Competitive Programming: The Road to Becoming a Top Coder

The easiest definition of “Competitive programming” you can find over the internet is “Mind sport”.

Competitive Programming is not about solving the problem, it’s about developing your logic. How to find a solution to a problem in a given time and within constraints.

It’s called a mind sport because, just like in any other physical sport, our main goal is to compete against other coders and in the process sharpen our skills. What skills are we referring to?

As a programmer, we need to have the ability to analyse problems and come up with efficient solutions. Understand the errors, think critically and debug codes. Patience is the key when it comes to debugging. Honing these skills is possible only when you practice a lot. Not just practice but perform under pressure. Competitive programming is the best possible way to do it.

Competitive programming offers you a large enthusiastic community platform where you can practice together, discuss solutions, share strategies and provide guidance to others. Being a part of this community helps you to look at problems from a different perspective each time. For example, I recently solved a problem on one of the platforms. The problem was simple: “Find the number appearing only once in the given array of numbers appearing twice”

1. Any beginner would think of solving this problem by comparing all the elements in the array and finding out the one number that does not occur twice. Using loops and comparing each element with the other remaining elements. You can also solve this problem by first sorting the array and then comparing elements instead of comparing them randomly. Naïve approach.

2. Another person who has knowledge of data structure would solve this problem using Hashmap. Why? because it reduces the complexity of the algorithm.

3. Another approach which I personally found more interesting than the remaining was using the XOR operation. Everyone has studied the XOR operator back in school, this is the time you apply it.

Just to solve one problem, I found three different solutions. Each is unique in its own way.

Here I am improving my coding skills but most importantly I am developing my logic. There are several ways in which you can solve a problem but only if you happen to find the simplest yet the most accurate solution in given time can you stay in the competition. Otherwise, you are just a part of the crowd. How you approach a problem is more important than your chosen programming language. For techies like us, this sport is a must.

To explain in a nutshell:

What are the benefits of Competitive programming?

  • Improve Problem Solving skills.
  • Enhance coding skills.
  • Networking.
  • Increase confidence.
  • Being UpToDate with immerging technologies.
  • Helps you stand out in any job interview.

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