2023's Most Common Data Modeling Interview Questions - IQCode's Expert Guide

Introduction to Data Modeling

Data Modeling is a critical process that involves creating data models for storing data in a database. These models represent the relationships and rules that exist between various data objects. The primary aim of data modeling is to efficiently organize, maintain, retrieve, and visualize data while enforcing business rules, policies, and compliance. This article will cover some of the most commonly asked interview questions on data modeling for both freshers and experienced professionals.


// Data modeling interview questions for freshers // Question 1: What is data modeling?

const dataModeling = () => { console.log("Data modeling is a process that involves creating data models for storing data in a database, which represents the relationships and rules that exist between various data objects."); }


Benefits of Data Modeling

Data modeling has several benefits, including:

- Improved data quality and accuracy - Increased consistency and standardization of data - Improved data security and privacy - Better collaboration and communication across teams - Reduced development time and cost - Improved decision-making through better understanding of relationships and dependencies in data - Increased flexibility to adapt to changing business requirements.

What is a Data Model and What are Its Types?

A data model is a conceptual representation of data structures, relationships, and properties of real-world objects or events. It describes how data is organized, stored, and manipulated within a system. There are mainly three types of data models:

1. Conceptual Data Model: This type of data model provides a high-level overview of the entire data system and helps in identifying the entities, relationships, and constraints of the system.

2. Logical Data Model: It is a detailed representation of a data system that describes the data in terms of entities, attributes, keys, and relationships. It helps in determining the data flow and identifying the entities' relationships.

3. Physical Data Model: It represents the actual implementation of a data system and describes how data is stored in a database. It includes details such as table structure, column names, data types, and constraints.

Having a clear understanding of the different types of data models is essential to ensure that data is efficiently managed, processed, and stored.

What is the Meaning of "Dimension" in Data?

In the context of data, a dimension refers to a structure that allows you to organize, filter, and analyze information. It describes the various characteristics or attributes available in a dataset, such as time, location, category, etc. Dimensions play a crucial role in data analysis and are often used in visualizations to reveal insights and patterns. In contrast, measures are numerical values associated with dimensions that can be aggregated or analyzed to gain further insights into the data.

Understanding Granularity

Granularity refers to the level of detail or specificity in data or actions. It determines the extent to which data is broken down into smaller elements and how precise those elements are. A higher level of granularity means the data is more detailed and specific, while a lower level of granularity means the data is more general and less specific.

In software development, granularity can refer to the level of detail in the requirements, design, or implementation. For example, a highly granular requirement might specify that a field on a webpage should only allow alphanumeric characters, while a less granular requirement might only specify that the field should accept user input.

Understanding the appropriate level of granularity is important for effective decision-making, data analysis, and communication between team members. It can also impact performance and scalability in software development.

What is Data Sparsity?

Data sparsity refers to a situation where a large proportion of data values in a dataset are missing or are equal to zero. This can occur in various situations such as when data collection is incomplete or when certain variables have low occurrence rates. Data sparsity can make it difficult to analyze and draw conclusions from a dataset, and can require special techniques to handle.

What is a Database Management System?

A Database Management System (DBMS) is software that allows users to create, access, and modify data in a database. It provides an interface between the database and the user or application by managing the storage and retrieval of data while also ensuring the security and integrity of the data. A DBMS can be used to manage all types of data, including text, images, sound, and video.

What is a Data Mart?

A Data Mart is a subset of an organization's data that is designed to serve a specific business unit or purpose. It is usually focused on a single subject area, such as sales, finance, or marketing, and stores only the relevant data for that area. This makes it easier for users to access and analyze the information they need to make informed decisions. Data Mart can be built using different methodologies such as Inmon or Kimball.

Understanding the Importance of Metadata

Metadata plays a crucial role in organizing and describing data, making it easier to find and manage. It provides information about the context, content, and structure of a dataset, which allows users to understand the data and use it effectively. Without metadata, it can be difficult to identify the purpose and contents of a data set, which can lead to confusion and errors in analysis. In short, metadata enhances the usability and value of data by providing important information about it.

Relational Databases: Definition and Explanation

In the field of computer science, a relational database is a type of database that stores and manages data using a tabular format. In other words, it organizes data into tables, where each table represents a specific type of data. The tables are then related to each other using key fields, which helps to establish connections and dependencies between different pieces of data.

Relational databases are widely used across many different industries and applications, from banking and finance to healthcare and e-commerce. Some common examples of relational databases include Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server.

One of the key benefits of using a relational database is that it allows for efficient and flexible querying of data, which is essential for many applications and workflows. Additionally, with a relational database, data can be updated, added, or deleted quickly and easily, as needed.

Overall, relational databases are an important tool for organizing and managing large amounts of complex data, and are critical to many modern applications and systems.

CARDINALITY: An Explanation

Cardinality is a term used in database management systems to describe the relationship between tables. It refers to the number of unique values that exist in a particular column of a table. Cardinality can be either high or low, and it's an essential factor in determining how to optimize the database design for queries and data retrieval. In simpler terms, it determines how many unique values an attribute can have and how they relate to other attributes in other tables.

Normalization in Databases

Normalization is the process of organizing data in a database so that it is structured and efficient to retrieve. This involves breaking down a database table into smaller, more specific tables, and establishing relationships between those tables. The goal of normalization is to reduce data redundancy and improve data integrity. There are several levels of normalization, each with its own set of rules and guidelines. The most commonly used levels are first normal form (1NF), second normal form (2NF), and third normal form (3NF).


Denormalization is the process of intentionally adding redundant data to a database table in order to improve database performance. It involves adding duplicate data to one or more tables in order to optimize frequently executed queries and reports. This can help reduce the number of joins required and improve response time. However, denormalization can also increase the risk of data inconsistencies and anomalies if not done properly. It should only be applied after careful analysis and consideration of the benefits and drawbacks.

Understanding NoSQL Databases

NoSQL databases are database systems that do not use the traditional tabular relations used in relational databases. Instead, NoSQL databases use flexible data models that are better suited to handling large quantities of unstructured or semi-structured data. These databases are designed to handle big data and can scale easily as data volumes increase. NoSQL databases are commonly used for web applications, content management systems, and big data processing applications. Some of the widely used NoSQL databases include MongoDB, Cassandra, and Redis.

Data Modelling Interview Questions for Experienced

18. Can you explain the differences between OLTP and OLAP?

OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) 

is a type of database that is optimized for handling transaction-oriented tasks. It is designed to handle day-to-day transactions, such as inserting, updating, and deleting records in real time. OLTP databases usually have a normalized data structure.

On the other hand,

OLAP (Online Analytical Processing)

databases are optimized for reporting and analysis. OLAP databases are designed for data warehousing, and support decision-making applications. Data in OLAP databases is typically arranged in a dimensional model, allowing for complex queries and data analysis.

To summarize, the main differences between OLTP and OLAP are the optimization for transaction processing (OLTP) versus reporting and analysis (OLAP), and the normalized data structure in OLTP versus the dimensional data structure in OLAP.

Differences Between SQL and NoSQL Databases

SQL and NoSQL are two types of database management systems that differ primarily in their data storage and retrieval methods.

SQL databases use structured data and a defined schema to store data in tables with rows and columns. They follow a fixed schema that defines the type of data that can be stored in each column, and any changes to the schema require modifications to all tables affected by the change. SQL databases are best suited for applications that require a high degree of data integrity, such as financial systems or banking.

On the other hand, NoSQL databases use unstructured or semi-structured data and do not have a fixed schema. They allow for more flexible data modeling and can easily scale horizontally by adding additional servers to distribute the data load. NoSQL databases are ideal for applications that require high scalability and real-time data analytics, such as social media platforms or IoT devices.

In summary, SQL databases offer a structured and rigid approach to data management, while NoSQL databases provide flexibility and scalability to handle large amounts of unstructured data. The choice between the two ultimately depends on the specific requirements of your application.

Consequences of Inserting Two Null Values into a Column with Unique Constraint

If a column has a unique constraint on it and we try to insert two nulls into that column, the insertion will succeed because null values are not considered equal to each other. However, the resulting table will have two rows with null values in that column, which may violate the intended uniqueness constraint. It is important to ensure that null values are properly handled when defining unique constraints on columns.

Phases in Data Modelling Development Cycle

In data modelling development cycle, there are typically three phases:

1. Conceptual Phase: In this phase, the high-level view of the data model is created. It focuses on defining the entities, their attributes, and relationships between them. The outcome of this phase is an entity-relationship model (ER model).

2. Logical Phase: In this phase, the ER model is transformed into a logical data model. It includes defining the tables, columns, constraints and keys. The outcome of this phase is a logical data model (LDM).

3. Physical Phase: In this phase, the logical data model is implemented using a database management system. It involves creating tables, columns, indexes, and other physical structures. The outcome of this phase is a physical data model (PDM).

These phases are iterative, meaning that they can go through multiple rounds of refinement until the final data model is achieved. The data modelling development cycle plays a crucial role in developing a robust and efficient database system.

Understanding Star Schema

Star schema is a type of database schema used in data modeling. It consists of a central table (fact table) connected to multiple smaller tables (dimension tables) through foreign key relationships. The fact table contains numerical and quantitative data, while the dimension tables contain descriptive data related to the measurements in the fact table. This type of schema is commonly used in data warehouses and business intelligence applications, as it allows for faster data retrieval and analysis.

Explanation of Snowflake Schema Database Design

The snowflake schema is a type of database schema where a single table is separated into multiple related tables to reduce data redundancy and improve efficiency. It is called a snowflake schema because the diagram of the schema looks like a snowflake, with a central fact table connected to multiple dimension tables.

In a snowflake schema design, the fact table contains the primary data while the dimension tables contain additional information that can be used to filter or group the data. Each dimension table is connected to a fact table using foreign keys, allowing for easy aggregation and analysis of data.

The advantages of using a snowflake schema include better data organization, faster query processing times, and improved scalability. However, it can be more complex to implement and may require more storage space compared to other schema designs.

Overall, the snowflake schema design is an effective way to improve the performance and organization of a large database.

Critical Relationship Types in Data Modeling

When it comes to data modeling, there are several critical relationship types that should be considered:

1. One-to-One Relationship: Each record in the related table has a related record in the other table.

2. One-to-Many Relationship: Each record in the primary table may have many related records in the secondary table, but each of those related records can have only one corresponding record in the primary table.

3. Many-to-Many Relationship: Each record in the primary table can have many related records in the secondary table, and each record in the secondary table can have many related records in the primary table.

4. Self-Referencing Relationship: A record in a table may have a relationship with another record in the same table.

It's important to understand and accurately represent these relationship types in a data model to ensure that data is organized and can be efficiently retrieved and analyzed.

Types of Visual Data Modeling Techniques

There are several types of visual data modeling techniques, including:

  • Entity-relationship diagram (ERD)
  • UML class diagram
  • Data flow diagram (DFD)
  • Object-oriented diagram (OOD)
  • Flowchart

Each technique has its own unique set of symbols and rules for representing data relationships and structures visually. Choosing the appropriate technique depends on the type of data being modeled and the specific needs of the project.

Relating CAP Theorem to Database Design

The CAP theorem, also known as Brewer's theorem, states that a distributed system can only guarantee two out of the three following properties: consistency, availability, and partition tolerance. In terms of database design, this means that you cannot have a distributed database system that is simultaneously consistent, available, and partition-tolerant.

Consistency refers to the concept that all nodes in the system have the same data at the same time. Availability refers to the ability of clients to access the system and receive a response for a request, even if a few nodes are down. Partition tolerance refers to the ability of a system to continue functioning even if network partitions occur.

When designing a distributed database system, you must make trade-offs between consistency, availability, and partition tolerance based on your specific needs. For example, in an e-commerce website, it may be more important to ensure that availability is always maintained, even if it means sacrificing consistency. On the other hand, in a banking system, consistency is of utmost importance, which may mean sacrificing availability during a network partition.

Overall, an understanding of the CAP theorem is crucial when designing, developing, and deploying distributed database systems to ensure that they meet the required consistency, availability, and partition tolerance needs.

Recursive Relationships

Recursive relationships refer to a relationship that exists between elements in the same set. In other words, it is a relationship where an entity is related to itself. For instance, consider the scenario of an organization where the employees have a manager who is also an employee. In such a case, there is a recursive relationship between employees and managers as a manager is also an employee, and both entities are part of the same set. Recursive relationships are common in hierarchical organizations, family trees, network structures, and other related scenarios.

What is Dimensional Modelling?

Dimensional modelling is a data modelling technique used in data warehousing that enables the organisation and presentation of data in a way that is optimized for querying and analysis. It involves organising data into dimensions, which are categories that describe aspects of the data, and facts, which are numerical measures of the data. This allows for easy navigation and analysis of large amounts of data, making it a valuable tool for decision-making and business intelligence.

Types of Dimensions in Data Modelling

In data modelling, there are mainly three types of dimensions:

1. Conformed Dimension: This type of dimension is consistent across different data marts. It means that the same dimension is used in multiple data marts without any changes.

2. Junk Dimension: Junk dimension is a group of random transactional codes that are not considered as separate dimensions. It optimizes the data warehouse by reducing the number of dimensions.

3. Role Playing Dimension: A single dimension used multiple times in a fact table with different meanings is known as a role-playing dimension. For example, the date dimension can be used multiple times in a fact table for order date, shipping date, and delivery date.

How to Perform Reverse Engineering in Data Modeling?

Reverse engineering in data modeling involves the process of analyzing an existing system to identify its components and their relationships in order to create a visual representation of the system's data model. Here are the general steps to perform reverse engineering in data modeling:

  1. Identify the system you want to reverse engineer and gather all the available documentation and specifications.
  2. Analyze the existing system to understand its functions, processes and the data that is being used by the system.
  3. Create an initial conceptual data model that captures all the important entities, attributes, and relationships in the system.
  4. Verify the model by checking it against the system's documentation and by consulting with the stakeholders to ensure that the model accurately reflects the system's data.
  5. Refine and optimize the model by removing any redundant or unnecessary entities or relationships, and by normalizing the data model to ensure that it conforms to the standard data modeling principles.
  6. Document the final data model, including all the entities, attributes, relationships, and any constraints or business rules that apply to the data.

By following these steps, you can perform reverse engineering in data modeling and create a robust and accurate data model that reflects the system's data and business requirements.

Importance of the Third Normal Form

The third normal form is an important concept in database normalization that helps reduce duplication of data and improves data consistency. By ensuring that data is stored in separate tables and each table has only one primary key, the third normal form eliminates redundant data, thereby reducing the chances of data inconsistencies. This results in more efficient database operations and easier maintenance of the database over time. In addition, databases that adhere to the third normal form are more scalable and adaptable to changes in the data structure. Therefore, it is important to strive for third normal form when designing and developing a database.

Common Mistakes in Data Modeling

Data modeling is a crucial process that involves creating a logical representation of the data in a business or organization. However, mistakes in data modeling can lead to issues in data accuracy, efficiency, and reliability. Some of the common mistakes encountered in data modeling include:

  • Ignoring business rules and requirements
  • Overcomplicating the model
  • Not validating the model with data stakeholders
  • Using ambiguous or inconsistent terminology
  • Failing to consider scalability and performance
  • Overlooking security and privacy concerns

To avoid these mistakes, it is essential to involve all relevant stakeholders in the data modeling process and ensure that the model aligns with business goals and requirements. Additionally, a thorough review and validation of the model should be conducted to address any issues with terminology, scalability, security, and privacy.

// Example of data modeling with Python and pandas
import pandas as pd

# create a DataFrame with sample data
data = {'name': ['John', 'Jane', 'Bob', 'Sara'],
        'age': [25, 30, 32, 28],
        'gender': ['M', 'F', 'M', 'F'],
        'salary': [50000, 60000, 70000, 55000]}

df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# view the data

# perform some basic data analysis
print("Average salary:", df['salary'].mean())
print("Gender distribution:", df['gender'].value_counts())

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