Here are the world’s most difficult culinary exams

A lot of professional exams would love to claim the title of “world’s most difficult”. Who wouldn’t want to brag that they’ve passed the hardest test in the world? It’s tough to compare exams from all sorts of different professions and definitively say that this one in particular is harder than all of the others, but there are many tests with a well-deserved reputation for being extremely difficult. In no particular order, let’s take a look at some of them.


The United States Medical Licensing Exam
Once you’ve made it all the way through medical school to get your MD degree, you’re still not quite yet ready to actually practice medicine. The next step is a three-part exam that is designed to assess a doctor’s comprehensive knowledge across every major field of biological sciences and medicine and ability to apply their skills in real-life settings. A good doctor needs more than just an understanding of medical issues, they also need good communication skills to treat patients and know how to properly examine people to get to the bottom of any health issues. In total, it takes over 40 hours to complete the full exam.

California State Bar Exam
Similar to the USMLE, anyone who graduates from law school still needs to pass the Bar exam in order to actually practice law. Each state has their own version of the test and some are more complex than others. While none of the bar exams are exactly easy, the one required to practice law in the state of California is widely regarded to be the most difficult.The test takes two days to complete and covers 13 legal subject areas. Only around 30-40 percent of people who take this test manage to pass it, and some people have even sued the California Bar, claiming the exam is unnecessarily hard to pass.


Master Sommelier Diploma Exam
A Master Sommelier is an expert on all things wine-related and is the highest level of sommelier possible. Candidates prepare for years, even decades to take this exam, and most people don’t pass it on the first, second or even the third try. The three-part exam consists of a verbal wine theory portion, a restaurant wine service portion, and a tasting portion. In the tasting part of the test, candidates have to describe every detail of each wine, including where the grapes were grown and what year the wine was made. Just over 200 people have passed this exam since it was introduced in 1969. A cheating scandal in 2018 resulted in 23 out of 24 of the candidates being disqualified.

Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam
Anyone who wants to becoming a practicing CPA must pass this test, which is made up of four separate sections and takes 16 hours to complete. Before even qualifying to take the test, candidates must be deemed eligible by a state accountancy board. This varies by state, but usually requires completion of 150 hours of college credit. The exam assesses knowledge of every area of accounting, including the economic concepts, tax laws and procedures, ethics, and technology that is required to be a successful accountant. People who have taken the CPA exam argue that it’s even harder than trying to become a doctor. The pass rate is typically only 40-50 percent.


Certified Master Chef® Exam
Becoming a Certified Master Chef is the highest level of certification a chef can achieve. It sets you apart as the best of the best, thus the exam is extremely intense.

“The American Culinary Federation’s Certified Master Chef exam is a one of a kind opportunity. Ideally for highly motivated culinary professionals, the CMC exam measures the sum total of professional experience against the industry’s highest benchmark/standard.” – Russell Scott, CMC

In order to qualify for the exam, you have to already be a Certified Executive Chef or Certified Culinary Educator, and have completed 120 hours of specialized courses, which means you’ll already need to have years of experience and training under your belt. The exam itself spans 120 hours over the course of eight days and tests the culinary knowledge and skills of the candidates as well as their creativity and professionalism in the kitchen. Participants in the CMC exam describe it as grueling. As successful CMCs must get re-certified every five years, there are currently only 68 Certified Master Chefs in the world.

The 2019 Certified Master Chef exam takes place March 1-10 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. Keep an eye on the ACF’s social media pages to watch all the action.