Google online assessment guide (actionable prep tips)

Google online assessment

This guide is all about Google's online assessment for software engineer applicants, and how to prepare for it.

The online assessment can be quite challenging and will test you on your technical skills as well as your speed and time management (it's timed). 

But with the right preparation, passing the online assessment is achievable, and you can put yourself one step closer to landing a job at Google!

In the below guide, we've compiled all of the information and resources you'll need to prepare for Google's online coding assessment. Here's what we'll cover:

  1. Overview
  2. Question types
  3. Preparation tips
  4. After the online assessment

1. Overview of the assessment

Google's online assessment is typically given during the software engineer interview process for candidates who are applying for new graduate or intern positions. 

The online assessment is the first step of the interview process, immediately after your application (resume/cover letter) is approved by Google. If you pass the assessment, you'll advance to the next stage of Google's interview process.

Here's an overview of the online assessment:

  • Number of questions: 2 questions
  • Time allowed: 90 minutes 
  • Topics: typical algorithm/data structure questions (more details below)

With the overview in mind, let's now dig deeper into the questions on the assessment.

2. Question types

The questions you'll face during the online assessment are similar to the types of questions you'll be asked during the technical interviews at Google.

That's good news, because it means that the effort you put into preparation will help for both the online assessment and the technical interviews.

Here's a high-level break-down of the types of coding questions that Google uses during their overall interview process:

  1. Graphs / Trees
  2. Arrays / Strings
  3. Dynamic programming
  4. Recursion
  5. Geometry / Maths 

The specific questions and level of difficulty within each category varies.  

So, to get a clearer understanding of the questions you'll encounter, we'd recommend studying Leetcode's list of Google online assessment questions.

As of the writing of this article, it contains over 20 sample questions for the US/EU regions, as well as sample questions specific to other areas.

If you're already familiar with Leetcode, then you might also find it helpful to know that the questions on Google's online assessment tend to fit into Leetcode's easy-to-medium difficulty ratings.

Now let's jump into preparation.

3. Preparation tips 

3.1 Start preparing early

You'll probably have a little time between hearing from Google, and when you have to complete the online assessment, but it likely won't be very much time. 

As a result, it can be a big advantage to start preparing for the online assessment before Google even contacts you.

This could be a huge opportunity for your career, so it's worth the extra up-front time investment to make sure you're ready for the online assessment, even if you don't end up hearing back from Google. Worst case scenario, you'll be better prepared for future technical tests or interviews.  

3.2 Practice 20+ Leetcode questions

So how should you practice? Our #1 recommendation is to practice with the questions on Leetcode's Google online assessment list

We recommend practicing with at least 20 Leetcode questions, because that is roughly the number of questions included in the above Leetcode list for the US/EU regions (the number of questions available for other regions vary).

But of course, you'll be even better prepared if you take the time to solve more problems. To help you do that, there are a couple of other places you can go to get quality sample questions. 

First, you can study additional Leetcode problems (that are not included in the above list). If you decide to do this, you should focus on easy-to-medium difficulty questions, and if you have a premium Leetcode account, you'll be able to access a list of coding questions that are specific to Google interviews.

Another good place to find practice questions, is from past coding competitions organized by Google. We recommend looking at the Code Jam competition in particular.

Finally, if you want even more practice questions, you can buy the Cracking the Coding Interview book.

3.3 Do timed "mock tests"

Because it's timed, Google's online assessment is testing you on your speed and time management, in addition to your technical coding skills.

As a result, it's a really good idea to do a few "mock tests" where you set a 90 minute timer, and force yourself to solve two sample questions before the buzzer goes off.

Doing this will more closely replicate the conditions of the assessment, and can help you be more confident and better prepared during the real test.

We'd suggest that you start by practicing questions (untimed) until you can consistently solve new problems with a high success rate. Once you get the hang of it, then you can start timing yourself with sets of two questions.

3.4 Take notes on solutions

As you practice, it's good to cover as many questions as possible. However, after you've tried one question, don't move on too quickly.

Make sure you take the time to study the solution for each question you solve, and keep a notebook of key ideas and important concepts to remember. This can be a quick process when you ace a problem, and you'd only need to record any potential improvements to your approach.

However, if you have no clue how to approach a problem, then take a few minutes to study the solution carefully. Make sure you understand the solution, then make a note of the approach or concept you were missing.

3.5 Use your local IDE

The final tip is to use your local IDE for practice questions and during the actual test. Dan D. Kim, who recently passed the Google online assessment, used his local IDE in order to write and test code more quickly.

Once you've written the code locally, you can copy and paste it into the online assessment in order to submit your work.

As you can probably imagine, using the IDE you're used to can also help you to feel more comfortable when you're under the pressure of the real test.

Next, let's briefly cover what happens after the online assessment.

4. After the online assessment

Once you make it past the online assessment, then you'll need to quickly get ready for the technical phone screen. Here are the steps in the interview process that you'll face after the online assessment:

  1. Technical phone screen: one to two interviews
  2. Onsite interviews: four to six interviews

To make the most of this opportunity, and to optimize your chances of getting an offer, we'd recommend you next read our Google software engineer interview guide.