How to Choose Between a List and a Dictionary in Python?

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Choosing between a list and a dictionary in Python depends on the specific use case and the data structure needed to solve the problem.

Here are some general guidelines that might help you decide:

Use a list when:

  • You need to store an ordered sequence of elements.
  • You want to access elements in the list by their index.
  • You don’t need to associate keys with values.

Use a dictionary when:

  • You need to associate keys with values.
  • You want to access elements by their key rather than their index.
  • You don’t need to preserve the order of elements.

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference between a list and a dictionary. Suppose you have a dataset of students and their corresponding grades for a particular course:

# Using a list to store the data
students = ["Alice", "Bob", "Charlie", "David"]
grades = [90, 85, 95, 80]

# Using a dictionary to store the data
students_grades = {"Alice": 90, "Bob": 85, "Charlie": 95, "David": 80}

In this example, both the list and the dictionary can store the same data, but they have different structures. Using a list, you would access a student’s grade by their index in the list. Using a dictionary, you would access a student’s grade by their name, which serves as the key in the dictionary. If you need to perform operations that involve both the names and grades, using a dictionary can make the code more readable and easier to understand.

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