Top 10 Java Collections interview Questions Answers for Beginners

Hello guys, if you have gone through a couple of Java Interviews then you might know that Java Collections is an important topic. There is hardly any Java interview I have faced, and I have faced many where there are no questions from Collections. This Java Collection Framework interview questions and answers contain questions from popular Java collection classes like HashMap, ArrayList, HashSet, ConcurrentHashMap, and legacy collection classes like Vector and Hashtable. These are the questions that have been asked in real interviews and also allows you to explore these essential classes in more detail which will eventually make you a better Java developer. 

As I have told you before, Interview questions from the Java Collection framework are one of the most asked concepts on any Core Java interview or J2EE interview at both beginners, experienced and intermediate levels like 2 to 4 years experienced Java programmer.

In order to answer interview questions from the Java collection framework, You need a good knowledge of various Collection interfaces like  Map, List, and Set and familiarities with their frequently used implementation e.g. HashMap, Hashtable, TreeMap from Map, ArrayList, LinkedList, and Vector for List interface and HashSet, TreeSet of Set interface.

Questions related to Iterating collection, modifying Collection, and thread-safety of Collection is also the popular area from where Java collection interview Questions asked during the interview.

In this List of Java collection interview questions and answers, we will see questions from all the above areas. I have also included some questions from new Concurrent collection classes introduced in Java 5 like the ConcurrentHashMap and CopyOnWriteArrayList.

Btw, if you are new to Java Collection Framework or want to solidify your Java knowledge then you should check out these best Java Collections courses before attempting to solve these questions. It will help you immensely by filling gaps in your knowledge and going back and forth. It's also the most up-to-date course and covers every new feature introduced between Java 8 to Java 12 releases.

10 Java Collection Interview Questions Answers

Here is a list of my favorite, frequently asked Questions from the Java collection framework. Almost all of these questions have appeared in Java interviews at a various levels ranging from Junior to Senior Software Engineer level at different companies like Capgemini, Tech Mahindra, TCS,  IBM, Investment banks like Barclays, Citi, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and CTS.

1. What is the difference between Hashtable and HashMap in Java?
This Java collection interview question is I guess the most popular one. Most of Java programmer who has at least 2 years of experience has seen this question on core Java interview. Well, there is much difference between them but most important is thread-safety, HashMap is not thread-safe while Hashtable is a thread-safe collection.

Btw, If you want to learn more about essential Collection classes like HashMap and Hashtable then I highly recommend you check Java Fundamentals: Collections course by Richard Warburton on Pluralsight. It's a great course to learn about the Java Collection Framework in general. 

Top 10 Java Collection interview Questions Answers for Beginners

2. What is the difference between Hashtable and ConcurrentHashMap in Java?
Another frequently asked Java collection interview question post-Java 5 world which introduced Concurrent Collection classes like ConcurrentHashMap and CopyOnWriteArrayList along with Concurrency utilities like CyclicBarrier and CountDownLatch.

Well, both Hashtable and ConcurrentHashMap are thread-safe here but later provide more scalability than the former. You can further see the Difference between ConcurrentHashMap and Hashtable in Java for the answer to this Java collection interview question.

3. What is the difference between Iterator and Enumeration in Java?
One of the classic interview Questions asked on the Java collection framework, Which is pretty old and a programmer who has been working in Java for 4 to 6 years must have seen this question before. Well, Iterator and ListIterator in Java is a new way to iterator collection in Java and provides the ability to remove an object while traversing while Enumeration doesn't allow you to remove the object.  You can further see Iterator vs Enumeration in Java for more differences between both of them.

4. What is the Difference between fail-safe and fail-fast Iterator in Java?
This is a relatively new Java collection interview question because the concept of a fail-safe iterator is come along with ConcurrentHashMap and CopyOnWriteArrayList. See the Difference between fail-safe and fail-fast Iterator in Java for the answer to this Java collection question.

5. How HashMap works internally in Java?
One of the most frequently asked Java interview questions to experience Java programmer with 4 to 5 years of experience. I have seen this question on big companies like Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Nomura, and other banks like Barclays Capital. See How HashMap works internally in Java for a detailed answer to this Java collection interview question.

6. Can you write code to traverse Map in Java in 4 ways?
Another Java collection question appears as part of the Java Coding interview question and appeared in many interviews. As you know there are multiple ways to traverse or iterate Map in Java e.g. for loop, while loop using Iterator etc. 4 ways to iterator Map in Java has detailed explanation and sample code which is sufficient to answer this Java collection framework interview question.

7. What is the difference between Vector and ArrayList in Java?
Java Collection Interview Questions Answers | Java Collection FAQAlong with the Difference between HashMap and Hashtable, this Java collection interview question is probably second in the list of frequently asked questions on the Java collection framework. Both ArrayList and Vector implement List interface from Java 4 but they have differences including synchronization, See the difference between Vector and ArrayList in Java for the complete answer of this collection interview question in Java.

8. What is the difference between ArrayList and LinkedList in Java?
A follow-up question is asked in response to the previous Java collection interview question. Here also both LinkedList and ArrayList are List implementations but their internal data structure is different, one is derived from Array while the other is derived from LinkedList. See LinkedList vs ArrayList in Java to answer this Java Collection interview question.

9. What is the difference between List and Set in Java?
List vs Set is one of the most important concepts to understand in the Java Collection framework and this Java collection interview question focuses on that. The most important difference between them is that List allows duplicates and maintain insertion order while Set doesn't allow duplicates and doesn't maintain any order. See the Difference between Set and List in Java to see more differences between them.

Here is also a nice summary of different collection classes in Java:

Java Collection interview Questions Answers

10. How do you find if ArrayList contains duplicates or not?
Since List allows duplicates this becomes a follow-up question of earlier Java collection framework interview question. See How to check if ArrayList contains duplicates or not for the answer of this Java collection question.

That's all about some of the frequently asked Java Collection interview questions. Btw, If you have any interesting Java collection interview questions or are you looking for an answer for any Java collection question then please post here. If you are looking for some assistance, you can also check out these Java Interview courses on Udemy which contains a lot more questions apart from Java Collections one. 

And, if you prefer a book then Java Programming Interview Exposed book by Noel Markham, is also an ideal guide to prepare for Java developer interviews. 

Java Collection interview Questions Answers | Java Collection FAQ

These were some of the frequently asked Java collection framework interview questions you can also call them Java Collection FAQ. Collection and Threads are the most important parts of the Java programming language and are considered as fundamentals of Java, So always prepare them well before appearing for any Java or J2EE interview

Further Learning
133 Core Java Interview Questions from last 5 years
101 Coding Problems and few tips for Job Interviews
Grokking the Coding Interview: Patterns for Coding Questions

Thanks for reading this article so far. If you like these interview questions then please share them with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or feedback then please drop a comment.

P. S. - If you are new to the Java world and looking for some free resources to kick-start your Java development journey, then I also suggest you check out this list of free Java courses for beginners on Medium.  


  1. From last couple of years Java interviews has changed drastically, now days no one ask about classical questions like difference between Iterator and Enumerator or difference between ArrayList or Vector. In 2014, the most popular question was about usage of different collection interface e.g. Map, Set, List and Queue. Interviewer was also very keen to know how much you know about certain implementation e.g. how ConcurrentHashMap perform better than Hashtable or Synchronized HashMap. How HashSet works and How to implement PriorityQueue by your own.

    In order to prepare on Collections framework I just following items :
    1) Understand interfaces e.g. Map, Set, List, Queue and otherws to figure out key difference e.g. Set doesn't allow duplicate but List does.

    2) Understand different implementation classes e.g. HashMap, Hashtable, ConcurrentHashMap, ArrayList, LinkedList, Vector etc and perform comparative analyssis to find out which Collection class suits which condition.

  2. For Junior Java Developers of 2 to 3 years experience, I would say to prepare well for DS and Algo, you can check some sample Data structure questions here, once you are good at that, just prepare some basic Java questions for telephonic round. Once you are done that you are ready, but if you want more confidence, you should check this Mega list of Java questions, which contains core Java questions including multi-threading, exception handling, collections, GC, design pattern and OOP questions from last 5 years of Java interviews.


Feel free to comment, ask questions if you have any doubt.