Study Guide: How to Pass the Lambda School Data Science Challenge
Mar 16, 2021
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Data Science is an exciting and well-paying career path for people who love numbers and are excited about the prospect of using data to drive the future of technology. Success in the data science field requires a solid foundation of mathematics, applied statistics, and computer programming. 

The Lambda School Data Science (DS) program is a rigorous program designed to teach you the skills you need to get hired and be successful in the field. Our curriculum is built on the principle of “mastery-based progression” so you can learn at your own pace and repeat content if needed. This means that you don’t need to be a math wiz to be successful, but a basic understanding of algebra and statistics will certainly give you a leg up as you start your journey to a new career. 

To ensure that every student we admit to the Data Science program has a high likelihood of success, we ask DS applicants to complete a short quiz called the “Data Science Challenge.” The questions on this challenge provide a way for you to know which math and programming concepts you might need to spend some time studying. This is also an opportunity for you to decide if becoming a data scientist is really your thing before you take the steps to finalize your enrollment.

We use your challenge score to get an idea of how well-prepared applicants are for the material in the first unit of the Data Science program. By looking at the data from this quiz, we can provide support in the challenging areas to best meet your needs as an incoming student.

What to expect on the Data Science Challenge

The Data Science challenge is a short quiz that includes two types of questions: math and Python. There are 15 questions total and you’ll need to answer at least 11 questions correctly to move on to the next phase of the application process. You will have 45 minutes to complete the challenge. 

If you don’t pass the challenge the first time, don’t worry. You’ll be able to reattempt the challenge after a waiting period of 24 hours. You can take the quiz a total of three times.

Preparing for the Math Questions

Here are the concepts you’ll need to understand do well on the DS Challenge math questions:

  • Performing basic calculations such as evaluating and expression, using order of operations, converting between decimals and percentages, and logarithms
  • Evaluating simple functions from a graph
  • Interpreting a basic statistical distribution from a graph
  • Identifying matrix properties such as the number of rows and columns

Example math questions

example DS challenge math question
A few examples of math questions on the Data Science Challenge.

Preparing for the Python Questions

Here are the concepts you’ll need to understand to do well on the Python questions:

  • Know basic string operations such as combining string variables
  • Understand and apply list indexing for one- and two-dimensional lists
  • Be familiar with the basic characteristics of a dictionary
  • Know how to evaluate simple for loops and “if” statements

Example Python questions

python question example

5 Tips for success on the Data Science Challenge

  1. Carefully read the instructions and answer choices for each question. One of the most common mistakes prospective students make is not thoroughly reading the instructions for each question. Give yourself the best chance for success on the challenge by reading each question completely. 
  2. Review the concepts you are unfamiliar with. We recommend all applicants review Statistics, Linear Algebra, and Python by utilizing online resources, even if you feel comfortable with the concepts. Here are a few tutorials we recommend reviewing before you take the challenge:
    Statistics by Khan Academy
    Linear Algebra by Khan Academy
    Learn Python by Kaggle
  3. Understand how to use a basic Python interpreter. You can practice using resources online such as Repl.it
  4. Practice answering basic Python questions. Concepts you should know include string operations, list indexing, and evaluating for loops and “if” statements. Kaggle is a great resource for practicing Python concepts.
  5. Prepare well. You’ll perform your best on the challenge if you take it on a day when you’re well-rested and well-hydrated. Take a few minutes to have a snack and use the restroom before you begin so you can use the time available to do your best on the challenge.

Most people do not need the full 45 minutes to complete the data science challenge, but be sure to take the time you need to do your very best. Feel ready to take the challenge? Log in to your admissions dashboard now to get started or check out more tips for getting into the Lambda School Data Science Program!

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