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How to Start with DSA

Prasun Das| June 6, 2023 at 9:16 PM | 4 minutes Read


Each and every programmer needs a strong grasp in DSA to write efficient and optimised codes. However, DSA has a reputation of being one of the most feared topics among newbies. It might be a little confusing for new programmers regarding where and how to start with DSA. In this article, we will focus on everything about DSA and where and how to start with it.



First things first, what is DSA? 

DSA stands for Data Structure and Algorithms - it is a combination of two distinct yet interrelated topics: data structure and algorithms.


Data Structure refers to a particular manner of storing and organising data in our devices to facilitate efficient and effective use of data. Data structures help us to write better codes as they do the job with better time and space complexities.


Algorithm refers to a well defined set of instructions providing step by step solutions to a particular problem. 



TIPS TO GET STARTED WITH DSA



DSA is an extremely important topic for each and every programmer. To master it, one must be resilient and follow a certain procedure best suited to individual needs. However, if you are unsure about your own approach and are thinking of following a certain tested procedure to get started, here are some tips for you:


1. CHOOSE ONE LANGUAGE OF CHOICE:

It is essential that you don’t switch between programming languages in your initial days of learning DSA as it might trigger some confusion. Note that the programming language you choose to learn DSA with should be one that you are comfortable with. Though a programming language is nothing but a medium of communication with the machine, it is important that you stick with one language till you master DSA.


2. KNOW THE TOPICS:

A very basic yet often the most ignored step of learning something new. Before you dive into the topic, first get an idea about the topics you need to cover and the resources available, try to choose the best or at least a credible source for them. 

Below you’ll find the list of individual topics one needs to understand in DSA:

Data Structure -

  1. Array
  2. String
  3. Matrix
  4. Linked List
  5. Queue
  6. Tree
  7. Stack
  8. Graph


Algorithms -

  1. Searching
  2. Sorting
  3. Hashing
  4. Recursion
  5. Backtracking
  6. Prefix sum
  7. Suffix sum
  8. Traversal through Tree and Graph
  9. Dynamic Programming 
  10. Advanced algorithms dealing with trees, graphs, etc



3. CHOOSE YOUR RESOURCES TO LEARN FROM:

You can learn DSA from various books, YouTube channels, trusted sites like GeeksforGeeks, Coding Ninja or even your Professor’s notes. The point is don’t hesitate to use different sources for different topics. As long as you’re understanding and learning, it’s alright.



4. HAVE STRONG FUNDAMENTALS


It is essential that you spend quality time knowing and understanding the basics of every data structure and the particular algorithm. Strong fundamentals will provide the required base for further study of more complex operations. Make sure to understand and practice the basics wherever necessary, every now and then.



5. PROPER INVESTMENT OF TIME

You’ll require a great deal of patience, discipline and rigorous effort to master any new topic - the same goes for DSA. Do not keep any time specific target as a deadline to learn DSA. Such a mindset will hinder your learning. Invest proper time and energy in DSA and it will give you proper return throughout your career.



6. BE CONSISTENT

Consistency is the key to learning anything new. Try to devote at least an hour in practising and solving at least two new problems on the particular topic everyday. Revise the basics every now and then, keep practising problems on DSA and take part in coding challenges every now and then. 



7. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS

Doing too much at a continuous stretch is bound to lower productivity and will definitely make it difficult to grasp new topics. It is advised hence to take regular breaks between study sessions for better understanding. While doing advanced topics, it is essential that you manage the short breaks well for rejuvenating yourself after a rigorous study session. Remember a tired brain doesn’t really please your learning curve.



8. BALANCE BETWEEN NEW AND OLD TOPICS

A good way to keep a balance is to traverse through old topics while doing new topics simultaneously. Once you have moved to a new topic, take some test or revision of the old topic. Don’t stick to one topic and take quick revisions of old topics for longer retention. 



9. CARRY OUT DRY RUNS

When you’re writing codes, make sure that you do dry runs at least once for your code. Take a test case and go through the execution of the whole code taking the test case as the reference. This practice essentially stimulates our logical thinking and helps us to understand the code better. 



10. NO PLACEMENT MINDSET IN THE LEARNING PHASE

Most of the students start learning DSA with their placements in mind. They set a specific time period as their target of completing DSA and nurture ambitions of getting better placements by doing quick shot DSA courses. That will simply not work. You should dedicate a proper amount of time for learning and understanding DSA. Also, don’t fret about specific questions which come up in specific interviews with companies. First of all focus on understanding and practising basic problems. You might start attempting interview questions or advanced problems once you’ve mastered the basics.



These were some of the tips and suggestions to help you in your quest to master DSA. If one follows these basic tips their job becomes slightly easier while learning DSA. 

#tips#interview tips and tricks#interview preparation#dsa-prep
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