1

An easy test (or similar undertaking) might be described as

'a piece of cake'

Are there any idioms to describe a test (etc.) that is difficult?

  • Anjan- I have edited your question in an attempt to make it more clear. If I have misinterpreted your question please feel free to rollback my changes and update it as you see fit. – Jim Feb 9 '15 at 6:15
  • 1
    "Ordeal by fire" ! – Kris Feb 9 '15 at 6:39
  • Looking at the original question, it seems clear that the OP wants an idiom that's an antonym for a piece of cake, which describes tasks, such as a test. – Jim Reynolds Feb 9 '15 at 7:46
  • You can say it wasn't a piece of cake. – Lawrence Jan 21 '18 at 0:35
3

I am assuming that by "question paper" you mean test.

In that case a tough test might be described:

The test was a [real] bear

From Merriam-Webster:

bear : 4. something difficult to do or deal with- < the oven is a bear to clean >

2

If you are willing to change the formula, That was a ____________!

Test from hell:

informal

  1. An extremely unpleasant or troublesome example of something:

OED

  • Absolutely. +1. But change what formula? – Jim Reynolds Feb 9 '15 at 8:25
  • 1
    The formula of the original question was: The [test] was a ________. – ScotM Feb 9 '15 at 8:50
2

The test was a ____________!

Nightmare.

2.1 A person or situation that is very difficult to deal with:

OED

A few other nightmarish experiences are applied metaphorically:

Headache:

1.1 informal

A thing or person that causes worry or difficulty; a problem:

OED

Pain in the neck (and a few other less noble parts of the human anatomy)

something or someone that causes trouble;

a source of unhappiness;

Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

thefreedictionary.com

Can of worms

Fig. a very difficult issue or set of problems;

an array of difficulties. (*Typically: be ~; Open ~.)

thefreedictionary.com

Snake pit might have connotations that drag you away from the difficulty of a test but there is surely a metaphorical intersection in the word picture:

any place of pain and turmoil;

thefreedictionary.com

The final two definitely have connotations in another arena, but the word pictures apply metaphorically:

Hornet's nest

A situation that presents difficulty, uncertainty, or perplexity:

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Pandora's box

n.

A source of many unforeseen troubles:

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

  • I'm with you on nightmare and Pain in the neck, but I'm not sure that can of worms and hornet's nest, *Pandora's box etc. mean difficult. Rather, they mean something you don't want to get into; something best left undisturbed. – Jim Feb 9 '15 at 6:17
  • I have found with these requests that going up to the edge of the semantic field produces good results for the qeust. – ScotM Feb 9 '15 at 6:55
  • You are not worth another word, else I'd call you knave! – ScotM Feb 9 '15 at 7:41
  • It may be good and useful to give related idioms, but I think they should be labelled as such. We will not, for example, use can of worms to mean difficult when describing a test. – Jim Reynolds Feb 9 '15 at 8:15
  • "...connotations that drag you away from the difficulty of a test but there is surely a metaphorical intersection in the word picture." I don't see how connotations would drag anyone away from a difficulty. It is not clear what a "word picture" might be here, and so certainly not how one could contain a "metaphorical intersection". And I think I can say I am a fairly sophisticated reader. While I encourage you to have fun with answers, I think much of this is meaningless, especially to most English learners, so I need to downvote the answer in its present form. – Jim Reynolds Feb 9 '15 at 8:23
2

The test was a killer.

"Killer" is an informal noun and adjective meaning something that is extremely difficult to deal with.

dictionary.com
merriam-webster.com
oxforddictionaries.com

1

Benjamin Hall, A Collection of College Words and Customs (1851) offer the evocative idioms "screw" and "taking a screw":

SCREW. In some American colleges, an excessive, unnecessarily minute, and annoying examination of a student by an instructor is called a screw. The instructor is often designated by the same name. An imperfect recitation is sometimes thus denominated. [Examples dating back to 1832 omitted.]

Passing such an examination is often denominated taking a screw. [Example omitted.]

  • 1
    My first thought upon discovering this usage was, "I wonder if prison guards were named screws in honor of this type of instructor?" – Sven Yargs Feb 9 '15 at 6:58
0

Dog's breakfast follows the food theme to express displeasure in the results:

a mess or muddle,

a dog's breakfast or dog's dinner originally may have referred to a cooking mishap with results fit only for a dog's consumption.

thefreedictionary.com

  • That's colorful, but doesn't mean tough. – Jim Reynolds Feb 9 '15 at 7:47
0

ACID TEST noun:

a severe or crucial test; a difficult situation or task that shows if someone or something is good enough to succeed

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

0

inquisition

Merriam-Webster's definition 3.c for this noun is listed as:

a severe questioning

In my experience, this word describes a very pointed interrogation where your answers may very well determine your future with regards to your status, freedom, or even your life! While this word does have specific implications in history and in the law (See MW's definitions 2 and 3.a), and is normally is used in the context of investigations of some sort rather than an examination, there is no explicit reason why it shouldn't be used in this context that I am aware of, and if you want to convey a tone of severity that borders on hyperbole, this might be apropos, particularly since MW's definition 3.b is:

an investigation conducted with little regard for individual rights

Sometimes a brutal exam can leave you feeling that way!

  • This answer needs support from reputable sources. – J. Taylor Jan 21 '18 at 0:13

protected by tchrist Jan 21 '18 at 0:03

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