Top 15 SQL Interview Questions with Answers (2024) – Most Asked

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In the world of tech interviews, SQL knowledge is a crucial asset for aspiring data professionals. Whether you’re a seasoned SQL developer or a job seeker brushing up on your skills, mastering common SQL interview questions is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top 15 SQL interview questions, providing detailed answers and insights to help you excel in your next SQL interview.

Let’s start one by one top 15 SQL interview questions with answers:

1. What is SQL, and how is it used?

Answer: SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a domain-specific programming language used for managing and manipulating relational databases. It facilitates the creation, retrieval, updating, and deletion of data in databases. SQL is vital for tasks such as data analysis, reporting, and maintaining the integrity of databases.

2. Explain the difference between INNER JOIN and LEFT JOIN.

Answer: INNER JOIN retrieves records that have matching values in both tables, excluding non-matching records. On the other hand, LEFT JOIN retrieves all records from the left table and matches records from the right table. If there’s no match, NULL values are returned for columns from the right table.

3. What is normalization, and why is it important?

Answer: Normalization is the process of organizing data in a database to reduce redundancy and improve data integrity. It involves breaking down large tables into smaller, related tables and establishing relationships between them. Normalization reduces data anomalies, improves query performance, and ensures consistency in the database.

4. Explain the concept of ACID properties in the context of databases.

Answer: ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability, which are properties that ensure the reliability of database transactions. Atomicity ensures that transactions are treated as a single, indivisible unit; Consistency maintains data integrity; Isolation ensures transactions are executed independently, and Durability guarantees that committed transactions are permanent.

5. How do you optimize a SQL query for better performance?

Answer: Optimization involves various techniques, including indexing to speed up data retrieval, using the appropriate JOIN types, avoiding SELECT * to retrieve only necessary columns, and rewriting complex queries. Additionally, analyzing query execution plans and optimizing database design contribute to overall performance improvements.

6. Explain the difference between UNION and UNION ALL.

Answer: UNION combines the result sets of two SELECT statements, removing duplicate rows. Conversely, UNION ALL includes all rows, even if they are duplicates. UNION ALL is generally faster than UNION since it doesn’t involve the additional step of removing duplicates.

7. What is a subquery, and how is it different from a JOIN?

Answer: A subquery is a query nested within another query, used to retrieve data that will be used in the main query’s WHERE clause. Unlike JOINs, which combine columns from different tables, subqueries work within a single query, providing a more granular level of control over the data being retrieved.

8. Explain the purpose of the GROUP BY clause.

Answer: The GROUP BY clause is used to group rows with the same values in specified columns into summary rows. It is often used with aggregate functions like COUNT, SUM, AVG, etc., to perform calculations on each group. GROUP BY is essential for generating meaningful reports and summaries from large datasets.

9. What are stored procedures, and why are they beneficial?

Answer: Stored procedures are precompiled SQL code stored in the database, providing a reusable and modular approach to executing SQL statements. They enhance security, maintainability, and performance by reducing the need to send multiple SQL statements to the database server. Stored procedures also promote code reusability and encapsulation.

10. Explain the concept of a foreign key.

Answer: A foreign key is a column or a set of columns in a table that refers to the primary key of another table. It establishes a link between the two tables, ensuring referential integrity. Foreign keys are crucial for maintaining relationships between tables and preventing orphaned records.

11. What is the difference between SQL and MySQL?

Answer: A standardized programming language called SQL (Structured Query Language) is used to manage and work with relational databases. It offers a collection of instructions for carrying out operations on data in a database, including inserting, removing, updating, and querying data.

SQL is the query language used by MySQL, a particular relational database management system (RDBMS). To put it another way, MySQL is a piece of software that creates and maintains databases and lets you use SQL commands to communicate with them.

Therefore, the primary distinction between the two is that while MySQL is one of the numerous database management systems that use SQL for database management and interaction, SQL itself is a language for database management.

12. What is an Index and its different types?

Answer: A database component known as an index in SQL offers a rapid and effective way to get records from a table depending on the values in one or more columns. Similar to a book’s index, indexing enables the database management system (DBMS) to find the rows that fit a given condition rapidly, improving query performance.

CREATE INDEX index_name   /* To Create Index */
ON table_name (col_1, col_2); /* Write the column name*/
DROP INDEX index_name;   /* Drop The Index */

In SQL, there are various kinds of indexes, such as:

  • Single-Column Index: This kind of index is made on a single table column and maximizes searches for the values in that particular column.
  • Unique Index: This type of index is comparable to a single-column index, but it prevents duplicate entries by enforcing the uniqueness of values in the indexed column.
  • Composite Index: A composite index indexes a table by indexing more than one column. When queries contain conditions on more than one column, it is helpful.
  • Clustered Index: A clustered index physically sorts the table’s rows according to the index columns. Each table may only have one clustered index, and this has an immediate impact on the data storage order.
  • Non-clustered Index: The physical arrangement of the table’s rows is unaffected by this kind of index. Rather, it builds an independent structure to hold the index data that points to the rows of actual data.
  • Bitmap Index: Usually seen in data warehouses, a bitmap index bitmaply represents a series of columns, with each bit denoting a potential column value. This kind of index works well for columns with low cardiacity.
  • Function-Based Index: The creation of this index is dependent on the outcome of applying a function to one or more columns. When queries employ expressions or modify column values, it is helpful.

13. What is a Cursor and how to use a Cursor?

Answer: A database item known as a cursor in SQL offers a way to navigate across the rows of a result set that a query has produced. You can process each row one at a time by using it as a pointer to a particular row inside the result set. When working with intricate queries or needing to execute operations on specific rows inside a result set, cursors are frequently utilized.

In SQL, you normally do the following actions to use a cursor:

Declare the Cursor: Announce the Cursor: By providing the SELECT statement that defines the result set you wish to deal with, you first declare a cursor. As a point of reference, you also give the cursor a name.

DECLARE cursor_name
CURSOR FOR SELECT column1, column2 
FROM your_table WHERE your_conditions;

Open the Cursor:

OPEN cursor_name;

Fetch Rows:

FETCH NEXT FROM cursor_name INTO variable1, variable2;

Process Rows:

    -- processing logic comes here

    FETCH NEXT FROM cursor_name INTO variable1, variable2, ...;

Close the Cursor:

CLOSE cursor_name;

Deallocate the Cursor:

DEALLOCATE cursor_name;

14. What is the difference between DROP and TRUNCATE statements?

Answer: Although they serve different functions and have different ramifications, the SQL DROP and TRUNCATE statements are both used to remove data or structures from a database. An irreversible deletion of a database object is accomplished with the DROP command. Conversely, TRUNCATE is used to swiftly eliminate every row from a table without affecting the structure of the table.

DROP Statement:

DROP TABLE your_table;
  • Goal: To completely delete database objects, use the DROP statement. Numerous objects, including tables, views, indexes, and even entire databases, might be affected by it.
  • Effect: When you use DROP, all related data, dependencies, and constraints are eliminated along with the given object’s permanent deletion. It’s a more harsh measure because the complete structure is removed in addition to the data.

TRUNCATE Statement:

TRUNCATE TABLE your_table;
  • Purpose: The TRUNCATE statement’s goal is to eliminate every row from a table while keeping the structure intact for later usage. It’s made especially for tables.
  • Effect: TRUNCATE clears out every row in the table, freeing up storage space and resetting any identity columns. It does not, however, eliminate the constraints, indexes, or table structure. It can remove all rows more quickly than DELETE, however, it can’t be used to views or tables that include foreign key relationships.

15. What are the differences between OLTP and OLAP?

Answer: In SQL, there are two major kinds of database systems: OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) and OLAP (Online Analytical Processing). These databases have different functions.

OLTP (Online Transaction Processing): 

  • Goal: With an emphasis on daily operations and standard business procedures, OLTP systems are made to handle and manage transaction-oriented duties.
  • Usage: Frequently employed in situations with a high volume of brief and expeditious transactions, including in retail sales, order processing, or banking transactions.
  • Database Structure: In OLTP systems, tables are usually designed for efficient transaction processing and data consistency, resulting in a normalized database structure.
  • Queries: OLTP queries are often straightforward and involve the real-time selection, insertion, updating, or deletion of modest amounts of data.

OLAP (Online Analytical Processing):

  • Purpose: The goal of OLAP systems is to facilitate sophisticated analysis and reporting by offering a multidimensional picture of the data to aid in decision-making.
  • Use: Applicable in situations where users must produce reports, conduct in-depth analyses, and draw conclusions from historical data. frequently employed in applications for business intelligence.
  • Database Structure: To optimize for query efficiency, OLAP databases frequently adopt a denormalized or star schema structure. They might emphasize dimensions and include aggregated data.
  • OLAP queries: These are sometimes intricate, including calculations, groupings, and aggregations across enormous historical data sets.

The Major Differences are:

Workload: A large number of quick, straightforward transactions are handled by OLTP. Complex queries and analytical operations, which frequently include aggregations and data summaries, are handled by OLAP.

Data Structure: To ensure data consistency and for effective transaction processing, OLTP databases are often normalized. A denormalized or star schema structure can be used by OLAP databases to enhance multidimensional analysis and query performance.

Types of Queries: OLTP queries are straightforward and comprise the fundamental CRUD functions (Create, Read, Update, Delete). With aggregations, slicing, dicing, and other analytical procedures, OLAP queries are intricate.

Response Time: For individual transactions, OLTP systems give priority to fast response times. The primary goal of OLAP systems is to provide quick answers to intricate analytical queries.


Mastering SQL interview questions requires a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical application. By understanding these top 15 questions and their detailed answers, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle SQL interviews with confidence. Remember to practice these concepts hands-on, as real-world application is key to solidifying your SQL expertise. Good luck on your SQL interview journey!

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Mayank is expert in Quality Assurance and automation. He is responsible for creation and implementation of quality coordination strategy, as well as proposing solutions to classified quality related issues.

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