If you will be taking data structures soon, you might be wondering if it is a hard class. This post will show you how difficult it tends to be as a class and how you can make it easier.

Overall, data structures tends to be a relatively easy class. However, there is a lot to learn, it is a very important class and there are some tricky aspects to it.

There are actually a number of factors that will impact the difficulty of the class for you. However, there are a number of things that you can do to make it much easier.

Reasons why data structures can be a hard class

The class focuses on different ways of storing data so that it can be used efficiently in code. Most data structures classes will then get you to use them when designing algorithms that are meant to run a program as efficiently as possible. The algorithms can be a bit tricky at first since it can be easy to think that you have solved a program optimally when you actually have not.

Data structures also tend to be very new to most students and it can cause them to have a bit of a tougher learning curve at the start of the semester. However, you can prevent this by taking the time to work through some of the data structures material online.

Reasons why data structures can be an easy class

The data structures that get taught in the class do not tend to be very complicated or hard to grasp. Also, the algorithms that get used tend to be introductory algorithms that are also not that hard. This means that it should not take a huge effort for you to understand what is happening in the class especially if you make sure to keep up with what is happening right from the start of the semester.

It depends on the professor

The difficulty of the class will depend somewhat on the professor.

Some professors will cover the material quickly, ask tough questions on the exam, mark harshly and give you little idea of what will be on the exam.

While, other professors will not rush through the material, ask simpler questions and let you know what you can expect to see on the exam.

Before choosing the class, it would be recommended to see how other students have rated the professor that will be teaching it.

However, for future reference, data structures tend to be a key part of tech interviews. When you are applying to tech jobs, it will be important that you make sure to learn all of the most important aspects of data structures in case they ask you about it in the interview.

It depends on your own background

The difficulty of the class will depend somewhat on your own background as well. If you have taken a number of programming classes before, it is likely that you will not have a hard time in data structures. It would also help to have done well in a discrete math class as well.

How much you can expect to study

Generally, you should expect to spend around 10-15 hours per week on the class assuming its three credit hours. You might need to spend more or less time on the class than that, depending on other factors influencing how difficult the class is for you such as the professor, how demanding your college is and your own background.

Ways to make data structures easier

Below are some things you can do in order to make your time in the class much easier.

Plan the schedule for the semester early on

One important thing to do is to plan the entire semester out during the first week of classes when you get the exam and homework schedules for each class. By doing so you will be able to spot potentially difficult weeks, before they come, avoid missing due dates and know when you need to start focusing on a certain class.

Prepare for it ahead of time

Another thing you can do that will greatly improve your chances of success, in the class, would be to prepare for it ahead of time. I personally achieved a 3.8 GPA as a math major and I would say that learning the material before taking the class helped me the most. My recommended way of doing so would be to look at an online MOOC teaching data structures, here is one of them. It would also help to work through a data structures textbook.

Pick a well-reviewed professor

As mentioned above, the professor will have a big impact on the difficulty of the class. It would help to try to choose your professor for the class as early as possible and to look at what other students have said about them.

Prioritize the material given to you by the professor

If the professor gives you any material then make sure to prioritize understanding it especially if it is a study guide. This material tends to be very likely to appear on the exam.


I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.