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Computer Science

A Level Computer Science

What is it about at sixth-form level?

One of Microsoft’s early dreams was a computer in every home and on every desk. Today, around a quarter of the world’s population carries around daily a computer in the form of a phone and more and more people are embracing the “internet of things”, allowing them to interact remotely and intelligently with their domestic appliances. Impressive as the hardware is, it is nothing without well-written software. What makes the modern world work are computer programs.

In this course, you will study the conceptual framework of computational thinking and begin learning the skills of programming. You will learn to analyse a problem by identifying its component parts, use algorithms to describe problems, identify the components of a solution to a problem and determine the order of the steps needed to solve a problem. Alongside the study of formal aspects of computing, you will also examine a range of legal and moral issues such as how social media has led to concerns being raised over privacy and whether computers will make too many people redundant.

Lower sixth
Upper sixth

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

The course will develop your skills across a broad range of areas. Through learning the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science you will develop the ability to thinking creatively, innovatively and analytically about how to solve computational problems. The challenge of writing a program in the upper-sixth year will then give you valuable practical experience of problem-solving. The study of the moral and legal opportunities and risks of digital technology will give you a good understanding of important issues that are of relevance across a wide range of other subjects and future workplaces.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

The course requires a good grounding in computer science. It is not suitable for beginners. You either need GCSE Computer Science or good experience programming in languages such as such as Python, Pascal, Visual Basic, and so on. The abstract and logical nature of the course means that students will also need to have a grade 7 or higher in (I)GCSE Maths.

How is the course assessed?

A level

For the A level, there are two exams and a project. Paper 1 is worth 40% and is examined by an on-screen paper of 2 hours 30 minutes. There are a mix of short and long answer questions, as well as programming tasks dealing with the skeleton program provided. Paper 2 is worth 40% and is examined by a written paper of 2 hours 30 minutes. Likewise, there are a mix of short and long answer questions dealing with computational thinking and algorithms, as well as broader questions touching on the ethics and impact of computing. The project is internally assessed and externally moderated. It is worth 20% of the A level and will be worked on over the Autumn and Spring terms of the upper-sixth year.

Reading

To be confirmed at the start of the course

AQA AS and A Level Computer Science
By PM Heathcote and RSU Heathcote
Published by PG Online, ISBN 978-1910523070

Exam Board and Specification Codes

A level: AQA 7517

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