Tips and tricks to succeed in Kaggle competitions

You are probably aware by now that machine learning is the future of AI and business culture. Many tech firms are already starting to integrate machine learning into their systems. Since this ‘thing of the future’ is gaining such popularity, you might ask, ‘How can I be better at it?’ Kaggle competitions can be the answer for you! Like Hackerrank, Codechef, etc., Kaggle is a platform where you compete with other participants for a prize. 

The difference is: Kaggle focuses on data science and machine learning. It’s a perfect platform for anyone passionate about machine learning! However, winning a Kaggle competition is not going to be a cakewalk. You have to really prepare and plan for it to succeed. Here are some tips to help you get your first win in a Kaggle competition:

  • Practice feature engineering and data preparations

Preparing the data and engineering the features are the critical data-related factors in machine learning. Algorithm selection is also very important though not as important as feature engineering and data preparation. So, use your common sense or intuition and figure out what actually works and what doesn’t work. You can create a cross-validation framework to get a reliable estimate of your errors. Work on them to minimize the chances of committing future errors.

  • Choosing the right kind of competition
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You may have heard the saying ‘Confidence is the key to success’. While that is true, the saying does not talk about building your confidence. The best way to build up your confidence is by taking ‘small’ steps towards a big success. It’s like a video game where you start acquiring certain skills while playing the first level, and then, level up when you master them. With Kaggle competitions, it’s best to start small, that is, from Level 1. Research and find competition with fewer competitors. These competitions may have lesser prizes than the bigger and more famous ones, but they are great for building your confidence levels. Eventually, you may move up to the high-valued and famous competitions. 

  • Don’t give up

Three things that can help you win a Kaggle competition are: Persistence, Constant learning, and Luck. While persistence and learning are within your control, you cannot control the final ‘Luck’ factor. In some competitions, the difference between the 3rd and the 4th place has been a mere 0.001%. So, if you aren’t ‘lucky’ the first time, don’t give up. It will be heartbreaking to discover that you ended up at a low rank in your first Kaggle competition. But keep participating in different competitions and keep learning. Read the latest and relevant literature on machine learning and keep your updated. Rectify your mistakes and start applying what you learn in your future competitions. 

  • Forming a good team
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It’s critical to have passionate people on your team. So, switch on your radar and start searching for proper teammates. First ask yourself: What are the essential characteristics of a team member? Some of the general ones are a) They should support each other. b) They should learn from each other. c) They should know and be good at what they are doing. The chemistry shared among the team members can be the difference between winning and losing. Also, at times, look into the mirror and judge yourself: Are you a good team member yourself? If you find any flaws in your self-analysis, work on them. 

  • Don’t stress it

Machine learning can be quite exciting if you make it so. So, don’t start stressing out and make it a tedious task. Be passionate about learning more. Think of these competitions as a fun challenge. Don’t worry about getting a low rank – nobody is there to judge you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail. Just dive in the competition and accept it as a wonderful experience where you can learn and make new friends.

  • Take it as a learning experience
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You may not win your first Kaggle competition (unless you are a born genius in machine learning) nor your second one, but you can definitely learn something from participating in them. Kaggle competitions push you out of your comfort zone and make you experiment with your current knowledge. This expands your knowledge base and takes your skills to the next level. If you are stuck while practicing, don’t be ashamed to google out basic tricks and tips.

The two main things that will make you win the Kaggle competitions are Persistence and constant learning. To furnish your skills and expertise in machine learning, you can also go for machine learning courses provided by Coding Ninjas. So, learn from your failures without taking them to heart and give your best during the competition. Best of luck.