Educational Feature: ‘Game Programming Tests’

CS students and other aspiring game coders might not know what they’re in for the first time they come across a programmer applicant test. A new article on by Jake Simpson
January 31, 2008
Computer science students and other aspiring game coders might not know what they’re in for the first time they come across a programmer applicant test, the exam (or exams) given to judge an applicant’s technical knowledge. A new article on sister web site demystifies the test, explaining what it is, how it’s used, and what kind of questions interviewees can expect to find. In this excerpt, author Jake Simpson lays out the basics: “Technical tests need to be like filters. They need to help the hiring company figure out which applicants they should spend their time and money on bringing in house. Be aware though, that this process is negative filtering. Someone who does well on a technical test isn’t necessarily a good programmer and won’t necessarily fit with the group, but someone who does poorly definitely won’t be a good programmer. The idea is to find out whether that someone at least sounds technically competent before they set foot in the studio. At that point, the hiring company is making a few assumptions about the person and can safely move along to other things when the interviewee shows up. What is a Written Technical Test? The first thing is to understand the purpose of a written technical test. Its purpose is to 1. test domain knowledge 2. test general programming acumen and 3. give the interviewers an idea of the candidate’s experience. It’s not designed to reveal how applicants think, uncover their deep knowledge of STL edge case implementations, or see how they react to logic problems. What’s in this Mythical Written Test? Written tests usually contain a range of questions. They typically include: • algorithmic questions (“Write a function to do such-and-such.”) • language questions (“What’s the construction order of an inherited class?” – whatever that language is) • domain-specific questions (“What does a vertex/pixel shader do?” “What’s the equation for specular lighting?”) • and basic trig math (“What’s a dot product, and what is it used for?”).” To read the complete article, including more specific examples of the kinds of knowledge being tested, visit

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