50 Problem Solving Interview Questions

1. Given a rectangular (cuboidal for the puritans) cake with a rectangular piece removed (any size or orientation), how would you cut the remainder of the cake into two equal halves with one straight cut of a knife ?

2. You're given an array containing both positive and negative integers and required to find the sub-array with the largest sum (O(N) a la KBL). Write a routine in C for the above.

3. Given an array of size N in which every number is between 1 and N, determine if there are any duplicates in it. You are allowed to destroy the array if you like. [ I ended up giving about 4 or 5 different solutions for this, each supposedly better than the others ].

4. Write a routine to draw a circle (x ** 2 + y ** 2 = r ** 2) without making use of any floating point computations at all. [ This one had me stuck for quite some time and I first gave a solution that did have floating point computations ].

5. Given only putchar (no sprintf, itoa, etc.) write a routine putlong that prints out an unsigned long in decimal. [ I gave the obvious solution of taking % 10 and / 10, which gives us the decimal value in reverse order. This requires an array since we need to print it out in the correct order. The interviewer wasn't too pleased and asked me to give a solution which didn't need the array ].

6. Give a one-line C expression to test whether a number is a power of 2. [No loops allowed - it's a simple test.]

7. Given an array of characters which form a sentence of words, give an efficient algorithm to reverse the order of the words (not characters) in it.

8. How many points are there on the globe where by walking one mile south, one mile east and one mile north you reach the place where you started.

9. Give a very good method to count the number of ones in a "n" (e.g. 32) bit number.

ANS. Given below are simple solutions, find a solution that does it in log (n) steps.


function iterativecount (unsigned int n)
int count=0;
while (n)
count += n & 0x1 ;
n >>= 1;
return count;

Sparse Count

function sparsecount (unsigned int n)
int count=0;
while (n)
n &= (n-1);
return count ;

10. What are the different ways to implement a condition where the value of x can be either a 0 or a 1. Apparently the if then else solution has a jump when written out in assembly. if (x == 0) y=a else y=b There is a logical, arithmetic and a data structure solution to the above problem.

11. Reverse a linked list.

12. Insert in a sorted list

13. In a X's and 0's game (i.e. TIC TAC TOE) if you write a program for this give a fast way to generate the moves by the computer. I mean this should be the fastest way possible.

The answer is that you need to store all possible configurations of the board and the move that is associated with that. Then it boils down to just accessing the right element and getting the corresponding move for it. Do some analysis and do some more optimization in storage since otherwise it becomes infeasible to get the required storage in a DOS machine.

14. I was given two lines of assembly code which found the absolute value of a number stored in two's complement form. I had to recognize what the code was doing. Pretty simple if you know some assembly and some fundaes on number representation.

15. Give a fast way to multiply a number by 7.

16. How would go about finding out where to find a book in a library. (You don't know how exactly the books are organized beforehand).

17. Linked list manipulation.

18. Tradeoff between time spent in testing a product and getting into the market first.

19. What to test for given that there isn't enough time to test everything you want to.

20. First some definitions for this problem: a) An ASCII character is one byte long and the most significant bit in the byte is always '0'. b) A Kanji character is two bytes long. The only characteristic of a Kanji character is that in its first byte the most significant bit is '1'.

Now you are given an array of a characters (both ASCII and Kanji) and, an index into the array. The index points to the start of some character. Now you need to write a function to do a backspace (i.e. delete the character before the given index).

21. Delete an element from a doubly linked list.

22. Write a function to find the depth of a binary tree.

23. Given two strings S1 and S2. Delete from S2 all those characters which occur in S1 also and finally create a clean S2 with the relevant characters deleted.

24. Assuming that locks are the only reason due to which deadlocks can occur in a system. What would be a foolproof method of avoiding deadlocks in the system.

25. Reverse a linked list.

Ans: Possible answers -

iterative loop
curr->next = prev;
prev = curr;
curr = next;
next = curr->next

recursive reverse(ptr)
if (ptr->next == NULL)
return ptr;
temp = reverse(ptr->next);
temp->next = ptr;
return ptr;

26. Write a small lexical analyzer - interviewer gave tokens. expressions like "a*b" etc.

27. Besides communication cost, what is the other source of inefficiency in RPC? (answer : context switches, excessive buffer copying). How can you optimize the communication? (ans : communicate through shared memory on same machine, bypassing the kernel _ A Univ. of Wash. thesis)

28. Write a routine that prints out a 2-D array in spiral order!

29. How is the readers-writers problem solved? - using semaphores/ada .. etc.

30. Ways of optimizing symbol table storage in compilers.

31. A walk-through through the symbol table functions, lookup() implementation etc. - The interviewer was on the Microsoft C team.

32. A version of the "There are three persons X Y Z, one of which always lies".. etc..

33. There are 3 ants at 3 corners of a triangle, they randomly start moving towards another corner.. what is the probability that they don't collide.

34. Write an efficient algorithm and C code to shuffle a pack of cards.. this one was a feedback process until we came up with one with no extra storage.

35. The if (x == 0) y = 0 etc..

36. Some more bitwise optimization at assembly level

37. Some general questions on Lex, Yacc etc.

38. Given an array t[100] which contains numbers between 1..99. Return the duplicated value. Try both O(n) and O(n-square).

39. Given an array of characters. How would you reverse it. ? How would you reverse it without using indexing in the array.

40. Given a sequence of characters. How will you convert the lower case characters to upper case characters. ( Try using bit vector - solutions given in the C lib -typec.h)

41. Fundamentals of RPC.

42. Given a linked list which is sorted. How will u insert in sorted way.

43. Given a linked list How will you reverse it.

44. Give a good data structure for having n queues ( n not fixed) in a finite memory segment. You can have some data-structure separate for each queue. Try to use at least 90% of the memory space.

45. Do a breadth first traversal of a tree.

46. Write code for reversing a linked list.

47. Write, efficient code for extracting unique elements from a sorted list of array. e.g. (1, 1, 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 9, 9, 9, 9) -> (1, 3, 5, 9).

48. Given an array of integers, find the contiguous sub-array with the largest sum.

ANS. Can be done in O(n) time and O(1) extra space. Scan array from 1 to n. Remember the best sub-array seen so far and the best sub-array ending in i.

49. Given an array of length N containing integers between 1 and N, determine if it contains any duplicates.

ANS. [Is there an O(n) time solution that uses only O(1) extra space and does not destroy the original array?]

50. Sort an array of size n containing integers between 1 and K, given a temporary scratch integer array of size K.

Reference and Contents from: http://halcyon.usc.edu

1 comment:

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