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I am wondering which adjective could describe something is unexpectedly tough but pretty fair (I have "neutral" attitudes toward it).

For example:

I found the final exam was so ***. I really should have worked harder.

Edit: I also want to use this adjective formally, like:

Although the test is a fair game, I have never thought it could be so tough.

Edit: I am so sorry for “nitpicking”. I would use this word in the emails to the professor who made that test, so I want to be as neutral and polite as I can.

  • "The exam was hell?" This partially fits your requirement. – Neptunian Dec 26 '15 at 14:49
  • @Neptunian Hmmm, I may want to be more formal. Like "Although the test is a fair game, I never thought it could be so tough". Thank you though! – Jay Wong Dec 26 '15 at 14:52
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    You should update your question to mention you want a more formal adjective. – Neptunian Dec 26 '15 at 14:53
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    @Neptunian Haha me too. I want to use it in emails to my professor, so you see :) – Jay Wong Dec 26 '15 at 15:01
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    Professors usually like to hear/believe that their tests are "challenging" or "demanding." – Papa Poule Dec 26 '15 at 15:18
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I'm not quite sure this fits exactly, but you could try eye-opener:-

A startling or shocking revelation. [American Heritage Dictionary]

Your example sentence would then read:-

I found the final exam a real eye-opener.

  • Thank you Brian, eye-opener really stresses out the "unexpectedly", but it implies that I may have negative attitudes toward the object. Do you know other words which are more neutral? – Jay Wong Dec 26 '15 at 14:58
  • @Jay Wong Using eye-opener means you now realize how over-confident you were, how much you didn't understand and how much more you should have studied. Any professor would be happy to hear that his exam opened the eyes of a student. It is a positive statement about the exam. – ab2 MonicaNotForgotten Dec 26 '15 at 15:57
  • @ab2 Thank you so much! This is exactly what I want. – Jay Wong Dec 26 '15 at 15:59
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The final exam was taxing

taxing: physically or mentally demanding

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