COMPUTER SCIENCE

LEVEL: 3 A LEVEL
EXAMINING BOARD: AQA
TYPE OF STUDY: FULL-TIME, SIXTH FORM

This course is ideal for those who have strong powers of analysis and a desire to understand the fundamental reasons why computers work in the way that they do. Successful Computer Science students are mathematically minded, resilient and able to work independently.

The course covers many aspects of computing including Boolean algebra, the internal components of a processor and the representation of different types of number as well as images and sound in binary.

You will develop your programming skills from procedural to object-oriented and functional, and will be expected to develop your skills outside of the lessons, as well as in class, using the Visual Studio development environment, alongside other homework activities.

Computer Science combines well with Mathematics but complements many other subjects such as Design, Psychology or Physics.

In previous years students have been involved in computing enrichments including Mobile App Design, Games Development and Coding Clubs. Alongside the Digital Technologies department, annual trips have recently been run to the National Museum of Computing and Bletchley Park (home of the WWII code breakers). There are also plans to run a trip to Silicon Valley in San Francisco to visit some of the giant technology industries that have made their home there as well as the Computer History Museum.

On completion of the Computer Science course many students go on to study Computer Science, or a related subject such as Games Design at university. Other students have found related Apprenticeships in Software Development or Cyber Security. There are many careers that can follow the study of Computer Science including Software Development and Data Analyst as well as careers that have not yet been invented.

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
  • Data structures such as queues, stacks, graphs, trees, hash tables, dictionaries and vectors
  • Algorithms for traversing graphs and trees
  • Normalisation of relational databases, SQL and client-server databases
  • Networks and communication
  • Computational thinking
  • Big data
  • Functional programming

Computing is a unique subject in both content and teaching style. The subject itself is challenging but also rewarding. We learn using flipped learning; studying at home and then putting what we have learnt into practice during lessons. I really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in class and how we have easy access to additional learning resources. Furthermore, the subject is a balanced blend of both the practical and theoretical aspect of the subject.

Marisa Jenkins, Computer Science student

Level 3 standard entry requirements: 5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above including Mathematics and English Language or Literature.

Good ability in Mathematics is important, so a minimum GCSE grade of 5 is required. It is advisable to study Mathematics or Core Mathematics alongside Computer Science.

Do I need to have studied Computer Science at GCSE?

No, the course is developed so that all students can learn at their own pace. Whilst students that have studied Computing previously will have some advantages over those who haven’t, there are many topics that will be new to all students.

How is the course assessed?

40% on-screen exam – assessing understanding of programming concepts, including writing code and adapting a program provided by the exam board.
40% written exam – assessing theory topics.
20% non-exam assessment (NEA) project; this is open-ended and you can choose (within reason) what your computing project is based on.

Do I need to learn any particular programming languages?

Not necessarily, the basics of programming are introduced at the start of Year 1 and students are expected to continue to develop their own skills. If it isn’t already then programming should become a hobby for students who wish to be successful. Programming is demonstrated in class using VB.NET which is available as part of the freely available Visual Studio development environment.

There is a perfect balance between the theory of computing and programming. The course doesn’t only help with computing, it is also extremely enriching for logical skills and problem solving, which are of great use in my other A Levels of Physics, Maths and Further Maths.

Ben Shattock, Computer Science student