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How to Prepare for the IBM Coding Challenge

Coding challenges could help you to land your dream job. Many top tech and tier-1 companies use coding challenges to assess your real-life problem-solving skills. They allow programmers to solve complex programs and win exciting rewards and cash prizes.

IBM has an innovative way of assessing a candidate’s problem-solving skills. They conduct coding challenges all around the year on their blog. If you’re able to crack the challenge, you could receive an interview call. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about IBM Coding Challenges.

  • What Is a Coding Challenge?
  • The IBM Coding Challenge
  • How Is the IBM Coding Challenge Different From Other Coding Challenges?
  • Topics to Prepare for the IBM Coding Challenge
  • Problems Asked in IBM Coding Challenges
  • How to Prepare for an IBM Coding Challenge
  • Tips to Crack an IBM Coding Challenge
  • FAQs on IBM Coding Challenges

What Is a Coding Challenge?

Coding challenges are conducted on various platforms like HackerRank and HackerEarth, where programmers from across the globe participate to win exciting rewards, and sometimes you could even get a job offer from a  reputed tech company. Hence, you need to have a strong grip on data structures and algorithms to participate and win these challenges. 

The IBM Coding Challenge

Every month IBM publishes a programming-related challenge in their “Ponder This” blog. IBM also conducts various challenges on its website like Call for Code and IBM Hack Challenge. 

IBM also conducts coding challenges through third-party websites like HackerRank, HackerEarth, and TechGig. Sometimes, these coding challenges act as a preliminary round for your IBM interview.

How Is the IBM Coding Challenge Different From Other Coding Challenges?

IBM provides coding challenges that discuss real-life scenarios. For example, Call for Code provides projects where developers across the globe are given a chance to work on global issues and technologies which are helping the communities and working with partners like United Nations and Linux Foundation. 

IBM also provides coding challenges on various platforms throughout the year. You will get a chance to work on any of the top industry-level solutions.

Topics to Prepare for the IBM Coding Challenge

The IBM Coding Challenge mainly consists of problems related to data structures and algorithms.

In data structures, you can expect questions from the below topics:

In Algorithms, you can expect questions related to the below topics:

Problems Asked in IBM Coding Challenges

Here are a few sample questions for you to get a sense of what to expect in IBM coding challenges:

  1. Write a program to remove the Nth node from the end of a linked list.
  2. Write a program to find duplicate characters in a given string.
  3. Write a program to convert byte array to string.
  4. Write a program to find the middle element of a singly linked list in one pass.
  5. Write a program to find the fourth node from the end in a singly linked list.
  6. Write a program to find the length of a singly linked list.
  7. Write a program to implement a binary search tree.
  8. Write a program to perform inorder traversal in a given binary tree.
  9. Write a program to implement a postorder traversal algorithm.
  10. Write a program to implement an LRU Cache.

How to Prepare for an IBM Coding Challenge

When preparing for the IBM coding challenge, make sure you:

  • Choose Your Programming Language: Choose an object-oriented programming language you’re comfortable with, Python, Java, or C++, and master the basics. Practice preparing programs in this language and understand the nuances of the language.
  • Know Your Basics: Learn the basics of data structures and algorithms thoroughly. You don’t want to waste time by Googling how to perform a deep copy at the last minute. Learn the basics and keep practicing. Solve as many previous IBM coding challenges as you possibly can.
  • Participate in Discussion Forums You should go through various discussion forums to understand different ways to solve a problem. It expands your knowledge and improves your creative skills.
  • Spend Time on Solving Problems: Coding challenges are not that easy. They take hours to solve. While practicing, follow this technique — first, understand the problem description, and next, think about how to approach it. 

Tips to Crack an IBM Coding Challenge

Here are some tips to crack the IBM coding challenge:

  1. Create a Study Plan: Create a study plan of technical topics to cover. IK’s Tech Interview Checklist will help you with that.
  2. Focus on the Test Input: All coding challenges come with a test input to verify that your solution works. This test input rarely covers all edge cases. The ideal solution should not only handle test input, but it should be able to handle all possible edge cases. Most of the time, developers make the mistake of spending more time handling edge cases, and they miss the chance to handle test input in a robust way.
  3. Make the Code Readable: The code which you submit is going to be read by other programmers. So, make the code easy to understand and readable by providing comments wherever necessary, ensure proper naming conventions for classes, methods, and variables, and break the code down as simple as possible. This is where your expertise in the programming language comes in handy. 
  4. Remember That It’s OK to Seek Help: Remember that it’s OK to research all possible algorithms for a given problem and choose the appropriate one. However, although it’s OK to take someone’s help in developing an algorithm, it’s equally important that you understand the algorithm you’re using. 
  5. Review and Refactor Your Code: Once you’re done with the solution, don’t be tempted to close the IDE and submit the solution. Take time to review the code and remove any unused methods and variables. Try to check if there’s any scope for refactoring. You can avoid these simple mistakes — making these mistakes will leave an impression that you are not serious enough.
  6. Be Prepared for Constructive Criticism: Once the solution is submitted, the next step would probably be a discussion with the recruiter over the phone or a pairing interview where you’re challenged to extend your solution to include new requirements. Be ready to accept the feedback provided by the reviewer positively and not go into the defense mode.

Useful Resources for Preparing for the IBM Coding Challenge

You can go through the following books to hone your coding challenge or coding interview prep: 

  • “Cracking the Coding Interview” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell
  • “Python Challenge” by Pm Heathcote
  • “Learn Data Structure and Algorithms With Golang” by Bhagvan Kommadi
  • “100 Coding Challenges for Cracking Facebook, Amazon, Google Interview” by Akshay Ravindran

FAQs on IBM Coding Challenges

Q. Is there any specific requirement to participate in the IBM coding challenge?

A. Most of the coding challenges don’t have any requirements. But, it depends on the coding challenge you’re participating in. Read the description carefully before you participate.

Q. Does IBM conduct coding challenges in their interview process?

A. Yes. IBM conducts various coding challenges during their on-site interview process. 

Want to Crack Your Next IBM Interview? 

If your end goal is to nail an IBM tech interview, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation e-book to get interview-ready! Also, read IBM Interview Process Guide and How to Prepare for Technical Interviews for specific insights and guidance on IBM tech interviews.

Having trained over 9,000 software engineers, we know what it takes to crack the toughest tech interviews. Since 2014, Interview Kickstart alums have been landing lucrative offers from FAANG and Tier-1 tech companies, with an average salary hike of 49%. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $933,000!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.

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Interview Preparation
Last updated on: 
August 10, 2021

Utkarsh Sahu

Director, Category Management @ Interview Kickstart || IIM Bangalore || NITW.

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