Three Big Reasons To Choose Java Over C++ For USACO

Over the years many folks asked me about whether to use Java or C++ for the USA Olympiad Competition and they told me what they heard from others about using C/C++. I always told them to use Java. Why?

Reason#1 Java solution is given double the time allowance to complete

In USACO competition, contestants not only are required to solve each problem correctly, but also are required to submit solutions that do NOT time out, because in the world of computer science, the efficiency (speed) is an important factor to evaluate the quality of an algorithm. (You won’t enjoy waiting for a minute or two for each of your google search, will you:)?)

If a student writes his USACO solution in C or C++, his/her program is given 2 seconds to complete for each test case. If it does not, then the solution is deemed to fail the test case even though it is correct. For a solution written in Java though, the time limit is doubled to 4 seconds, this is to account for the fact that C++ is indeed generally faster than Java, but, is it twice as faster? For a simple program with the common USACO level complexity, the doubled time allowance definitely is more than enough to compensate and even put Java at advantage over C++.

Reason#2 Java is more beginner friendly and overall easier to write

Java is known to be more beginner friendly because it is more readable, more similar to human language by design and comes with a huge library to make many tasks much easier. Technically it also doesn’t have many annoying nuances as C++ does such as allocating memories, etc. As somebody who has learned and used 10+ programming languages, I definitely would rank Java at. the very top as both easy to learn for a beginner, and easy to write overall.

Reason #3 Java is the language tested in AP Computer Science A

If a student is into programming and USACO, most likely you want to do AP Computer Science A as well, which is synonym of Intermediate Java Programming! As a high schooler, who are all super busy with countless school wrk and extra curriculum activities, why not just learn one language of Java and kill two birds with one stone?

To summarize:

There is really no compelling reasons at all to spend hours and hours of work to learn and polish another program language skill to the USACO level just to get half the time allowance in the USACO competition. As a high schooler, just learn ONE language – Java – which is REQUIRED for APCS and sufficient for USACO even at the Gold and Platinum level and use the time saved for your other school work, subjects, sports, commitments, or simply catch up some sleep and fun! USACO guarantees that all its problems can be solved within the given runtime limits for Java program (which is not true for Python, but we will save it for another post).

Happy learning and do it smartly!