% marks in science.

  • Harvard University, USA
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • Johns Hopkins University, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK

Quantum Mechanics

Quantum Physics, Quantum Computing, Quantum Cryptography

Undergraduate: B.Sc. in Physics with a focus on Quantum Mechanics.

Postgraduate: M.Sc. in Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Physics, Quantum Computing.

Doctorate: Ph.D. in Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Field Theory, Quantum Computing.

Background in Physics and Mathematics; GRE and language tests (IELTS/TOEFL).

  • Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo, Canada
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
  • University of Oxford, UK


Pharmacology and Toxicology, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm), Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Professional Degree: Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D).

Postgraduate: Master of Science in Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Engineering.

Bachelor's in science field; GRE and English language proficiency.

  • University of California, San Francisco, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Karolinska Institute, Sweden
  • Monash University, Australia


Architectural history, design theory, structural engineering, environmental systems, construction management

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), Bachelor of Science in Architecture.

Postgraduate: Master of Architecture (M.Arch), Master of Urban Design, Master in Landscape Architecture.

Doctorate: PhD in Architecture, PhD in Urban and Regional Planning

International Baccalaureate points, A-levels, IELTS score.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
  • Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
  • University College London (UCL), UK
  • ETH Zurich, Switzerland


Constitutional law, criminal law, contracts, property law, legal research

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Laws (LL.B), Bachelor of Arts in Law (B.A. Law).

Graduate: Juris Doctor (JD).

Postgraduate: Master of Laws (LL.M) in various specialisations like International Law, Corporate Law, Human Rights Law, etc.

High school diploma, LSAT scores, English proficiency.

  • Yale University, USA
  • Stanford University, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Harvard University, USA


Celestial mechanics, astrophysics, planetary science

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science in Astronomy, Astrophysics.

Postgraduate: Master of Science in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Planetary Sciences.

Doctorate: Ph.D. in Astronomy, Astrophysics.

Strong foundation in Physics and Mathematics; Postgraduate study often required.

  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA
  • Harvard University, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA


Probability theory, statistical inference, regression analysis

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science in Statistics, Applied Statistics, Mathematical Statistics.

Postgraduate: Master of Science in Statistics, Biostatistics, Data Science.

Doctorate: Ph.D. in Statistics, Biostatistics.

Background in mathematics; GRE scores.

  • Stanford University, USA
  • Harvard University, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • University of Oxford, UK


Ethics, metaphysics, logic, epistemology

Undergraduate: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Philosophy, Ethics, Logic.

Postgraduate: Master of Arts (M.A.) in Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind.

Doctorate: Ph.D. in Philosophy, Metaphysics, Epistemology.

Background in humanities; critical thinking skills.

  • University of Oxford, UK
  • Harvard University, USA
  • Stanford University, USA
  • University of Cambridge, UK


Explore more universities with aecc search


It is evident that these courses are highly demanding and rigorous in nature. These courses are not for the faint-hearted, however, with the right determination, effort and persistence, you can excel at these courses. While the journey might be challenging, the benefits are definitely worth it in the long run. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the toughest course in the world?

 Although the term, "toughest course in the world" is subjective and varies based on individual strengths and interests,  courses like the Master of Science in Theoretical Physics, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Quantum Computing are often considered highly challenging due to their complex concepts and rigorous requirements