Study Tips for Data Science Interview Preparation

interview tips Feb 24, 2023

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - there’s a lot to study when you’re looking for a job in data science.

Because there’s so much to go over, I often get asked how to study efficiently. Studying efficiently isn’t just about using time wisely though. It’s about studying well, and there are three particular challenges to overcome:

  1. How do you stay focused and not get distracted?
  2. How do you keep your momentum going?
  3. How do you work with a tight schedule?

If you are facing these challenges right now, don’t worry! I’m going to share some tips to deal with these three problems and help you use your study time wisely. If you prefer, you can also get this content in video format on my Youtube channel.

Let's get started!

Staying Focused with a Plan

I want to kick things off with what I believe to be the single most important study tip: have a plan. You can’t make the most of your time without organization, but how do you organize effectively? Here are the basic rules I use.

Study Two Things a Day

When you study two things a day, you can focus on one main topic and a review topic.

The review topic can be your focus when you get tired. This way you can make progress even when you start to get worn down.

Switching topics will also keep your brain more engaged and combat mental fatigue. You’ll make faster progress this way than trying to force yourself to plow through a single topic without any breaks.

You can make studying two things a day even more efficient by pairing subjects that overlap, such as machine learning and coding. Another strategy might be to focus on a technical and non-technical subject (like statistics and behavioral interviews) so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

Give Every Topic a Week

Another aspect of a study plan is how long you study each topic. I recommend giving each topic at least a week. So, don’t change the topics every day. That doesn’t give you enough time to absorb the knowledge and deepen your understanding. Study two topics (your main and a review) for a week before moving on.

Plan Cycles

Planning cycles means planning to repeat all of the topics.

Why should you do this? Repetition is crucial for mastery. You need to review to truly retain what you learn, so you should plan to review all of the topics at least once.

If you learn nothing else in this post, I hope you are convinced that having a plan will make your study time far more efficient. Now let’s look at some other tips to make your studying even better.

Staying Motivated

Ok, so you have a study plan now, but as you might have gathered from my tips, that plan should be several weeks at least. That’s a long time to stay motivated and avoid becoming overwhelmed. How do you stay productive?

Staying focused is hard. There’s so much in today’s world to distract you. Even if you aren’t getting distracted, you could find yourself feeling overwhelmed. It’s surprisingly easy to lose your momentum, and when you lose momentum, you can quickly become discouraged.

So, how do you stay motivated and keep your momentum?

Set Small Goals

It’s hard to stay motivated if you can’t see your progress, which is why I think that setting small goals is key.

When you only have the single large goal of getting a job, you aren’t going to feel like you are making any progress while preparing for interviews. However, if you break that larger goal into small goals (such as solving one SQL problem a day), you can see yourself making progress which will encourage you to keep going.

If you aren’t used to setting small goals, I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits. It’s a great read and will teach you how to set small daily goals and celebrate small wins better than I can outline here.

If you aren’t convinced yet, here are just a few reasons that small goals are helpful.

  1. Small goals are easier to start. It’s not as frightening to take the first step.
  2. Small goals are easier to achieve with time limits and juggling priorities. You can feel accomplished even when you cannot devote 100% of your time and effort to the goal.
  3. Small goals build habits. They encourage you to do a bit each day rather than trying to accomplish everything at once.

Setting small goals will help you track your progress and stay motivated so that you can eventually reach that large goal of landing a job.

Now, keep reading because I have just a few more tips for dealing with other problems that might occur when studying for interviews!

Dealing with Limited Time

You might be thinking that also this planning and goal setting sounds great, but what do you do if you are in a time crunch? Do you need to simply cram and try to memorize as much information as possible?

The only way to master something is by repetition and practice. That’s why I believe it is a bad idea to throw out the study plan just because you have limited time. You still need review sessions. Always study two subjects at once, even with limited time, so that you will be getting review.

Feeling Stuck

There’s still another problem that many people face when studying: feeling stuck. What do you do if you can’t solve a problem or don’t understand a concept?

It’s important to remember the 80/20 rule which states that you spend 20% of your time studying 80% of the things and the other 80% of the time grinding and diving into rabbit holes. We all let small things eat up our study time.

This means that when you get stuck, it’s usually better to move forward anyway. Instead of getting caught up in the 20% details you don’t get, you should continue studying that 80% to get more coverage. Be willing to move on when you feel stuck. It’s better for your studying overall.

That does not mean that you should skip it entirely. Come back later, and if you are really stuck, try asking your friends for help. Quora can also be a helpful resource.

Final Thoughts

Those are my tips for studying efficiently! I do have one final thing to leave with you though. Always remember there is no failure, only feedback.

You are going to face rejection in your job search, and how you handle it will have an impact on your overall journey. Keep studying and practicing, and treat everything as a learning experience!

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, check out the longer version here.

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