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Computer Science is not the same as ICT! At the heart of Computer Science is the development of computational thinking, helping learners to develop the skills to solve problems, design systems and understand the power and limits of human and machine intelligence. The subject is practical – learners will apply classroom learning to real-world systems and write and test significant amounts of code. The subject is creative – learners will blend ideas and methods to create inventive solutions to problems. The subject is academic – learners must apply high level powers of analysis, evaluation and decision-making to produce elegant and accurate results. Throughout this course there will be an emphasis on problem solving using computers, computer programming and algorithms, and the mathematical skills such as Boolean algebra used to express computational laws and processes.
A Level lessons are delivered using practical, hands-on methods where possible. Programming is not taught in isolation – it is applied to produce solutions that illuminate and clarify other aspects of theory relevant to the course. Students will be exposed to several programming paradigms and languages – they will also be encouraged to explore additional options through self-study. No prior experience of Computing is required, although we would expect students to have achieved at least a grade B in Mathematics at GCSE level. However, a passion for computing is much more important and we would be delighted to consider any student who is fascinated by computer technology and is willing to work hard and try their very best.
A Level Computer Science
Paper 1: Computer Systems (Written paper 2 ½ hours – 40% of A Level)
This component contains the majority of the content of the qualification and is assessed in a written paper recalling knowledge and understanding.
Topics of Study include: Components of a computer and their uses; Software and software development; How data is exchanged between different systems; How data is represented and stored within different structures; Different algorithms that can be applied to these structures; The individual (moral), social (ethical) and cultural opportunities and risks of digital technology; Legislation surrounding the use of computers and ethical issues that can or may in the future arise from the use of computers.
Paper 2: Algorithms and Programming (Written paper 2 ½ hours – 40% of A Level)
This component relates principally to problem solving skills needed by learners to apply the knowledge and understanding gained in the first component.
Topics of Study include: Understand what is meant by computational thinking; How computers can be used to solve problems and programs can be written to solve them; The use of algorithms to describe problems and standard algorithms.
Component 3: Programming Project (Non-exam teacher assessment – 20% of A Level)
The project is a substantial piece of work which assesses a variety of different skills including the development and demonstration of computational thought processes. Learners will need to choose, in liaison with their teacher, a well-defined user driven problem. The choice of project must enable learners to: meet all assessment requirements as contained in the specification; use an appropriate programming language which is non-trivial and has a substantial coded element; solve a problem sensibly within the constraints of resources available facilitate the successful completion of a whole task from its definition to its acceptance and evaluation by that user. The project will be submitted in the form of a report that will contain the solution to the chosen task.
Please note: Mathematical skills are embedded throughout the content of the three components. They will be assessed in the written papers and through the non-examined assessment where appropriate.
Links to HE courses and beyond
Computer Science, Software Engineering, Programming, IT, Computer Game Design, Creative Media.
Student views on the course
On completion of Computer Science courses most students look back on a challenging but very rewarding achievement. They feel that the skills they learn will be good preparation for future study and vocational responsibility. Some have maintained an interest in programming and database development, and have found useful applications later on in their careers.