Best Programming Language for Competitive Coding

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The Best Programming Language for Competitive Coding is C++. It is mainly due to the features/ libraries supported by C++ and its support as the only Standard Language for International contests like IOI.

If you follow our advice the best programming languages for Competitive Coding are in the following order:

  1. C++
  2. C
  3. Java, Kotlin
  4. Python and other programming languages

We will understand this from 3 aspects:

  • Coding contests
  • Library support
  • Execution speed

Coding Contests

Since 2021, IOI (International Olympiad in Informatics) supports only C++.
Java was removed from IOI in January 2021. It is a slap in face of Java. So, if you are in High School and is planning to compete in IOI, you should go for only C++.

  • IOI (for High School students): C++ only
  • ICPC (for University students): C, C++, Java, Kotlin, Python
  • Google Code Jam: Any programming language
  • Facebook Hacker Cup: Any programming language
  • Topcoder Open: C++, Java, Python, C#.NET, VB.NET
  • Indian Computing Olympiad: C++ only

ioi

Hence, based on this:

  • If you are a high school student, go for C++.
  • If you are an University student or others, go for C++ or Java.

Library support

C++ has the most extensive library support for tasks that are aligned with Competitive Coding contests.

C++ is followed by Java which has a equally good library support.

The library support of C++ is better compared to C. Moreover, C++ is an object oriented programming language so it is easier and cleaner to design algorithms in C++ compared to C.

Other languages like Go, Python and others have a decent library support as well.

So, in terms of Library support, the programming languages in terms of our preference are:

  1. C++
  2. Java, C, Python
  3. Other programming languages like Kotlin, GoLang

If we compare Java and C++ in terms of library support, two core library support (for use in Competitive Coding) that is in C++ but is missing in Java are:

  • Next permutation of a set (direct library call in C++)
  • Convenient quick sort utility in C++ (qsort). Java has a general sorting utility.

Execution speed

C and C++ are notably the fastest languages in terms of execution time. Other languages like Java are slower as it supports run-time features like garbage collection which is not supported in C and C++.

Similarly, languages like Python are slower than Java as well. Note that each language can perform better if specific compilers are used and the server is optimized for the specific language. This is usually taken care by the Contest servers.
Performance and library support wise Java and Kotlin are similar. So, anyone will do equally good though Java has much more community support at the moment.

Despite the difference in execution speed, it does not impact much as each Competitive Coding Contest have different time limit for different Programming Languages.

As a general rule, if the time limit for C++ is 2 seconds, then the time limit for Java will be 4 seconds.

In terms of execution speed, the programming languages in terms of our preference are:

  1. C++
  2. C
  3. Java, Kotlin
  4. Python and other programming languages

Conclusion

If you are starting early (from High School) and plan to compete in major International Competitive Coding Contests, then you should go for C++ only.

If you are participating in Competitive Coding Contests occassionally and the main focus is to get a job, then you can go for C++, C or Java.

If you are not planning to compete in a major Competitive Coding contest, you can go for Python as well if you are comfortable in it.

Moreover, the top Competitive Coding Programmers use C++ with a few using Java (like Uwi Tenpen) as well.

Choose your Programming Language wisely and learn the available library support and ways to write optimized code in it. Practice in it and excel at contests.