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SQL Interview Questions

What does UNION do? What is the difference between UNION and UNION ALL?

UNION merges the contents of two structurally-compatible tables into a single combined table. The difference between UNION and UNION ALL is that UNION will omit duplicate records whereas UNION ALL will include duplicate records.

It is important to note that the performance of UNION ALL will typically be better than UNION, since UNION requires the server to do the additional work of removing any duplicates. So, in cases where is certain that there will not be any duplicates, or where having duplicates is not a problem, use of UNION ALL would be recommended for performance reasons.

List and explain the different types of JOIN clauses supported in ANSI-standard SQL.

ANSI-standard SQL specifies five types of JOIN clauses as follows:

  • INNER JOIN (a.k.a. “simple join”): Returns all rows for which there is at least one match in BOTH tables. This is the default type of join if no specific JOIN type is specified.
  • LEFT JOIN (or LEFT OUTER JOIN): Returns all rows from the left table, and the matched rows from the right table; i.e., the results will contain all records from the left table, even if the JOIN condition doesn’t find any matching records in the right table. This means that if the ON clause doesn’t match any records in the right table, the JOIN will still return a row in the result for that record in the left table, but with NULL in each column from the right table.
  • RIGHT JOIN (or RIGHT OUTER JOIN): Returns all rows from the right table, and the matched rows from the left table. This is the exact opposite of a LEFT JOIN; i.e., the results will contain all records from the right table, even if the JOIN condition doesn’t find any matching records in the left table. This means that if the ON clause doesn’t match any records in the left table, the JOIN will still return a row in the result for that record in the right table, but with NULL in each column from the left table.
  • FULL JOIN (or FULL OUTER JOIN): Returns all rows for which there is a match in EITHER of the tables. Conceptually, a FULL JOIN combines the effect of applying both a LEFT JOIN and a RIGHT JOIN; i.e., its result set is equivalent to performing a UNION of the results of left and right outer queries.
  • CROSS JOIN: Returns all records where each row from the first table is combined with each row from the second table (i.e., returns the Cartesian product of the sets of rows from the joined tables). Note that a CROSS JOIN can either be specified using the CROSS JOIN syntax (“explicit join notation”) or (b) listing the tables in the FROM clause separated by commas without using a WHERE clause to supply join criteria (“implicit join notation”).

What is an execution plan? When would you use it? How would you view the execution plan?

An execution plan is basically a road map that graphically or textually shows the data retrieval methods chosen by the SQL server’s query optimizer for a stored procedure or ad hoc query. Execution plans are very useful for helping a developer understand and analyze the performance characteristics of a query or stored procedure, since the plan is used to execute the query or stored procedure.

In many SQL systems, a textual execution plan can be obtained using a keyword such as EXPLAIN, and visual representations can often be obtained as well. In Microsoft SQL Server, the Query Analyzer has an option called “Show Execution Plan” (located on the Query drop down menu). If this option is turned on, it will display query execution plans in a separate window when a query is run.

List and explain each of the ACID properties that collectively guarantee that database transactions are processed reliably.

ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) is a set of properties that guarantee that database transactions are processed reliably. They are defined as follows:

  • Atomicity. Atomicity requires that each transaction be “all or nothing”: if one part of the transaction fails, the entire transaction fails, and the database state is left unchanged. An atomic system must guarantee atomicity in each and every situation, including power failures, errors, and crashes.
  • Consistency. The consistency property ensures that any transaction will bring the database from one valid state to another. Any data written to the database must be valid according to all defined rules, including constraints, cascades, triggers, and any combination thereof.
  • Isolation. The isolation property ensures that the concurrent execution of transactions results in a system state that would be obtained if transactions were executed serially, i.e., one after the other. Providing isolation is the main goal of concurrency control. Depending on concurrency control method (i.e. if it uses strict - as opposed to relaxed - serializability), the effects of an incomplete transaction might not even be visible to another transaction.
  • Durability. Durability means that once a transaction has been committed, it will remain so, even in the event of power loss, crashes, or errors. In a relational database, for instance, once a group of SQL statements execute, the results need to be stored permanently (even if the database crashes immediately thereafter). To defend against power loss, transactions (or their effects) must be recorded in a non-volatile memory.

What are the NVL and the NVL2 functions in SQL? How do they differ?

Both the NVL(exp1, exp2) and NVL2(exp1, exp2, exp3) functions check the value exp1 to see if it is null.

With the NVL(exp1, exp2) function, if exp1 is not null, then the value of exp1 is returned; otherwise, the value of exp2 is returned, but case to the same data type as that of exp1.

With the NVL2(exp1, exp2, exp3) function, if exp1 is not null, then exp2 is returned; otherwise, the value of exp3 is returned.

What is the difference between the WHERE and HAVING clauses?

When GROUP BY is not used, the WHERE and HAVING clauses are essentially equivalent.

However, when GROUP BY is used:

  • The WHERE clause is used to filter records from a result. The filtering occurs before any groupings are made.
  • The HAVING clause is used to filter values from a group (i.e., to check conditions after aggregation into groups has been performed).

What is the difference between single-row functions and multiple-row functions?

Single-row functions work with single row at a time. Multiple-row functions work with data of multiple rows at a time.

What is the group by clause used for?

The group by clause combines all those records that have identical values in a particular field or any group of fields.

What is the difference between char and varchar2?

When stored in a database, varchar2 uses only the allocated space. E.g. if you have a varchar2(1999) and put 50 bytes in the table, it will use 52 bytes.

But when stored in a database, char always uses the maximum length and is blank-padded. E.g. if you have char(1999) and put 50 bytes in the table, it will consume 2000 bytes.

What is the difference between IN and EXISTS?


  • Works on List result set
  • Doesn’t work on subqueries resulting in Virtual tables with multiple columns
  • Compares every value in the result list
  • Performance is comparatively SLOW for larger resultset of subquery


  • Works on Virtual tables
  • Is used with co-related queries
  • Exits comparison when match is found
  • Performance is comparatively FAST for larger resultset of subquery

How can you use a CTE to return the fifth highest (or Nth highest) salary from a table?

Declare @N int
set @N = 5;
    SELECT Name, Salary, EmpID, RN = ROW_NUMBER() 
    FROM Employee
SELECT Name, Salary, EmpID

When is the UPDATE_STATISTICS command used?

This command is used, ones the processing of large data is done. When we delete a large number of files, alteration or reproduction takes place in the tables, to be concerned of these changes we need to restructure the indexes This is done UPDATE_STATISTICS.

What is a View?

A view is a virtual table which consists of a subset of data contained in a table. Views are not virtually present, and it takes less space to store. View can have data of one or more tables combined, and it is depending on the relationship.

What is an Index?

An index is performance tuning method of allowing faster retrieval of records from the table. An index creates an entry for each value and it will be faster to retrieve data.

What are all the different types of indexes?

There are three types of indexes -.

Unique Index.

This indexing does not allow the field to have duplicate values if the column is unique indexed. Unique index can be applied automatically when primary key is defined.

Clustered Index.

This type of index reorders the physical order of the table and search based on the key values. Each table can have only one clustered index.

NonClustered Index.

NonClustered Index does not alter the physical order of the table and maintains logical order of data. Each table can have 999 nonclustered indexes.

What is a Cursor?

A database Cursor is a control which enables traversal over the rows or records in the table. This can be viewed as a pointer to one row in a set of rows. Cursor is very much useful for traversing such as retrieval, addition and removal of database records.

What is a relationship and what are they?

Database Relationship is defined as the connection between the tables in a database. There are various data basing relationships, and they are as follows:.

  • One to One Relationship.
  • One to Many Relationship.
  • Many to One Relationship.
  • Self-Referencing Relationship.

What is a query?

A DB query is a code written in order to get the information back from the database. Query can be designed in such a way that it matched with our expectation of the result set. Simply, a question to the Database.

What is subquery?

A subquery is a query within another query. The outer query is called as main query, and inner query is called subquery. SubQuery is always executed first, and the result of subquery is passed on to the main query.

What are the types of subquery?

There are two types of subquery – Correlated and Non-Correlated.

A correlated subquery cannot be considered as independent query, but it can refer the column in a table listed in the FROM the list of the main query.

A Non-Correlated sub query can be considered as independent query and the output of subquery are substituted in the main query.

What is a stored procedure?

Stored Procedure is a function consists of many SQL statement to access the database system. Several SQL statements are consolidated into a stored procedure and execute them whenever and wherever required.

What is a trigger?

A DB trigger is a code or programs that automatically execute with response to some event on a table or view in a database. Mainly, trigger helps to maintain the integrity of the database.

Example: When a new student is added to the student database, new records should be created in the related tables like Exam, Score and Attendance tables.

What is the difference between DELETE and TRUNCATE commands?

DELETE command is used to remove rows from the table, and WHERE clause can be used for conditional set of parameters. Commit and Rollback can be performed after delete statement.

TRUNCATE removes all rows from the table. Truncate operation cannot be rolled back.

What are local and global variables and their differences?

Local variables are the variables which can be used or exist inside the function. They are not known to the other functions and those variables cannot be referred or used. Variables can be created whenever that function is called.

Global variables are the variables which can be used or exist throughout the program. Same variable declared in global cannot be used in functions. Global variables cannot be created whenever that function is called.

What is a constraint?

Constraint can be used to specify the limit on the data type of table. Constraint can be specified while creating or altering the table statement. Sample of constraint are.

  • CHECK.

What is data Integrity?

Data Integrity defines the accuracy and consistency of data stored in a database. It can also define integrity constraints to enforce business rules on the data when it is entered into the application or database.

What is Auto Increment?

Auto increment keyword allows the user to create a unique number to be generated when a new record is inserted into the table. AUTO INCREMENT keyword can be used in Oracle and IDENTITY keyword can be used in SQL SERVER.

Mostly this keyword can be used whenever PRIMARY KEY is used.

What is the difference between Cluster and Non-Cluster Index?

Clustered index is used for easy retrieval of data from the database by altering the way that the records are stored. Database sorts out rows by the column which is set to be clustered index.

A NONCLUSTERED index does not alter the way it was stored but creates a complete separate object within the table. It point back to the original table rows after searching.

What is Datawarehouse?

Datawarehouse is a central repository of data from multiple sources of information. Those data are consolidated, transformed and made available for the mining and online processing. Warehouse data have a subset of data called Data Marts.

What is Self-Join?

Self-join is set to be query used to compare to itself. This is used to compare values in a column with other values in the same column in the same table. ALIAS as can be used for the same table comparison.

What is Cross-Join?

Cross join defines as Cartesian product where number of rows in the first table multiplied by number of rows in the second table. If suppose, WHERE clause is used in cross join then the query will work like an INNER JOIN.

What is user defined functions?

User defined functions are the functions written to use that logic whenever required. It is not necessary to write the same logic several times. Instead, function can be called or executed whenever needed.

What are all types of user defined functions?

Three types of user defined functions are.

  • Scalar Functions.
  • Inline Table valued functions.
  • Multi statement valued functions.

Scalar returns unit, variant defined the return clause. Other two types return table as a return.

What is collation?

Collation is defined as set of rules that determine how character data can be sorted and compared. This can be used to compare A and, other language characters and also depends on the width of the characters.

ASCII value can be used to compare these character data.

What are all different types of collation sensitivity?

Following are different types of collation sensitivity -.

  • Case Sensitivity – A and a and B and b.
  • Accent Sensitivity.
  • Kana Sensitivity – Japanese Kana characters.
  • Width Sensitivity – Single byte character and double byte character.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Stored Procedure?

Stored procedure can be used as a modular programming – means create once, store and call for several times whenever required. This supports faster execution instead of executing multiple queries. This reduces network traffic and provides better security to the data.

Disadvantage is that it can be executed only in the Database and utilizes more memory in the database server.

What is Online Transaction Processing (OLTP)?

Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) manages transaction based applications which can be used for data entry, data retrieval and data processing. OLTP makes data management simple and efficient. Unlike OLAP systems goal of OLTP systems is serving real-time transactions.

Example – Bank Transactions on a daily basis.

What is CLAUSE?

SQL clause is defined to limit the result set by providing condition to the query. This usually filters some rows from the whole set of records.

Example – Query that has WHERE condition

Query that has HAVING condition.

What is recursive stored procedure?

A stored procedure which calls by itself until it reaches some boundary condition. This recursive function or procedure helps programmers to use the same set of code any number of times.

What is Union, minus and Interact commands?

UNION operator is used to combine the results of two tables, and it eliminates duplicate rows from the tables.

MINUS operator is used to return rows from the first query but not from the second query. Matching records of first and second query and other rows from the first query will be displayed as a result set.

INTERSECT operator is used to return rows returned by both the queries.

What is an ALIAS command?

ALIAS name can be given to a table or column. This alias name can be referred in WHERE clause to identify the table or column.


  Select st.StudentID, Ex.Result from student st, Exam as Ex where st.studentID = Ex. StudentID

Here, st refers to alias name for student table and Ex refers to alias name for exam table.

What is the difference between TRUNCATE and DROP statements?

TRUNCATE removes all the rows from the table, and it cannot be rolled back. DROP command removes a table from the database and operation cannot be rolled back.

What are aggregate and scalar functions?

Aggregate functions are used to evaluate mathematical calculation and return single values. This can be calculated from the columns in a table. Scalar functions return a single value based on the input value.

Example -.

Aggregate – max(), count – Calculated with respect to numeric.

Scalar – UCASE(), NOW() – Calculated with respect to strings.

How to fetch common records from two tables?

Common records result set can be achieved by -.

Select studentID from student. <strong>INTERSECT </strong> Select StudentID from Exam

What is the command used to fetch first 5 characters of the string?

There are many ways to fetch first 5 characters of the string -.

Select SUBSTRING(StudentName,1,5) as studentname from student Select RIGHT(Studentname,5) as studentname from student