With a brief introduction to competitive programming, its benefits, how to master it, and the platforms on which you can practice it.
Programming is not just a process of typing code to solve a problem. It also includes the process of finding the most optimal solution to a problem. Different programmers might have different approaches to the same problem. Undoubtedly, it is a sport. It nudges you to bring out the best in you. Thus the concept of Competitive Programming arises.
When programmers compete online to figure out the solutions to problems according to specified conditions and time constraints, it is referred to as Competitive Programming. Some people pursue it as a career and some indulge in it to improve their coding skills.
Having an online setting, they are open source competitions. Being open-source, the problems set are such that you won’t always be able to get the solutions from various sources. The problems require good problem-solving and analysing skills to be solved. So before we discuss how you can master it, it is imperative to discuss why you should get indulged in it.
Benefits of Competitive Programming
Before we discuss how to master competitive programming, let us understand why exactly we should consider mastering it.
- Improves hold on Data Structures and Algorithms: We know how data structures and algorithms are not only imperative for getting good at programming but also for cracking interviews. Competitive Programming is something that will take your knowledge of data structures to higher levels and make you implement that knowledge, thus improving your hold on it.
- Problem-solving skills: In competitive programming, you are faced with new challenges in every problem. You are pushed to reach solutions to them with the given constraints. This immensely improves your problem-solving skills and will definitely help you to get better at coding.
- Value for big companies: Big companies like Apple and Facebook constantly keep track of significant competitive programming events like ACM ICPC. Participating and doing good in these, makes you a valuable candidate for being hired in these companies.
How To Master Competitive Programming?
Before you decide to start competitive programming, keep in mind that it is not something you can master in a few days. Firstly, it will take time and a lot of practice. Secondly, it doesn’t matter which branch, a year of college you are in, if you are determined to master competitive programming, you will surely get there. There are a few aspects that you need to consider when you start competitive programming:
- Data Structures and Algorithms: Your first step in any case must be to master data structures. This includes not just learning it theoretically but also implementing it in problems. Analyse such problems, and train yourself in such a way that you must be able to solve any similar problem the next time you see it. Make a problem copy and record these problems so you can review them from time to time.
There will be many problems that you might not be able to solve in the first go; at this point, I would like to quote Ankush Singla, Co-Founder of Coding Ninjas:
Each problem that you’re not able to solve, is an opportunity that you should use to get better at competitive programming.
2. After DSA: Once you feel you are done with Data Structures, you are ready to move to competitive programming. But do not be of the view that you will effortlessly be able to crack CP problems now that you are done with DSA. It isn’t true. There are various topics from, for instance, advanced data structures that you might not have learnt before. So again, every problem you cannot solve is an opportunity. Moreover, make sure that you still keep in touch with DSA and dedicate at least.
3. Consistency: Mastering CP does require a lot of effort but knows that every competitive programmer went through it. Consistently practising problems is the key to becoming good at Competitive Programming. While solving problems, make sure that you focus on writing the code and not just developing the logic to solve the problem. Remember that the process will take time and effort.
Frequently Asked Questions
CodeStudio, Coding Ninjas’ online platform which has a pool of problems that you can segregate topic, difficulty, and even company-wise is a great medium for any aspiring programmer to make themselves better.
Check out our comprehensive guide on which language is best for competitive programming here.
Many students tend to use books for learning data structures which is not a bad practice but we must consider that it is implementing what we learn in books that is important. Whenever you learn a new topic, practice the code for it and solve as many problems as you can. For a detailed roadmap, refer to this article.
To conclude, it will be right to say that as soon as you finish learning a particular language, no matter which one you choose, you should turn towards competitive programming to practice and polish your coding skills as well as look at the codes of other competitors who are expert in the particular language.
Regularly following the same schedule would help you master a particular language and solve problems in the most efficient ways. It would also help you develop your problem-solving skills and higher ranks on popular competitive coding would add a positive impact to your CV.