What helped me get ready for Launch School’s RB 109 live assessment
I just finished taking my second assessment of the Launch School program and feel so relieved to have finally cleared this hurdle. It was a tall order trying to get to the point where I felt ready to take the test regardless of what other people told me. I definitely thought I was ready a number of times only to get stuck trying to solve a problem live in a study session or a one on one session with a fellow student. It seemed like every time the needle on the “confidence meter” was at its highest, I would get tripped up by some detail while problem solving and all that confidence would just evaporate. I thought it might be helpful to share what helped me most in case it might help other students as they go through this journey.
Attend as many TA led study sessions as possible. It is hard to overstate how helpful it was to listen to Sdrjan, Sheldon and Callie impart their advice on what to expect and what to focus on. And the fact that you are working on a problem and trying to solve it in real time is great practice for your eventual interview but more on that below. (You might very well have different TAs, those mentioned above just happened to have been the ones offering study sessions while I was getting ready for this part of the program)
Work on solving as many different problems as possible. (Thank you Sdrjan for this tip) This is not so much about volume as it is about being exposed to patterns in certain types of problems. Different ways of manipulating strings, arrays etc… And getting really familiar and comfortable with those. I found repetition to be very helpful as well. I did the LS small problems twice and the CodeWars problem list assembled by Christian Larwood. Additionally, the doc assembled by Megan Turley proved very helpful.
Pair up with other students and work on problems together. Trade problems and discuss algorithms, solutions and refactoring. This helped me see different perspectives and get exposure to different ways of solving problems. It was also really good to get a look at built in methods I might not have thought about for specific problems when refactoring code.
Make sure your PEDAC process is solid. It is very important to make sure that you understand the problem thoroughly so that you can save time when you start coding. This is where PEDAC comes in. I went through so many iterations of mine and am sure will probably go through more as I keep progressing through core. But there was one point in time where it felt just right. I stuck with it for the assessment and it worked flawlessly. A personal recommendation would be to try and make sure that your algorithm is what your actual code will follow. It will make it that much easier to debug when you hit that “Oh no… why is this not working?” moment in the interview. If your algorithm is good, you will not have to start over when you are stuck and risk running out of time. And an additional side note, if that “moment” does come, don’t panic, take a deep breath and remember that you practiced for this situation. Go with what’s worked before and don’t try to reinvent your process. Just remember to keep talking to your interviewer and let them know you are taking some time to try and figure out where the bug is.
Probably most helpful for me was to solve problems under interview conditions. It will go a long way towards building your confidence to know that you are solving problems in the proper amount of time without having to keep track of that time yourself during the actual assessment. At least, that was not something I wanted to do for fear of it taking much needed focus away from the task in front of me. And the feedback you get from other students can be key. Make sure to make that expectation clear when you pair up for mock interview sessions.
I should probably clarify that I never felt completely ready but by going through all of the points I shared above, I felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger and give the assessment a try. I hope reading this might help other people focus on what will work for them. One last piece of advice would be to be patient with yourself and the process. It will pay off in the end if you put in the time and work. I wish you best of luck on your journey.