Career Woman

Which professional business exams are the most difficult to pass?

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Nowadays you spend four years at college to bag your dream job, and you may even do an extra two years for your masters. However, in many professions, this doesn’t always give you the competitive edge you want or require to climb the corporate ladder.

So, what’s next?

Every industry has a bunch of extra accreditations that high flying workers are eager to accomplish to get a professional edge on their peers. But which are the hardest? Here’s our roundup of the most difficult professional exams you can take.

1. Chartered financial analyst

Nabbing the top spot has to be the test to become a CFA. Dubbed the Mount Everest of finance, this exam is a 6 hour slog covering a plethora of topics including FP&A, corporate finance, quantitative methods, portfolio management and so many more.

With a meagre 30-50% pass rate (June 2018 was 43%), you’re looking at 300-350 hours of grueling study per exam and a timescale of 4 years should you choose to take on all three levels.

Bragging rights come as standard if you pass the level three test as you become part of an elite group of just 20% of people who reach this stage.

The test costs around $4000-$5000 depending on where you do it.

2. Certified public accountant

Tests like the CPA exam have a similarly brutal pass rate of 40-50% but it’s an essential step if you want to get a higher ranking role in finance as many people chase this lucrative credential.

You will cover 4 main areas and cover all these in 4 exams; auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting and regulation. Each test lasts 4 hours and they must all be completed within 18 months.

The $3,000 odd investment will see you putting in at least 150 hour per exam and requires relevant work experience alongside this.

3. The bar

There’s often a lot of public debate as to whether it’s the Bar or the CPA which is more difficult.

So, consider this a joint second or close third.

The Bar is a brutal and rigorous exam which can contain up to 10 of 13 select topics. What’s more, the test is different in every state. The California bar is known to be particularly tedious and has a pass rate of around 42% each year.

This test can be especially difficult as it tests your aptitudes, methods and approaches to several cases as opposed to the finance tests seen above, which can be pretty black and white in their approach.

It costs anything up to $3,000 depending on the state and testing company you use, and you will need to study at least 400 hours to even think about passing.

4. CCIE Exam

A lesser known yet still prestigious exam, those who decide to take the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert exam can be assured of one of the most grueling pass rates in the world.

Pass rates are reported to be as low as 26%. It’s also a scaled exam, so if you take the test with a bunch of networking geniuses, the bar will be raised higher and a pass mark will be more difficult to obtain.

The first part is a written exam which is followed by an 8-hour ordeal in a test lab.

Though no accreditations are required to take the test, Cisco recommend only those with a minimum of 3-5 years’ experience and a wealth of knowledge dealing with complex situations give it a go.

Once you do pass, you can look forward to a retake every two years!

5. Financial risk management

If you’re pursuing a career in risk management, the FRM is what you need to achieve. However, with a pass rate of just 40-50% and 200-300 hours of study required per level it’s not to be taken lightly.

The bright side is this; you can do it in less than a year as long as you have two years’ work experience in the industry.

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