A Level ICT

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

One of Microsoft’s early dreams was a computer in every home and on every desk. It is now estimated that by 2017 internet devices will outnumber people two to one; that video online will have 2 billion users; and that internet traffic by user will have doubled from its current figure. Yet only 48% of the world’s population will have internet access.

Will this create a ‘divided virtual society’ with the new ‘have-nots’ unable to access vital resources? Perhaps not, if we are all connected in the near future. This however raises questions of privacy. Identity theft has become a new and worrying phenomenon. Governments have been found to be secretly harvesting data from ordinary people without asking for permission. How can problems like these be prevented?

An A level in ICT allows students to discuss these advances in technology and answer questions about how these changes affect our lives and society around us. The use of ICT is now an essential part of everyday life and will form a large part of your working life with its heavy use in business, gaming, social media and even medical science, so getting to grips with even the basics will improve your understanding and employability for the future. ICT A level is not about coding systems from scratch but about learning to utilise applications to generate systems for the user.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study two units. In Unit 1 (Practical Problem Solving in the Digital World), you will cover the practical use of ICT. You will learn how to produce software designs and test plans as well as to build software solutions. You will also look at the differences between hardware and software. You will also be producing sample work which will look at the analysis and testing of a system you design (either a spreadsheet or a database). In Unit 2 (Living in the Digital World), you will look at ICT systems, components, back-up and security. In addition, you will look at data communication through use of networks and future technologies.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study two more units. In Unit 3 (The use of ICT in the digital world) you will look at the fast changing subject of ICT including developments in technology and ICT system capabilities and the effects this will have on us. In Unit 4 (Practical issues involved in the use of ICT in the digital world), you will complete a substantial project involving the production of an ICT- related system over an extended period of time. You will produce a database for a real client allowing you to enhance your skills. This unit allows for students to complete some work collaboratively, but each student must produce his/her own project report with clear identification of their own work.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

The course will develop your skills across a broad range of important areas: word processing, database design, spreadsheets, PowerPoint, web design, and sound and image editing. It will give you a good understanding of the impact of ICT on the business world, individuals and society at large. The A2 will also teach you something many courses at this level cannot, namely how to manage a six-month project including liaising with a client, designing a system, building & testing your design and finally evaluating the success of your system.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

A GCSE in ICT is an advantage but it is not required. The written nature of the exams means that you will need to have a good level of written English. You will need to have a general interest in computers and their application.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams on Units 1 and 2 respectively. Both exams are written exams which comprises short answer questions and structured questions requiring longer answers. All questions are compulsory. Each exam is worth 50% of the AS level (25% of the A level) and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. The Unit 1 examination includes questions on a piece of sample work that students will develop in class time over the duration of the course.

A2 level

For the A2, there are two exams on Units 3 and 4 respectively. The Unit 3 exam is a written exam which comprises structured questions based on pre-release material (released in March of the upper-sixth year) and longer answer questions to include at least one essay. All questions are compulsory. The exam is worth 60% of the A2 (30% of the A level) and lasts 2 hours. Unit 4 is examined by coursework which is submitted in March of the upper-sixth year. This coursework is internally moderated and externally assessed. It is worth 40% of the A2 level (20% of the A level).

Reading

Essential ICT for AQA AS
By S. Doyle
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-1850082804

Essential ICT for AQA A2
By D. Doyle
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-1850082828

Advanced Database Projects in Access
By I. Rendell, J. Mott
Published by Hodder, ISBN 978-1444117370

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 1521, A2: AQA 2521 (legacy)

 

Christine Gavin
Head of Department