LEVEL 3: A LEVEL
EXAMINING BOARD: AQA
New technologies are being introduced into homes and the workplace at an ever-increasing rate, from mobile devices and developments in PC and console specifications to self-driving cars. It is therefore more imperative than ever that young people in the UK gain a sound understanding of the nature of computing and software design.
This course will provide you with the fundamentals of why computers work in the way that they do, as well as supporting the development of transferrable problems solving skills and the learning of new programming languages from procedural through to object-oriented and functional programming techniques.
This course is for those who wish to be at the forefront of innovation and technological developments in their future careers. Successful Computer Science students are mathematically minded, creative, resilient and able to work independently.
You are expected to develop your coding skills outside of the lessons, as well as in class, using the Visual Studio development environment and other homework activities.
In previous years, students have been involved in Computing enrichments including Mobile app design, Games development and Coding club. In recent years we have run annual trips to the National Museum of Computing and Bletchley Park (home of the WWII code breakers).
On this course you will study the following topics:
- Binary representation of data
- Basic programming such as iteration, selection, subroutines, local and global variables
- Computer systems, including the classification of types of hardware, software and programming languages
- Computer architecture
- How technological innovation leads to moral, ethical, legal and cultural issues
- Networks and communication
- Algorithms for traversing graphs and trees
- Normalisation of relational databases, SQL and client-server databases
- Data structures such as queues, stacks, graphs, trees, hash tables, dictionaries and vectors
- Big data
- Functional programming
- Computational thinking
You will need (or equivalent to);
- GCSE Mathematics grade 5 or above
- GCSE English Language or Literature grade 4/C or above
- plus three more GCSEs grade 4/C or above.
It is recommended:
- you have GCSE Mathematics grade 6/B or above
- you have GCSE Computer Science grade 5 or above if studied at GCSE
- you consider studying A Level Mathematics – this will support future applications for Computer Science degree courses and help develop the logical and analytic thinking that is helpful in Computer Science.
Assessment will consist of:
- an on-screen paper assessing understanding of programming concepts, including writing code and adapting a program provided by the exam board (worth 40% of your grade)
- a written paper assessing theory topics (worth 40% of your grade)
- a non-exam assessment (NEA) project; this is open-ended and you can choose (within reason) what your computing project is based on (worth 20% of your grade).
Previous students have gone on to study at University, whilst other students have undertaken Apprenticeships in Software Engineering or Cyber Security. Some students have gone straight into the workplace, typically in Software Development or Technical Support.
Many students will ultimately find themselves working within careers that do not yet exist.
How is the course delivered?
We are currently using a ‘flipped-learning’ approach, which is becoming more popular in education.
This entails you doing the leaning as part of your homework via the provision of online videos and electronic textbooks and additional teacher notes. Class time is used to assess and consolidate your understanding of the topics. This allows you to learn at a pace that suits you using a variety of learning techniques, whilst the traditional ‘homework’ tasks are completed in class with peer and teacher support available.
All teaching and learning materials are available online so you can easily review previous topics or even look ahead to future topics if you wish.
Do I need access to a PC or laptop at home?
It will be challenging to successfully undertake a Computer Science course without considerable access to a PC or laptop but it is possible to use PCs in College if access at home is limited. The PC or laptop you use outside of class should be able to run Visual Studio as well as office software.
What preparation can I do to support myself prior to starting the course?
Learn a new programming language.
If you have never done any programming before, or you would like to learn a new language, then start with Visual Basic (VB.NET) as it uses fairly English-like syntax which makes it easier to learn, whilst it also provides access to many complex programming techniques. We use Visual Basic (which runs in Visual Studio) to demonstrate programming techniques.
Visual Studio (community edition) can be downloaded for free. Many online tutorials are available, such as TechnologyUK, MooICT and VBTutor (as well as YouTube, of course). If you are already familiar with Visual Basic then pick up C# or Java.