Crossword Genius

Severe test — exam without notes (6)


I believe the answer is:


'severe test' is the definition.
(I've seen this before)

'exam without notes' is the wordplay.
'exam' becomes 'oral' (oral exam is a kind of exam).
'without' indicates putting letters inside ('without' can be similar in meaning to 'outside').
'notes' becomes 'de' (**).
'oral' going around 'de' is 'ORDEAL'.

(Other definitions for ordeal that I've seen before include "trying affair" , "Trial; nightmare" , "Loader (anag.)" , "A test of endurance or or difficult experience" , "Horrific experience" .)

I've seen this clue in The Times.
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