How To Study & Pass The SQL Test?
You have gained your computer science degree and may even have worked in a tech job already.
You are totally familiar with the SQL— Structured Query Language — programming language that allows you to send queries and commands to databases. You know how to access and manipulate those stores of information. Words like Java and Oracle do not stymie you and books on Python litter your bedside table.
But, now you are searching for your ideal job in the world of extracting information from the rows and columns stored in databases.
That should not be a problem with the never-ending growth in the world of tech and the wealth of information stored in databases worldwide.
And having proficiency in SQL, gives you a number of job choices.
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What Are SQL Tests?
The SQL Test uses live coding tasks to assess SQL skills. These typically involve extracting, manipulating, or combining data through writing CRUD tasks.
The SQL Test may be administered by different companies to candidates to make sure they choose the right employee.
Roles that use SQL typically help information flow and maintain the tech facilities that keep our world functioning. Tests are developed by senior employees in the field, i.e. programmers and developers, and tend to be company specific.
That means that if you are asked to take an SQL Assessment, the assessment will depend on your desired role:
- A prospective database programmer will be tested on the SQL programming language.
- An aspiring database administrator will be tested on the workings and maintenance of an SQL database.
- A developer will have his feet in both camps and can expect to be tested on both of the above areas.
The tests themselves are provided by two companies, Kenexa Prove It and Brainbench, which both offer roughly similar tests.
What Is the Format of the Assessment?
SQL assessments vary in terms of the number of questions and the amount of time allowed depending on the specific job you are being assessed for.
Candidates may be asked to do one or both tests. The length of time allowed for the test varies, but may have no time limit. The number of questions can range from 10-100. Don’t forget you are being assessed for a job where you will be employed in what is called a “Paid-to-know” position!
In general, two types of questions feature in these tests:
- Multiple-choice questions – These will test you on different aspects of SQL programming and database administration. The multiple choice questions will test how much you know about basic concepts and may also assess if you are good at analyzing queries.
- Programming questions – These will ask you to write complete queries and/or stored procedures based on the nature of the question i.e. write a query to retrieve all orders placed by customer John Smith. The difficulty level and time needed to answer will vary with the question you are given. You may, for example, have to write a query to return all the rows in a table. This will be easier and much quicker to do than a question telling you to write a query asking to order the information in a table with multiple rows.
Try your hand at the following two sample questions from the multiple-choice section.
The command to remove rows from a table ‘CUSTOMER’ is:
a. REMOVE FROM CUSTOMER …
b. DROP FROM CUSTOMER …
c. DELETE FROM CUSTOMER WHERE …
d. UPDATE FROM CUSTOMER …
The wildcard in a WHERE clause is useful when?
a. An exact match is necessary in a SELECT statement.
b. An exact match is not possible in a SELECT statement.
c. An exact match is necessary in a CREATE statement.
d. An exact match is not possible in a CREATE statement.
Now try your hand at this sample programming question.
- What is wrong with this SQL query? Correct it, so it executes properly.
SELECT Id, YEAR (BillingDate) AS BillingYear FROM InvoicesWHERE BillingYear >= 2010;
Write a SQL query to find the 10th highest employee salary from an Employee table.
Explain your answer. (Note: You may assume that there are at least 10 records in the Employee table).
You can also expect questions along the lines of:
- What is a DGMS?
- What are tables in SQL?
- What is an SQL clause?
- What are JOINS in SQL?
- What are DCL commands?
- What is data-driven testing?
Looking at the above questions, you may be lulled into a false sense of security. You have come across the terms and acronyms before. You did, after all, study the subject and wonder if there is really a need to go back on it again.
Well, there is. We often forget things we learn in our training programs. And we get away with that in a work situation because we have time to sit back and gather our thoughts.
However, this is a test situation. You will not have time to sit back and think. And if you so, under the pressure of doing an assessment, you may well become flurried and grasp at the first thought that comes to mind.
Don’t do that to yourself.
How Can I Prepare for the SQL Assessment Test?
When preparing for any pre-employment assessments, it is advisable to enlist the services of a job test preparation agency. They will give you the information you need about the assessments and provide you with test preparation materials.
For this, we recommend Job Test Prep, an agency with thirty years of experience in preparing job applicants for pre-employment testing.
They can be relied upon to give you accurate information about the assessments and sample test papers modelled on the real exams for you to practice on.
Using their services, you will get a test prep pack containing:
- Sample tests mirroring the real tests
- A scoring system where you can check your scores after every test you complete
- Detailed explanations for questions and answers.
- Useful study guides and all the information you need about the assessments.
Using their sample papers will allow you to work on similar papers to the ones you will get in the real assessments from the very beginning.
This will also allow you to waltz into the assessments knowing that no unpleasant surprises are lying in wait for you.
Gather the Information You Need
When preparing for any pre-employment assessment, you need to be both organized and focused.
Your first step when invited to an SQL assessment should be to identify what exactly the assessment involves.
As outlined above, the assessment will be both job and company centered. Clarify if you are doing multiple-choice questions, programming questions, or a combination of both. Clarify the number of questions you will have to answer. As stated above, it can be any amount from 10 to 100.
Clarify the time you will have to do the questions and get an idea of how much time you can give to each question. Some may take longer than others, so it is helpful to have a game plan ready before doing the assessment. It is estimated that good exam technique contributes significantly to the results you will achieve.
Your next step is to find out as much as you can about the prospective employer and their business. Discover what field they operate in, for example, Fintech. This may have a bearing on the types of questions you will be asked.
Your Preparation Routine
With that information, you are ready to put a preparation routine in place.
To ensure your preparation is efficient, try taking the following steps:
- Calculate how many days you have left to prepare in.
- Leave the day before the assessments free for final reviews and to get some rest before the test.
- Work to a timetable. The best study is done in short bursts of time. Plan on working in 50-minute sessions followed by 10-minute breaks.
Use your sample papers in every study session to ensure:
- You are working on relevant material at all times
- You can monitor your progress by checking your scores after each paper you do
- You are becoming familiar with the style of questioning
- You are learning to work within the time restrictions of the tests
Is the SQL Test Hard?
If you have already gained a qualification in computer science, you should not find the assessments terribly difficult. There can be very little that is new to you on the assessments. But if you haven’t worked with SQL prior to this, it can take several months and a lot of learning to get up to speed.
However, the SQL assessments we are talking about here are not your typical computer science tests. They are pre-employment tests used by your prospective employer to select the best employees out of a pool of candidates.
That means that this is not really about how good you are in the tech field. The jobs tend to be given to the best performers, so being successful is a question of how many are better than you.
Or, to put a more positive spin on that, how many you are better than.
And given the employment market and the number of people preparing for jobs in the tech industry, you can expect to be in competition with a great many of your peers.
The secret to outshining the competition and proving your worth to the employer is to prepare for the assessments.
Top SQL Jobs
Your options include working as:
- A database programmer
- A developer
- A database administrator
You are probably already familiar with the SQL Server. As a programmer, you have probably added or edited information on the database. In your role as a database programmer, you will use your knowledge of the programming language to write computer programs that can be used when analyzing data.
If “developer” is in your job title, you know how to increase the functionality of already existing databases. You will use software to organize and store information. It will be your job to make sure information is secure and make sure the database is performing to the optimum.
You will also have to ensure the database delivers what the user needs and supports them while they are using it.
And if your desired job is to work as is “database administrator,” you are ready to take on the responsibility of maintaining existing databases. You are prepared to manage access to the database and work as an interface between the database, the user, and the applications.
Approach the tests well-rested. Being alert will serve you better and allow you to be more accurate and creative.
Go into the assessment with the confidence that comes with knowing you have done the work and deserve to ace this! If you are preparing for an SQL assessment, click here for the resources that will help you ace it.
Written by Elizabeth O Mahony
With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry.
Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.