There is a vast difference between understanding Java and clearing a Java interview. Here are some of the frequently asked questions that can help you with a typical interview.
Java is an Object Oriented language. In order to understand Java, one must understand OOAD in detail.
Encapsulation provides objects with the ability to hide their internal characteristics and behavior. Each object provides a number of methods, which can be accessed by other objects and change its internal data. In Java, there are three access modifiers: public, private and protected. Each modifier imposes different access rights to other classes, either in the same or in external packages. Some of the advantages of using encapsulation are listed below:
Polymorphism is the ability of programming languages to present the same interface for differing underlying data types. A polymorphic type is a type whose operations can also be applied to values of some other type.
Inheritance provides an object with the ability to acquire the fields and methods of another class, called base class. Inheritance provides re-usability of code and can be used to add additional features to an existing class, without modifying it.
Abstraction is the process of separating ideas from specific instances and thus, develop classes in terms of their own functionality, instead of their implementation details. Java supports the creation and existence of abstract classes that expose interfaces, without including the actual implementation of all methods. The abstraction technique aims to separate the implementation details of a class from its behavior.
Abstraction and encapsulation are complementary concepts. On the one hand, abstraction focuses on the behavior of an object. On the other hand, encapsulation focuses on the implementation of an object’s behavior. Encapsulation is usually achieved by hiding information about the internal state of an object and thus, can be seen as a strategy used in order to provide abstraction.
Few common questions about the Java language in general
A Java virtual machine (JVM) is a process virtual machine that can execute Java bytecode. Each Java source file is compiled into a bytecode file, which is executed by the JVM. Java was designed to allow application programs to be built that could be run on any platform, without having to be rewritten or recompiled by the programmer for each separate platform. A Java virtual machine makes this possible, because it is aware of the specific instruction lengths and other particularities of the underlying hardware platform.
The Java Runtime Environment (JRE) is basically the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) where your Java programs are being executed. It also includes browser plugins for applet execution. The Java Development Kit (JDK) is the full featured Software Development Kit for Java, including the JRE, the compilers and tools (like JavaDoc, and Java Debugger), in order for a user to develop, compile and execute Java applications.
The static keyword denotes that a member variable or method can be accessed, without requiring an instantiation of the class to which it belongs. A user cannot override static methods in Java, because method overriding is based upon dynamic binding at runtime and static methods are statically binded at compile time. A static method is not associated with any instance of a class so the concept is not applicable.
A static variable in Java belongs to its class and its value remains the same for all its instances. A static variable is initialized when the class is loaded by the JVM. If your code tries to access a non-static variable, without any instance, the compiler will complain, because those variables are not created yet and they are not associated with any instance.
The eight primitive data types supported by the Java programming language are:
Autoboxing is the automatic conversion made by the Java compiler between the primitive types and their corresponding object wrapper classes. For example, the compiler converts an int to an Integer, a double to a Double, and so on. If the conversion goes the other way, this operation is called unboxing.
Method overloading in Java occurs when two or more methods in the same class have the exact same name, but different parameters. On the other hand, method overriding is defined as the case when a child class redefines the same method as a parent class. Overridden methods must have the same name, argument list, and return type. The overriding method may not limit the access of the method it overrides.
A constructor gets invoked when a new object is created. Every class has a constructor. In case the programmer does not provide a constructor for a class, the Java compiler (Javac) creates a default constructor for that class. The constructor overloading is similar to method overloading in Java. Different constructors can be created for a single class. Each constructor must have its own unique parameter list. Finally, Java does support copy constructors like C++, but the difference lies in the fact that Java doesn’t create a default copy constructor if you don’t write your own.
No, Java does not support multiple inheritance. Each class is able to extend only on one class, but is able to implement more than one interfaces.
Java provides and supports the creation both of abstract classes and interfaces. Both implementations share some common characteristics, but they differ in the following features:
All methods in an interface are implicitly abstract. On the other hand, an abstract class may contain both abstract and non-abstract methods. A class may implement a number of Interfaces, but can extend only one abstract class. In order for a class to implement an interface, it must implement all its declared methods. However, a class may not implement all declared methods of an abstract class. Though, in this case, the sub-class must also be declared as abstract.
Abstract classes can implement interfaces without even providing the implementation of interface methods. Variables declared in a Java interface is by default final. An abstract class may contain non-final variables. Members of a Java interface are public by default. A member of an abstract class can either be private, protected or public. An interface is absolutely abstract and cannot be instantiated. An abstract class also cannot be instantiated, but can be invoked if it contains a main method.
Java 8 introduced a dramatic change here. With Java 8, we can have method implementations within interfaces. So one might have a question if we still have a difference between an abstract class and an interface? But we still have a fundamental difference. An abstract class is still a class and an interface is only an interface that only promises what the given class will do. An abstract class can have a state in form of instance variables that can be altered by the class methods. An interface does not. It is only an assurance of what an implementing class will do.
When an object is passed by value, this means that a copy of the object is passed. Thus, even if changes are made to that object, it doesn’t affect the original value. When an object is passed by reference, this means that the actual object is not passed, rather a reference of the object is passed. Thus, any changes made by the external method, are also reflected in all places.
Synchronization, concurrency and Multi-threading are important concepts in Java. Here are some common questions related to it.
A process is an execution of a program, while a Thread is a single execution sequence within a process. A process can contain multiple threads. A Thread is sometimes called a lightweight process.
There are three ways that can be used in order for a Thread to be created:
The Runnable interface is preferred, as it does not require an object to inherit the Thread class. In case your application design requires multiple inheritance, only interfaces can help you. Also, the thread pool is very efficient and can be implemented and used very easily.
During its execution, a thread can reside in one of the following states
In Java programming, each object has a lock. A thread can acquire the lock for an object by using the synchronized keyword. The synchronized keyword can be applied in a method level (coarse grained lock) or block level of code (fine grained lock).
The JVM uses locks in conjunction with monitors. A monitor is basically a guardian that watches over a sequence of synchronized code and ensuring that only one thread at a time executes a synchronized piece of code. Each monitor is associated with an object reference. The thread is not allowed to execute the code until it obtains the lock.
A condition that occurs when two processes are waiting for each other to complete, before proceeding. The result is that both processes wait endlessly.
Java Collections were perhaps the most utilized modules in Java. The collections framework is very robust and provides a wide range of features to cater to different requirements.
Java Collections Framework provides a well designed set of interfaces and classes that support operations on a collections of objects. The most basic interfaces that reside in the Java Collections Framework are:
The Collection interface specifies groups of objects known as elements. Each concrete implementation of a Collection can choose its own way of how to maintain and order its elements. Some collections allow duplicate keys, while some other collections don’t. The semantics and the implications of either cloning or serialization come into play when dealing with actual implementations. Thus, the concrete implementations of collections should decide how they can be cloned or serialized.
The Iterator interface provides a number of methods that are able to iterate over any Collection. Each Java Collection contains the iterator method that returns an Iterator instance. Iterators are capable of removing elements from the underlying collection during the iteration. The collections framework provides for Iterator as well as a ListIterator.
The Iterator's fail-safe property works with the clone of the underlying collection and thus, it is not affected by any modification in the collection. All the collection classes in java.util package are fail-fast, while the collection classes in java.util.concurrent are fail-safe. Fail-fast iterators throw a ConcurrentModificationException, while fail-safe iterator never throws such an exception.
A HashMap in Java stores key-value pairs. The HashMap requires a hash function and uses hashCode and equals methods, in order to put and retrieve elements to and from the collection respectively. When the put method is invoked, the HashMap calculates the hash value of the key and stores the pair in the appropriate index inside the collection. If the key exists, its value is updated with the new value. Some important characteristics of a HashMap are its capacity, its load factor and the threshold resizing.
In Java, a HashMap uses the hashCode and equals methods to determine the index of the key-value pair and to detect duplicates. More specifically, the hashCode method is used in order to determine where the specified key will be stored. Since different keys may produce the same hash value, the equals method is used, in order to determine whether the specified key actually exists in the collection or not. Therefore, the implementation of both methods is crucial to the accuracy and efficiency of the HashMap.
Both the HashMap and Hashtable classes implement the Map interface and thus, have very similar characteristics. However, they differ in the following features:
The Hashtable class is considered to be a legacy class and is not recommended.
The Array and ArrayList classes differ on the following features:
For a list of primitive data types, the collections use autoboxing to reduce the coding effort. However, this approach makes them slower when working on fixed size primitive data types.
Both the ArrayList and LinkedList classes implement the List interface, but they differ on the following features:
Java provides the Comparable interface, which contains only one method, called compareTo. This method compares two objects, in order to impose an order between them. Specifically, it returns a negative integer, zero, or a positive integer to indicate that the input object is less than, equal or greater than the existing object. Java provides the Comparator interface, which contains two methods, called compare and equals.
The first method compares its two input arguments and imposes an order between them. It returns a negative integer, zero, or a positive integer to indicate that the first argument is less than, equal to, or greater than the second. The second method requires an object as a parameter and aims to decide whether the input object is equal to the comparator. The method returns true, only if the specified object is also a comparator and it imposes the same ordering as the comparator.
The PriorityQueue is an unbounded queue, based on a priority heap and its elements are ordered in their natural order. At the time of its creation, we can provide a Comparator that is responsible for ordering the elements of the PriorityQueue.
A PriorityQueue doesn’t allow null values, those objects that doesn’t provide natural ordering, or those objects that don’t have any comparator associated with them. Finally, the Java PriorityQueue is not thread-safe and it requires O(log(n)) time for its enqueing and dequeing operations.
The Big-O notation simply describes how well an algorithm scales or performs in the worst case scenario as the number of elements in a data structure increases. The Big-O notation can also be used to describe other behavior such as memory consumption.
Since the collection classes are actually data structures, we usually use the Big-O notation to chose the best implementation to use, based on time, memory and performance. Big-O notation can give a good indication about performance for large amounts of data.
The major advantage of an ordered array is that the search times have time complexity of O(log n), compared to that of an unordered array, which is O (n). The disadvantage of an ordered array is that the insertion operation has a time complexity of O(n), because the elements with higher values must be moved to make room for the new element. Instead, the insertion operation for an unordered array takes constant time of O(1).
Enumeration is twice as fast as compared to an Iterator and uses very less memory. However, the Iterator is much safer compared to Enumeration, because other threads are not able to modify the collection object that is currently traversed by the iterator. Also, Iterators allow the caller to remove elements from the underlying collection, something which is not possible with Enumerations.
The HashSet is Implemented using a hash table and thus, its elements are not ordered. The add, remove, and contains methods of a HashSet have constant time complexity O(1). On the other hand, a TreeSet is implemented using a tree structure. The elements in a TreeSet are sorted, and thus, the add, remove, and contains methods have time complexity of O(logn).
Garbage collection was an important concept introduced with Java. That took off a major source of errors in software development.
The purpose of garbage collection is to identify and discard those objects that are no longer needed by the application, in order for the resources to be reclaimed and reused. The Garbage Collector does not immediately free the memory held by an unreferenced object ? The object will be available for garbage collection in the next cycle of the garbage collector.
These methods can be used as a hint to the JVM, in order to start a garbage collection. However, this it is up to the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to start the garbage collection immediately or later in time.
In the implementation, there is no difference between them. System.gc() is effectively equivalent to Runtime.gc(). In fact, System.gc() internally calls Runtime.gc(). The only difference is System.gc() is a class method where as Runtime.gc() is an instance method.
So, System.gc() is more convenient.
The finalize method is called by the garbage collector, just before releasing the object's memory. It is normally advised to release resources held by the object inside the finalize method.
The JVM has a heap that is the runtime data area from which memory for all class instances and arrays is allocated. It is created at the JVM start-up. Heap memory for objects is reclaimed by an automatic memory management system which is known as a garbage collector.
Heap memory consists of live and dead objects. Live objects are accessible by the application and will not be a subject of garbage collection. Dead objects are those which will never be accessible by the application, but have not been collected by the garbage collector yet. Such objects occupy the heap memory space until they are eventually collected by the garbage collector.
The throughput garbage collector uses a parallel version of the young generation collector and is meant to be used with applications that have medium to large data sets. On the other hand, the serial collector is usually adequate for most small applications (those requiring heaps of up to approximately 100MB on modern processors).
PermGen is an abbreviation for Permanent Generation and it’s a special heap space which is separate from the main Java heap where JVM keeps track of metadata of the classes which have been loaded. In Java 8, PermGen has been renamed to Metaspace.
Garbage Collection does occur in PermGen space and if PermGen space is full or crosses a threshold, it can trigger a full garbage collection. If you look carefully at the output of the garbage collector, you will find that PermGen space is also garbage collected. This is the reason why correct sizing of PermGen space is important to avoid frequent full garbage collections.
Exception Handling is a formalized technique for handling errors in the Java code.
Java has two types of exceptions: checked exceptions and unchecked exceptions. Unchecked exceptions do not need to be declared in a method or a constructor’s throws clause, if they can be thrown by the execution of the method or the constructor, and propagate outside the method or constructor boundary. On the other hand, checked exceptions must be declared in a method or a constructor’s throws clause. See here for tips on Java exception handling.
Exception and Error classes are both subclasses of the Throwable class. The Exception class is used for exceptional conditions that a user’s program should catch. The Error class defines exceptions that are not excepted to be caught by the user program.
A finally block will always be executed, whether or not an exception is actually thrown. Even in the case where the catch statement is missing and an exception is thrown, the finally block will still be executed. Last thing to mention is that the finally block is used to release resources like I/O buffers, database connections, etc.