How To Not Answer Software Engineering Interview Questions

Dr Stuart Woolley
Geek Culture
Published in
6 min readSep 10, 2021

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Your working out is way more important than the actual answer.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Rule #1

If there’s one thing I remember¹ from ‘O’ level maths at secondary school, now very much back in the dim and distant past, it’s Mr Steed² (our maths teacher) stating that immortal rule “always show your working out”.

Indeed, latterly our Pure Mathematics ‘A’ level teacher (Mr Nelson³, if you’re interested) renowned for his happy yet sardonic attitude⁴ would frequently distribute more marks around the page than for the final answer.

(This is somewhat easy to do with calculus, though, as the working out could ‘take you around the blackboard a few times’ as he used to say and there was always a lot of room on the page around the ‘working out’.)

The upshot being should you arrive at the final answer without sufficient and detailed working out showing more or less how you got there, then you weren’t going to get all of the marks.

Unsurprisingly, as you may have guessed from the title of this article, this also has a number of important ramifications in the field of software engineering. In point of fact, it’s also quite relevant to writing as I’m now going to lay out the reasoning behind my initial premise and not just state the answer and expect…

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Dr Stuart Woolley
Geek Culture

Worries about the future. Way too involved with software. Likes coffee, maths, and . Would prefer to be in academia. SpaceX, X, and Overwatch fan.