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

In the first year, you will study two areas of computer science. The first, Computing Principles, focuses on the contemporary systems architecture. You will look at the characteristics of hardware and software. You will look at different types of data, data structures and
data exchange including compression, encryption, databases, web technologies and networks. The second, Algorithms and Problem Solving, concentrates on the concept of computational thinking. At the heart of computer science is the idea of an algorithm, or step-by-step process, each step being basic but the whole potentially incredibly complex. You will learn how
to think abstractly about problems and decompose them into simpler elements.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will continue to study the areas you began in the first year. You will additionally take on a major programming project which will include analysing a problem, designing a solution, implementing and testing the solution and thoroughly evaluating your
work. The programming project will be completed in a language such as Python, Java or Visual Basic.

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 Python, C, Visual Basic, and so on. The abstract and logical nature of the course means that students will also need to have an A grade in Maths (I)GCSE.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS level, there are two exams. Paper 1 (Computing Principles) is worth 50% and is
examined by a written paper of 1 hour 15 minutes. Paper 2 (Algorithms and Problem Solving) is worth 50% and is examined by a written paper of 1 hour 15 minutes. Both papers contain a mix of questions including short answer, longer answer and some higher tariff questions that will test the quality of extended responses.

A level

For the A level, there are two exams and a project. Paper 1 (Computing Principles) is worth 40% and is examined by a written paper of 2 hours 30 minutes. There is a mix of short and long answer questions that may cover. Paper 2 (Algorithms and Problem Solving) is worth 40% and is examined by a written paper of 2 hours 30 minutes. It has two sections: section A focuses on computational thinking and writing algorithms; and section B contains a scenario/task that presents problems students must respond to. 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

Computer Science for A level 
By G. Rouse, J. Pitt, S. O'Byrne
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1471839764

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: OCR H046; A level: OCR H446

Christine Gavin
Head of Department

Tiffany

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
Royal Veterinary College (Veterinary Medicine)

"I have loved MPW. The class sizes are very small and it is easy to ask questions. The teaching is really interactive and they all care so much about the students. My Director of Studies helped a lot with my UCAS statement, suggesting what to include and perfecting it with me. I honestly don’t think I would have go any university offers without her help."

Oliver

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A

Progressed to
University of Bristol (Law)

"I’ve had three fantastic years at MPW: I’ve had a happy time; I’ve met some amazing people; and, most importantly, I’ve left school knowing that I have fulfilled my potential, leaving with GCSE and A Level grades that I can be proud of. I feel that the teachers and Directors of Studies all care deeply about their students' futures and performance."

Nathaniel

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University of Edinburgh (History and Politics)

"All of my teachers have been great; they are experienced, friendly and treat us all like adults rather than teenagers. I’ve also enjoyed being in a city. There is so much to do and we’ve been on a lot of theatre trips after school which is something I hadn’t been able to do before. My favourite thing about MPW has been the people I have met."

Ella

Grades achieved at MPW
AAA

Progressed to
King's College London (Biology)

"I would like to say a big thank you to my teachers. Everyone at MPW has been so warm towards me and my teachers are so friendly and willing. They also adapt to learning styles and have been sensitive about responding to my needs; they provide extra help when I need it but also give me space to absorb new topics or information when I need that."

Chris

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A

Progressed to
University of Bath (Mechanical Engineering)

"One of my favourite things about MPW is the people I have met, who are all really nice and really fun to be with. My Director of Studies was really enthusiastic which rubbed off on me. She also helped enormously with UCAS, taking the time to clearly explain what I needed to do and supporting me."