What will I study?
The course will comprise two theory modules and two practical programming modules, the marks being split 20:30:30:20.
The first theory module covers computer systems, problem solving, representation of data and network concepts. It concentrates both on the physical hardware of typical computer systems, and the electronic representation of data within and between them, as well as structured programming techniques, networking and the Internet. Logic and binary number systems, microprocessor components and operation are covered to a significant extent. Types of software and the generations of languages in which they may be written are also studied.
The second theory module also concerns algorithms and problem solving, along with the data structures and manipulation methods required, including programming paradigms and object oriented techniques. Data processing concepts, database theory, operating systems, communications and networking are also covered.
The first practical module is an onscreen programming exercise.Pupils must write original code in a high-level languageto solve a problem. This will be taken as an online exam, where questions are also answered about the candidate's solution to the problem, using the materials provided in advance. Material from the first theory module may overlap with this.
The second practical module involves each student finding, realising and documenting a solution to a serious, real-world problem for an actual end-user by producing original program code in a suitable environment.
The solution will span all aspects from analysis of the problem, through design to implementation, testing,
maintenance and evaluation. All aspects must be thoroughly and clearly documented. This project is worth 20% of the total A Level mark, so is extremely important, and spans most of the upper sixth year in parallel with theory work, so it is not for the faint-hearted!
There are no formal GCSE requirements, though students should note that this is a rigorous academic course, requiring numeracy and strong logical abilities. The emphasis in the teaching is on understanding rather than simple learning, as computing as a discipline is extremely fast moving. Strong candidates are those who can quickly infer patterns from information they are presented with, and then extrapolate these to deal with new situations. Although candidates are taught to write programs in PASCAL, the practical exercise itself is self-led, so a high level of determination is required to complete it to the standard required in the time available. Computing is not offered to GCSE, so the level of effort required right from the start of this course is one of the highest. Those aiming to study the subject at university should also seriously consider studying Maths to A Level.
How will I be assessed?
Unit 1- Problem Solving, Programming, Data Representation and practical Exercise: 2 Hour Onscreen test
Taught in first year. (30% of total mark)
Examination in May of Year 12.
Unit 2- Computer Components. The Stored Program Concept and the Internet: 1 Hour Written Paper
Teaching starts after Christmas in first year (20% of total mark) Examination in May of Year 12.
Unit 3 -Problem Solving, Programming, Operating Systems, Databases and Networking: 2½ Hour Written Paper
Taught throughout second year. (30% of total mark) Examined in May of Year 13
Unit 4- The Practical Project: Runs throughout the second year (including the summer between Y12 and Y13)
(20% of total mark) Examined in May of Year 13.
Where will it lead?
In a fast-moving world, these are many and varied future applications of the subject, and no-one with advanced computing skills will ever be short of opportunities to apply them.