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How to Prepare for the Google Coding Challenge

Posted on 
August 23, 2021
|
by 
Abhishek Som

Did you know that coding challenges are a great way to become an accomplished coder and land your dream job? Many tech behemoths seasonally conduct coding challenges that attract programmers from all around the globe. The main idea of coding challenges is to give coders a chance to solve complex engineering problems and compete for rewards and cash prizes.

Google hires developers based on their ability to solve coding problems. The two main technical rounds at Google’s interview — the Coding assignment and the Onsite, test engineers on core data structures and algorithms.

Hiring managers evaluate your approach to problem-solving and how you can look at a problem through different lenses and perspectives involving creativity and innovation.

In this article, we discuss how to prepare for and crack the Google coding challenge.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What are coding challenges?
  • Understanding Google’s coding challenges and what it entails
  • How to prepare for Google’s coding challenges
  • What topics to learn when preparing for the Google coding challenge
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What Exactly Are Coding Challenges?

Coding challenges are tech events that invite programmers from across the world to participate, solve coding problems, and win rewards for finishing on top. Like many tech companies that frequently conduct coding challenges, Google conducts three coding challenges every year.  

Coding challenges are essentially designed to test the extent of your knowledge in algorithms and data structures. Technical interviews at FAANG and tier 1 companies also revolve around the same testing concept — solving problems in algorithms and data structures. This is precisely why preparing for a coding challenge can get you interview-ready at big tech firms.

Google’s Coding Challenges

Participating in Google’s coding challenges helps you get noticed by recruiters. There’s no guarantee that Google would hire you if you end up among the finalists or the top 3% in the competition. You could, however, land a coding interview with Google for a developer/engineer position. 

Google conducts three main coding challenges every year.

  • Hash Code
  • Code Jam
  • Kick Start

Even if you don’t have any projects listed in your CV, no open-source contributions, and have scored average grades in college, getting to the final round in Code Jam or Hash Code challenge can get you an interview call.

Hash Code

Hash Code is a popular coding challenge that Google conducts once a year for software professionals and students. Hash Code 2021 was a virtual event owing to constraints brought about by the pandemic situation.

Hash Code is essentially a team challenge where coders must participate in groups of 2-4. The competition between teams takes place in Hash Code hubs. Each team must solve one of Google’s actual coding/engineering problems predominantly based on algorithms.

Hash Code is a time-tested challenge. The first round is a qualification round where teams must offer the most optimal solution to the problem at hand within 4 hours. Teams are free to use programming languages and tools of their choice. This competition is conducted virtually in local hubs.

After the online qualification round comes the World Finals, where qualified teams compete against each other to solve a more difficult engineering problem. Teams that finish at the top in the finals receive cash prizes and other benefits.

To know more about the nature of problems in the World finals and qualification rounds, you can go through the year-by-year problem archives.

The Google Code Jam

The Code Jam is Google’s flagship coding competition that witnesses coders participate from all over the globe. This coding challenge is conducted once every year and comprises 3 online rounds before the annual Code Jam World Finals that happens onsite. Code Jam is the longest coding competition by Google. Unlike Hash Code, this isn’t a team challenge.

Participating programmers wishing to take on this challenge should be adept with concepts around data structures and algorithms. The Code Jam is a particularly difficult challenge, and only 25 participants are qualified to compete for gifts, rewards, and the championship title.

Get a glimpse of the past years’ Code Jam problems and analysis here.

Kick Start

Kick Start is another popular coding challenge that’s conducted multiple times throughout the year. The challenge consists of a single round that involves finding an optimized solution to a coding problem. Programmers from all over the world can participate whenever the challenge takes place. Each round carries points, and programmers with the highest number of points at the end of all rounds emerge as winners.

There is no qualification round for Kick Start. You can either participate in any one or all rounds. Each round lasts for about 3 hours and includes a host of problems based on algorithms and mathematics.

Kick Start is specifically designed for students and programmers who’re still early in their careers.

If you’re just setting out into the world of programming and want to make a career out of it, Kick Start will acclimate you to the type of skills required to crack coding interviews at Google and other top-tier companies. The Google Kick Start is a great way to understand coding competitions and challenges in general.

To know more about the Kick Start problems, click here.

How to Prepare for Google Coding Challenges

Here are some of the best methods and techniques to practice for Google coding challenges. 

Familiarize yourself with concepts around algorithms and data structures. Adequate knowledge in database management, API, and distributed systems is an added advantage.

  • Practice coding problems every day for at least a month leading up to the challenge. Practicing numerous problems helps build your problem-solving skills and become a better engineer, helping you crack tough coding interviews not just at Google but other top technology firms like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Netflix.
  • Get comfortable with the platforms used for these challenges. 
  • Pick an object-oriented programming language. You must be able to code algorithms in Python, C++, or Java.
  • Coding challenges are time-bound. So make sure you practice problems within the limits of time.
  • Practice problems from previous years’ challenges to get an idea of what sort of questions to expect.
  • Use platforms like Leetcode, TopCoder, and CodeChef to expose yourself to a wide range of programming problems.
  • Work on improving your testing and debugging skills.
  • Make sure your code is easy to understand. The idea of coding challenges is to find the most optimal solution to a problem, not the lengthiest one.  

What Topics to Prepare for Google’s Coding Challenges

Below are some topics you must get yourself familiar with to stand a good chance at solving problems in Google’s coding challenges:

Check out our Learn and Problems pages for more!

Frequently Asked Questions on Google’s Coding Challenge

  1. Can acing a coding challenge land you a job?

Well, not quite. But winning a challenge or finishing in the top 1% among all participants can prompt recruiters to invite you for an interview. You will have to go through the various rounds of interviews just like other candidates, but the odds of landing an offer are on your side.

Related read: How to Get Software Engineering Jobs at Google

  1. What are some of the resources to prepare for coding challenges?

There are a couple of good books that will help you understand what areas to focus on and how to become a good problem solver in general. The learnings will help you in coding challenges and coding and technical interviews at Google and other FAANG or top tech companies. Books like Competitive Programming by Steven Halim and Guide to Competitive Programming by Antii Laaksonen are great resources to help you through your prep journey.

  1. How can I crack Google’s Coding Challenges?

The best way to prepare for coding challenges is to practice problems every day to improve your problem-solving skills. Exposing yourself to a wide array of problems with varying difficulty levels can help you identify and classify problem solutions based on inherent patterns. That way, you can stand a good chance to find optimal solutions to problems you’ve never encountered before.

Coding Challenges Pave the Way for Growth

When you prepare for coding challenges at Google or any tech company, you embark on a journey of growth. Your skills grow, your ability to solve problems increases, and so does your confidence. 

Therefore, we encourage you to participate in coding challenges not just at Google, but anywhere you find the opportunity because no matter what the outcome of the challenge is, the result is always growth.

If you need help to prepare for coding interviews at FAANG and big techs, Interview Kickstart conducts a FREE online webinar that will tell you how. The webinar is hosted by one of our founders, gives you the chance to clear all your doubts and questions cleared regarding technical interviews at tech companies, and understand how we can help you take your career to the next level.

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