Developers
June 8, 2020

How to Prepare for a Coding Test

Taking a coding test can be intimidating but, with a little preparation, you can ace the interview and take one step closer to your dream job.
Source: Unsplash

Few things are more stressful than a job interview, especially for a developer. In addition to reviewing your resume, checking your background and conducting a standard interview, many companies require a coding test.

There are a number of factors to keep in mind when preparing for such a test.

Why Some Companies Require a Coding Test

There’s never been a better time to be a software developer. iOS and Android revolutionized mobile software development, creating opportunities for companies of all sizes. In addition, the move to cloud computing has opened new opportunities and challenges alike. Likewise, the adoption of open-source software has created jobs for developers helping companies make the transition.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in particular, cloud computing has come into its own. As companies were forced to send their employees home to work remotely, cloud computing became a vital component in helping companies stay operational. Companies large and small are now accelerating their cloud migration plans in an effort to be more nimble and future-proofed.

As a result of these factors, as well as many others, developers are in high demand. In fact, it’s estimated that a software engineer makes over $100,000 annually on average.

In view of that, many companies insist on coding tests as a way to ensure they’re getting what they pay for and the developer can deliver on what they promise.

How to Prepare

If you are applying for a development job with a company that employs a coding test, there are a number of steps you should take to prepare.

Don’t Underestimate

The first step to successfully preparing for a coding interview is to not underestimate how difficult it will be or automatically assume your skills are up to the task.

Regardless of how competent a developer you may be, coding interviews are designed to challenge that as much as possible. Even more than evaluating basic coding skills, these kind of interviews give the company a view into your thought process, how you approach problems, whether you see only the obvious or the underlying issues.

As a result, it’s important to approach every such interview expecting to be challenged to the fullest.

Learn About the Company

Another important step is to learn as much as possible about the company.

•      What kind of software or services do they specialize in?

•      What languages and frameworks is their development centered around?

•      What projects is the company currently working on?

•      What companies do they partner with?

Similarly, a few minutes looking online, either on the company’s website or on LinkedIn, can help you get to know your interviewer better. This can help you tailor your discussion and answers to your interviewer’s technical level.

Practice the Basics

Many times, a coding test will involve seemingly basic tasks, such as refactoring code or coding an algorithm that’s simple enough that under normal circumstances you would merely search for a free one and use it.

More often than not, the purpose of these exercises is to see how you think about and approach the problem. They want to see if you will take the most straight-forward approach, or overcomplicate it.

Practice Whiteboard Coding

If your interview will be done in person, practice coding on a whiteboard. While many companies provide a computer to take the test on, just as many ask interviewees to write out their code on a whiteboard.

For programmers who have never done this before, the process can be a little unsettling. Like any profession, programmers develop muscle memory. In this case, much of their muscle memory involves navigating a QUERTY keyboard.

As a result, having to suddenly think about how to manually write out every character necessary to produce sample code can give an otherwise confident and capable developer pause.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

When the time comes for the interview, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. As mentioned above, these tests are often designed to give insight into how a programmer thinks, as much as to test their grasp of a language or framework.

With that in mind, if you have any questions, or if something isn’t clear, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Rather than being viewed as a negative, many interviewers will appreciate the fact that you take time to fully understand the topic before diving in.

As the old saying goes: “Measure twice, cut once.”

The Takeaway

Without a doubt, an interview that includes a coding test can be an unsettling part of any job search. Even so, given what’s at stake for the hiring company, it’s easy to see why so many place such a high emphasis on it.

Therefore, approach each coding test fully understanding how important it is to the company. Even if the interviewer tries to put you at ease by saying the results won’t decide the outcome…they probably will. Ultimately, the company needs to know you can do what you say—and there’s rarely a better way than to see what you can produce.

In spite of the challenges, with a little homework, research and preparation, you can ace your coding interview and take one step closer to your dream job.

TagsCoding TestTechnical InterviewCoding Test Preparation
Matt Milano
Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a

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DevelopersJune 8, 2020
How to Prepare for a Coding Test
Taking a coding test can be intimidating but, with a little preparation, you can ace the interview and take one step closer to your dream job.

Few things are more stressful than a job interview, especially for a developer. In addition to reviewing your resume, checking your background and conducting a standard interview, many companies require a coding test.

There are a number of factors to keep in mind when preparing for such a test.

Why Some Companies Require a Coding Test

There’s never been a better time to be a software developer. iOS and Android revolutionized mobile software development, creating opportunities for companies of all sizes. In addition, the move to cloud computing has opened new opportunities and challenges alike. Likewise, the adoption of open-source software has created jobs for developers helping companies make the transition.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in particular, cloud computing has come into its own. As companies were forced to send their employees home to work remotely, cloud computing became a vital component in helping companies stay operational. Companies large and small are now accelerating their cloud migration plans in an effort to be more nimble and future-proofed.

As a result of these factors, as well as many others, developers are in high demand. In fact, it’s estimated that a software engineer makes over $100,000 annually on average.

In view of that, many companies insist on coding tests as a way to ensure they’re getting what they pay for and the developer can deliver on what they promise.

How to Prepare

If you are applying for a development job with a company that employs a coding test, there are a number of steps you should take to prepare.

Don’t Underestimate

The first step to successfully preparing for a coding interview is to not underestimate how difficult it will be or automatically assume your skills are up to the task.

Regardless of how competent a developer you may be, coding interviews are designed to challenge that as much as possible. Even more than evaluating basic coding skills, these kind of interviews give the company a view into your thought process, how you approach problems, whether you see only the obvious or the underlying issues.

As a result, it’s important to approach every such interview expecting to be challenged to the fullest.

Learn About the Company

Another important step is to learn as much as possible about the company.

•      What kind of software or services do they specialize in?

•      What languages and frameworks is their development centered around?

•      What projects is the company currently working on?

•      What companies do they partner with?

Similarly, a few minutes looking online, either on the company’s website or on LinkedIn, can help you get to know your interviewer better. This can help you tailor your discussion and answers to your interviewer’s technical level.

Practice the Basics

Many times, a coding test will involve seemingly basic tasks, such as refactoring code or coding an algorithm that’s simple enough that under normal circumstances you would merely search for a free one and use it.

More often than not, the purpose of these exercises is to see how you think about and approach the problem. They want to see if you will take the most straight-forward approach, or overcomplicate it.

Practice Whiteboard Coding

If your interview will be done in person, practice coding on a whiteboard. While many companies provide a computer to take the test on, just as many ask interviewees to write out their code on a whiteboard.

For programmers who have never done this before, the process can be a little unsettling. Like any profession, programmers develop muscle memory. In this case, much of their muscle memory involves navigating a QUERTY keyboard.

As a result, having to suddenly think about how to manually write out every character necessary to produce sample code can give an otherwise confident and capable developer pause.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

When the time comes for the interview, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. As mentioned above, these tests are often designed to give insight into how a programmer thinks, as much as to test their grasp of a language or framework.

With that in mind, if you have any questions, or if something isn’t clear, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Rather than being viewed as a negative, many interviewers will appreciate the fact that you take time to fully understand the topic before diving in.

As the old saying goes: “Measure twice, cut once.”

The Takeaway

Without a doubt, an interview that includes a coding test can be an unsettling part of any job search. Even so, given what’s at stake for the hiring company, it’s easy to see why so many place such a high emphasis on it.

Therefore, approach each coding test fully understanding how important it is to the company. Even if the interviewer tries to put you at ease by saying the results won’t decide the outcome…they probably will. Ultimately, the company needs to know you can do what you say—and there’s rarely a better way than to see what you can produce.

In spite of the challenges, with a little homework, research and preparation, you can ace your coding interview and take one step closer to your dream job.

Coding Test
Technical Interview
Coding Test Preparation
About the author
Matt Milano -Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a

Related Articles