Computer Science

Are you a logical thinker and enjoy problem solving?

Will it interest you to explore how computers work and investigate what they are used for?

Do you recognise that creating computing solutions is highly creative work with a certain degree of beauty and elegance?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions then you have already understood the need for Computer Science. It is the course that will give you the necessary skill set for an educated person in the 21st century and a competitive advantage in a wide range of exciting, well-paid careers.

 

What will I study?

The new specification for Computer Science is acknowledged by Higher Education as a rigorous scientific subject; and reveals the subject to be a fundamental, academic discipline underpinning other subjects.

Paper 1 – 40% of A-Level – 2½ hour on-screen examination

Programming – imperative procedural-oriented, OOP, recursive techniques
Data structures – arrays, lists, dictionaries, hash tables, queue, graph, tree, stack, vector, fields, records, files (text & binary)
Algorithms – traversal, search, sort, optimisation
Theory of computation – abstraction, automation, FSM with and without output, language hierarchy, complexity, Turing machines

Paper 2 – 40% of A-Level – 2½ hour written examination

Data representation – number systems/bases, information coding systems, encryption
Computer systems – logic gates, Boolean algebra, program translator types, classification of programming languages, system software
Computer organisation and architecture – machine code/assembly language, CPU, internal components of computer, external hardware devices (limited range)
Consequences of uses of computing – software and their algorithms embed moral & cultural values, issue of scale brings potential for great good but also ability to cause great harm, challenges facing legislators
Communication and networking – communication methods/basics, network topology, wireless, the Internet, TCP/IP, CRUD applications and REST, JSON, JavaScript
Databases – data modelling, relational database, SQL, client server databases
Big Data – volume/velocity/variety, fact-based model, distributed processing and functional programming
Fundamentals of functional programming – function type, first-class object, function application, partial function application, composition of functions, map, filter, reduce, lists

Project – 20% of A-Level – practical project

Non-exam assessment allows you to use the knowledge and skills gained through the course to solve a practical problem of interest over an extended period.


Exam board

AQA

 

How should I prepare for A-level study?

  • Download Python v3 from www.python.org and install on your computer. Use any of a host of on-line tutorials to learn how to code in the programming language you will use throughout your course.
  • Read CSFN – a magazine dedicated to Computer Science for A-level students, available as a free download from www.csfn.org
  • Watch the Academy Award winning film – The Imitation Game to appreciate how the roots of modern Computer Science can be traced back to brilliant minds successfully cracking German codes during World War II.
  • Visit Bletchley Park – the top-secret site of the code-breakers seen in The Imitation Game, to understand the work of Alan Turing and others.
  • Whilst at Bletchley take a guided tour of the National Museum of Computing to learn about Colossus – the world’s first programmable, electronic, digital computer.

 

Future careers

Computer Science is a subject which is becoming more and more central to every type of business.
A good foundation in this subject will enable you to follow one of a wide variety of career paths. Well qualified and skilled programmers are in great demand as shown in numerous surveys. Further specialised study can lead to employment in the gaming industries. A computing qualification is a good basis for work as a technician, consultant, computer engineer, software engineer, analyst, data modeller, systems administrator, network administrator, software developer or programmer.

The course is also an excellent preparation if you want to study or work in areas that rely on the skills you will develop, especially where they are applied to technical problems. These areas include engineering, design, financial and resource management, medical health and all branches of science.

"We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done." 

– Alan Turing, founder of modern computing