BI and Data warehousing Interview Questions and Answers

BI and Data warehousing Interview Questions and Answers

11/22/202311 min read

man sitting on chair wearing gray crew-neck long-sleeved shirt using Apple Magic Keyboard
man sitting on chair wearing gray crew-neck long-sleeved shirt using Apple Magic Keyboard

1. Question: Explain the concept of a "conformed dimension" in the context of Kimball's dimensional modeling.


A conformed dimension is a dimension that has the same meaning and content when being referred to from different fact tables within the same data warehouse or across data marts. It ensures consistency and coherence in reporting and analysis across the enterprise by providing a standardized view of common business dimensions such as time, geography, and product.

2. Question: Discuss the advantages and challenges of using snowflake schema in dimensional modeling.

Answer:Advantages:Normalization reduces redundancy, saving storage space.Easier maintenance and updates to dimension attributes.

Challenges:Increased query complexity and potential performance overhead due to additional joins.May require more complex ETL processes for handling hierarchies and relationships.

3. Question: How does the concept of "factless fact tables" contribute to data modeling in a data warehouse? Provide an example.

Answer:Factless fact tables are used when you need to represent a fact without numeric measures. They contain only keys, capturing relationships between dimensions.Example: A "Attendance" factless fact table may have keys like DateKey, StudentKey, and CourseKey. It doesn't contain numeric measures but represents instances of student attendance.

4. Question: Explain the role of a "Bridge Table" in dimensional modeling and provide a scenario where it is useful.

Answer:A bridge table is used to represent a many-to-many relationship between dimensions.Scenario: In a university data warehouse, a bridge table may link a Student dimension to a Class dimension, capturing the fact that a student can be enrolled in multiple classes, and a class can have multiple students.

5. Question: How does the use of slowly changing dimensions (SCDs) contribute to maintaining historical data in a data warehouse?

Answer:SCDs handle changes to dimension attributes over time by preserving historical information.Type 1 SCD: Overwrites existing data with new values.Type 2 SCD: Adds a new row for each change, maintaining a history of values.Type 3 SCD: Keeps both the old and new values in separate columns.

6. Question: Discuss the process and considerations for designing an effective ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) system in a data warehousing environment.

Answer:Process: Extract data from source systems, transform it into the desired format, and load it into the data warehouse.Considerations: Performance optimization, error handling, incremental loading, data quality, and maintaining referential integrity.

7. Question: How do you handle slowly changing dimensions in a data warehouse when designing a Type 2 SCD?

Answer:For Type 2 SCD, a new row is added for each change, with a new surrogate key.Include effective date ranges to track the period during which each version of the dimension is valid.Use flags to indicate the current active record and handle historical changes.

8. Question: Explain the concept of "star schema" and "snowflake schema" in the context of dimensional modeling, and discuss when you would choose one over the other.

Answer:Star Schema: Central fact table connected to multiple dimension tables. Simple, denormalized structure for better query performance.Snowflake Schema: Dimension tables are normalized, resulting in a more complex structure with more joins. Used when normalization is a priority or when dealing with large dimensions.

9. Question: Describe the process of designing a data warehouse Bus Matrix and its significance in Kimball's approach.

Answer:The Bus Matrix is a tool used to identify and prioritize data marts, aligning them with business processes.It helps in understanding the relationships between facts and dimensions, ensuring consistency and alignment with business objectives.

10. Question: What are the key considerations when designing aggregate tables in a data warehouse, and how do they contribute to query performance?

Answer:Considerations: Identify common query patterns, balance granularity, and maintainability, and ensure alignment with business requirements. Aggregate tables precompute and store summarized data, enhancing query performance by reducing the need to aggregate data on the fly.

11. Can you give an example of Junk Dimension. Please explain in detail?

Answer: Let's consider a scenario where you have a sales transaction fact table and you want to include various flags and indicators that are not significant enough to warrant their own separate dimension tables. Instead, you decide to create a junk dimension to consolidate these attributes into a single dimension table.

Example: Junk Dimension for Communication Preferences and Status Indicators

Suppose you have the following attributes related to communication preferences and status indicators in your sales transactions:

  1. Communication Preferences:

    • Email (Y/N)

    • Phone (Y/N)

    • Mail (Y/N)

  2. Status Indicators:

    • Active (Y/N)

    • Inactive (Y/N)

Instead of creating separate dimension tables for each of these attributes, you can create a single junk dimension that consolidates them.

Junk Dimension Table (CommunicationStatusJunkDim):


  • JunkDimKey: A surrogate key for the junk dimension table.

  • Email, Phone, Mail, Active, Inactive: Flags indicating communication preferences and status indicators.

Now, in your sales transaction fact table, you can use the JunkDimKey as a foreign key to link to this junk dimension.

Sales Transaction Fact Table:


Now, you can easily analyze sales transactions based on various communication preferences and status indicators without cluttering your data model with multiple dimension tables.

This approach helps in simplifying the data model, reducing the number of dimension tables, and providing a consolidated way to handle less significant attributes that don't require individual dimension tables.

  1. Question: Explain the concept of materialized views and how they are used in data warehouses.

Answer: Materialized views are precomputed, stored result sets that capture and store the results of a query at a particular point in time. They are used in data warehouses to improve query performance by reducing the need to repeatedly compute complex aggregations and joins. Materialized views are refreshed periodically to ensure that they reflect the latest data changes.

  1. Question: Discuss the differences between star schema and snowflake schema in the context of data warehousing.

Answer: The star schema and snowflake schema are both database design techniques. In a star schema, a central fact table is connected to multiple dimension tables. It's called a star because the structure looks like a star with the fact table in the center and dimension tables surrounding it. In a snowflake schema, the dimensions are normalized into multiple related tables, creating a structure that resembles a snowflake. Star schemas are generally denormalized for faster query performance, while snowflake schemas are normalized for efficient storage.

  1. Question: What is a slowly changing dimension (SCD) and how would you implement it in a data warehouse?

Answer: A slowly changing dimension is a dimension that changes over time, but not with the same frequency as transactional data. There are three types of SCDs: Type 1 (overwrite), Type 2 (add new row), and Type 3 (add new attribute). Implementing SCDs typically involves using effective date ranges, surrogate keys, and versioning to track changes to dimension data over time.

  1. Question: How do you optimize a data warehouse for query performance?

Answer: Query performance optimization involves several strategies, including appropriate indexing, partitioning, and clustering of tables, as well as the use of materialized views and summary tables. Additionally, query optimization can be achieved by proper database design, choosing appropriate hardware, and optimizing SQL queries.

  1. Question: Explain the concept of data marts and their role in a data warehousing architecture.

Answer: Data marts are subsets of a data warehouse that focus on specific business functions or user groups. They are designed to provide a more tailored and optimized view of data for specific analytical needs. Data marts can be either independent, standalone structures or derived from the central data warehouse.

  1. Question: Discuss the challenges and solutions associated with handling large volumes of historical data in a data warehouse.

Answer: Challenges with historical data in data warehouses include storage requirements, query performance degradation, and managing updates to historical records. Solutions involve implementing effective archiving strategies, partitioning historical data, and using techniques such as slowly changing dimensions to handle changes over time efficiently.

  1. Question: What is data lineage, and why is it important in a data warehouse environment?

Answer: Data lineage is the tracking of the flow and transformation of data from its origin to its final destination. It is crucial in a data warehouse environment for ensuring data quality, understanding the impact of changes, and maintaining compliance. Data lineage documentation helps analysts and data scientists understand the lineage of the data they are working with.

  1. Question: Explain the concept of OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) and how it differs from OLTP (Online Transactional Processing).

Answer: OLAP is designed for complex querying and reporting, providing a multidimensional view of data. It is optimized for analytical and ad-hoc queries. In contrast, OLTP is focused on transactional processing, handling day-to-day operations and ensuring data integrity. OLAP databases are typically denormalized and designed for read-heavy workloads, while OLTP databases are normalized and optimized for write-heavy workloads.

  1. Question: What are some advanced techniques for handling unstructured data in a data warehouse?

Answer: Handling unstructured data involves techniques such as text mining, natural language processing (NLP), and sentiment analysis. Advanced data warehouses may use technologies like Hadoop or NoSQL databases to store and process unstructured data efficiently. Integrating structured and unstructured data sources requires a well-defined data integration strategy.

  1. Question: Discuss the role of metadata in a data warehouse and how it contributes to data governance.

Answer: Metadata in a data warehouse includes information about the structure, origin, usage, and quality of data. It plays a crucial role in data governance by providing transparency into data assets, lineage, and business definitions. Metadata management ensures that data is accurately interpreted, enables traceability, and facilitates compliance with regulatory requirements.

  1. Question: What is the difference between INNER JOIN and OUTER JOIN?

Answer: INNER JOIN returns only the matching rows between two tables based on the specified join condition. OUTER JOIN returns all rows from one table and the matching rows from the other table. If there is no match, NULL values are returned for columns from the table without a match.

  1. Question: Explain the purpose of the HAVING clause in SQL.

Answer: The HAVING clause is used with the GROUP BY clause to filter the results of aggregate functions based on a specified condition. It is applied after the grouping and aggregation, allowing you to filter grouped data.

  1. Question: How does the EXISTS operator work in SQL?

Answer: The EXISTS operator is used to test the existence of rows in a subquery. It returns TRUE if the subquery returns one or more rows, and FALSE if the subquery is empty.

  1. Question: What is a correlated subquery, and when would you use it?

Answer: A correlated subquery is a subquery that refers to columns of the outer query. It is used when the subquery depends on the values from the outer query, and it is executed once for each row processed by the outer query.

  1. Question: Explain the differences between UNION and UNION ALL in SQL.

Answer: UNION removes duplicate rows from the result set, while UNION ALL includes all rows, including duplicates. UNION is more resource-intensive than UNION ALL because it performs an additional step to eliminate duplicates.

  1. Question: What is normalization, and why is it important in database design?

Answer: Normalization is the process of organizing data in a database to reduce redundancy and dependency. It helps prevent data anomalies, such as update anomalies, and ensures efficient storage and retrieval of data.

  1. Question: Explain the concept of ACID properties in the context of database transactions.

Answer: ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. Atomicity ensures that a transaction is treated as a single, indivisible unit. Consistency ensures that the database remains in a valid state. Isolation ensures that the concurrent execution of transactions does not result in interference. Durability ensures that once a transaction is committed, its changes persist even in the event of a system failure.

  1. Question: What is a window function in SQL, and provide an example of its use.

Answer: A window function performs a calculation across a specified range of rows related to the current row. Example: SELECT salary, AVG(salary) OVER (ORDER BY department_id) AS avg_salary FROM employees; This calculates the average salary for each department, considering rows up to the current row in the specified order.

  1. Question: How can you optimize a SQL query for better performance?

Answer: Optimize queries by using appropriate indexes, avoiding SELECT * for unnecessary columns, and optimizing WHERE clauses. Use tools like EXPLAIN or query execution plans to identify bottlenecks and optimize accordingly.

  1. Question: Explain the purpose of the SQL CASE statement and provide an example.

Answer: The CASE statement is used to perform conditional logic in SQL queries. Example: SELECT employee_id, salary, CASE WHEN salary > 50000 THEN 'High' ELSE 'Low' END AS salary_category FROM employees; This categorizes employees into 'High' or 'Low' salary based on a condition.

  1. Question: Can you explain Junk , MINI and degenerate dimension in context of Kimball Borroms up approach to Data mart and Data warehousing?

Answer: In the context of Ralph Kimball's approach to data warehousing, which is known as the Kimball Bus Architecture, the terms "Junk Dimension," "Mini Dimension," and "Degenerate Dimension" refer to specific types of dimensions used in the design of data marts. These dimensions play distinct roles in enhancing the flexibility and efficiency of the data warehouse.

  1. Junk Dimension:

    • Definition: A junk dimension is a dimension table that contains a combination of flags and indicators, often representing binary or categorical attributes, that are not significant enough to warrant a separate dimension table.

    • Example: Consider a scenario where you have flags for various communication preferences (email, phone, mail) and status indicators (active, inactive). Instead of creating separate dimensions for each of these, you can combine them into a single junk dimension.

    • Purpose: Junk dimensions help reduce the number of dimension tables and simplify the data model, making it more efficient and easier to manage.

  2. Mini Dimension:

    • Definition: A mini dimension is a small, separate dimension table that is created to handle a subset of attributes from a larger dimension.

    • Example: Imagine a large customer dimension table with numerous attributes. If only a few of these attributes are frequently used in analyses or reporting, you can create a mini dimension containing only those commonly used attributes.

    • Purpose: Mini dimensions are created to improve query performance and reduce the storage requirements associated with large dimensions. They provide a more focused and efficient subset of data for specific analytical needs.

  3. Degenerate Dimension:

    • Definition: A degenerate dimension is a dimension attribute that is stored in the fact table rather than in a separate dimension table. It represents a dimension that is "degenerate" because it doesn't have its own dimension table; instead, it is stored directly in the fact table.

    • Example: In a sales fact table, an order number or invoice number might be a degenerate dimension. It is a piece of information that doesn't have its own dedicated dimension table but is relevant to the analysis of the sales transactions.

    • Purpose: Degenerate dimensions help simplify the data model by avoiding the creation of unnecessary dimension tables. They are typically used for attributes that are not reused across multiple facts.

In the Kimball approach, these techniques are employed to strike a balance between the complexity of the data model and the need for analytical flexibility. The goal is to design data marts that are easy to understand, maintain, and optimize for query performance. The judicious use of junk, mini, and degenerate dimensions contributes to achieving this balance in a dimensional data warehouse architecture.

  1. Question: Can you explain Merge SQL Syntax in SQL Server?

The MERGE statement in SQL is used to perform insert, update, or delete operations on a target table based on the results of a join with a source table. This is often used when you want to synchronize data between two tables. The basic syntax for the MERGE statement is as follows:

MERGE INTO target_table AS target

USING source_table AS source

ON target.join_column = source.join_column


UPDATE SET target.column1 = source.column1, target.column2 = source.column2


INSERT (column1, column2, ...)

VALUES (source.column1, source.column2, ...)



Here's a breakdown of the syntax:

  • target_table: The table you want to modify.

  • source_table: The table you are using as the source of data.

  • ON: The condition to match rows between the target and source tables.

  • WHEN MATCHED: Specifies what to do when a match is found.

    • UPDATE SET: Updates columns in the target table with values from the source table.

  • WHEN NOT MATCHED: Specifies what to do when no match is found.

    • INSERT: Inserts a new row into the target table.

  • WHEN NOT MATCHED BY SOURCE: Specifies what to do when there is a row in the target table that has no corresponding row in the source table.

    • DELETE: Deletes the row from the target table.

Here's a simplified example:

MERGE INTO TargetTable AS target

USING SourceTable AS source

ON target.ID = source.ID


UPDATE SET target.Name = source.Name


INSERT (ID, Name) VALUES (source.ID, source.Name)



This example assumes that TargetTable and SourceTable have a common column named ID.

Keep in mind that the actual syntax might vary slightly depending on the database system you are using. The example above is written in a style suitable for SQL Server.