Using Coding Interviews as an Organizational and Evaluative Framework for a Graduate Course in Programming

Gregory Samsa


Objective: In a Statistical Analysis System (SAS) coding interview, job applicants are typically presented with data management and data analysis problems and asked to solve them using the programming language of SAS. Interviewers not only assess technical competence, but also algorithm design and more generally how applicants approach computer programming. In the language of constructivism, the problems are designed to assess the depth and soundness of the applicant’s mental model of SAS programming. We asked whether a SAS course, embedded within a Master of Biostatistics program, could reasonably be structured using a coding interview for the final examination as its organizing framework. Methods: This is a case study, where we describe how our content delivery was structured in order to prepare students for their coding interviews. It additionally relies on the metaphor of learning a second language through immersion. Results: Using a constructivist approach enhanced with active learning exercises, a course could in fact be designed around a coding interview. Course content can be mapped to the metaphor of foreign language immersion. Student response has been positive, and the formative evaluation has been encouraging to date. Conclusions: Coding interviews are a novel and potentially promising way to design a course in SAS programming.

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Journal of Curriculum and Teaching ISSN 1927-2677 (Print) ISSN 1927-2685 (Online)  Email:

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