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, 2015 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, 2015 at 14:52
  • 1
    You should update your question to mention you want a more formal adjective.
    – Neptunian
    Dec 26, 2015 at 14:53
  • 1
    @Neptunian Haha me too. I want to use it in emails to my professor, so you see :)
    – Jay Wong
    Dec 26, 2015 at 15:01
  • 1
    Professors usually like to hear/believe that their tests are "challenging" or "demanding."
    – Papa Poule
    Dec 26, 2015 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


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, 2015 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
    Dec 26, 2015 at 15:57
  • @ab2 Thank you so much! This is exactly what I want.
    – Jay Wong
    Dec 26, 2015 at 15:59

The final exam was taxing

taxing: physically or mentally demanding

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.