Approaching Data Structures And Algorithms To Rock Your Next Coding Interview



When it comes to coding interviews, most people tend to focus on one thing – programming – while forsaking all others. They dedicate a lot of their time and effort in acing the art of programming, but surprisingly enough, not many can make it through the end of the tunnel.

No, we do not discourage practicing! We’re only asking you to focus on the basics first – data structures and algorithms. Without an in-depth knowledge of these two core concepts of Computer Science, you’re not going to make any real progress.

So, let’s get started on how to approach data structures and algorithms to ace your next coding interview!

Data Structures And Algorithms

The first thing that you’ve got to remember while approaching data structures and algorithms is that you DON’T need to learn each data structure and its sub-structures by heart. If you can, great for you! But such a piece of extensive knowledge is not required in practical applications.

For instance, there are high chances that in you will never have to implement a red-black tree node removal algorithm ever in your career, but you MUST be able to identify when you can use a binary tree to solve a particular issue.

Instead of focusing on everything at once, take baby steps and focus on learning the core data structures and algorithms such as hash tables, BackTracking, brute force, linked lists, array and strings, and binary search trees. And while you’re at it, strive to learn two things:

  1. Visualizing data structures

The mark of a good coder is the ability to visualize data structures, to intuitively picture what a data structure looks like, how can it be implemented, and the patterns in which it is stored in the abstract as well as in the memory of your computer. The best way to start is by drawing it and materializing your vision on paper. If you can master this, it will help you solve both simple queues and stacks and complex self-balancing trees.

  1. Learn to incorporate data structures and algorithms in your codes

Although it is true that you won’t be able to master data structures fully until you are getting hands-on experience with practical issues, you have to keep practicing. You have to understand the intricacies of algorithms and data structures and then only you will learn when to use a hash, when to implement a tree, and when to use min-heap.

How To Approach Data Structures And Algorithms?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the best way to study data structures and algorithms is to implement them in your codes. Even if you don’t have time to code up every single bit, at least try to do the tricky ones. When you get comfortable with the crafty bits of algorithms and data structures, you can easily modify them in your interview according to the problem you’re asked to solve.

To get started off we suggest you go through these books:

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Introduction to Algorithms

Data Structures and Algorithms in Java

Data Structures and Algorithms in C++

Algorithms and Data Structures: The Basic Toolbox

If you’d rather learn from tutorials, we have listed that out for you too:

The Coding Interview Bootcamp: Algorithms + Data Structures

Introduction to Data Structures & Algorithms in Java
Data Structures and Algorithms: Deep Dive Using Java


Frequently Asked Questions

How can I be good at algorithms?

To be good at algorithms you can either take up a data structures and algorithms course where you can learn data structures and algorithms or you can do it on your own by understanding the basics and what goes inside an algorithm along with the complexity analysis.

How long will it take to learn data structures and algorithms?

It takes around 15 days to learn the data structures nicely and another 15 days to learn algorithms. After that you can keep practicing until you feel comfortable.

How can I learn data structures and algorithms in a month?

You can either take up a data structures and algorithms course or learn on your own using the CLRS book.

What should I learn before data structures and algorithms?

Basic programming fundamentals are necessary to learn before data structures and algorithms.

Is Python good for data structures?

Yes, python is great for learning data structures. Basically, it doesn’t matter which language you are learning data structures in, the underlying concepts remain the same everywhere.

Which data structure should I learn first?

You should start from arrays, linked lists, stacks, queues and heaps and then move on to more complex data structures and algorithms.


If you try to learn by focusing on at least two or three of these books and online tutorials, by the time you are done with them, you’ll be ready to face your interview. And if you’re interested in sharpening your coding skills with data structures and algorithms, you can opt for Coding Ninja’s Interview Preparation Course – Triumph.

We’re always here to help!