Considering Computer Science GCSE or A level? Read our FAQ here

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Lemur14
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Are you considering taking Computer Science as a GCSE or A level option? Read below for more information to help educate your decision!

GCSE(9-1)
What skills are useful for computer science?
Fluency in basic mathematics is essential for this course. A interest in programming is also deeply useful and will assist you in the course. Basic English will also be necessary to complete the non-exam assessment and the exams.

What is the workload like?
The workload for this GCSE will be similar to most other GCSEs. There is plenty of theory to learn, but it should not be too heavy either throughout the course or near exam time. It would be useful to do some regular programming throughout the course, which may add a small amount of work, but if you take this subject you should enjoy programming so that shouldn't be too bad!
When asking questions about studying computer science GCSE, you may find a lot of people say the workload is very heavy. The new 9-1 specification has lightened that workload by reducing the non-exam assessment from 60% to 20%.

What sort of topics will be studied?

  • Programming (both in specific programming languages and pseudo code)
  • Data representation (binary, hexadecimal, sound and light representation)
  • Computer systems (what actually makes up a computer system and what does each part do)
  • Computer networks (topologies, client-server communication)
  • Cyber security (threats, prevention)
  • Ethical, legal and environmental impacts of technology (privacy, copyrighting and more)
  • Software development (including software life cycles and their benefits).

How will it be assessed?
The course is 20% non-exam assessment, and 80% exam. Each of the main exam board has 2 exams for this subject, worth 40% each. One is comprised of mostly algorithms, programming and data representation, while the other exam is all the other content, although the topics in the first exam can also be assessed in the second exam.

What is it useful for post-GCSE?
Computer science helps to develop your logic skills, along with other skills such as mathematical reasoning and programming skills. People often go on to study subjects at A level such as computer science, mathematics, further mathematics, product design and business.

A level (new specification)
What are common requirements for Computer Science
Common requirements for A level include:
C/B in GCSE Computer Science
6/7 in GCSE Mathematics
5/6 in GCSE English Language
Requirements are different depending on the school/college, so check with your chosen sixth form if you are unsure what the requirements are

How is A level different to GCSE?
The A level Computer Science will go into more depth than the GCSE. The A level course focuses more on the real life application of computer science.

What sort of topics will be studied?

  • Programming
  • Data structures
  • Algorithms
  • Computation
  • Data representation
  • Computer systems
  • Computer organisation and architecture
  • Consequences of uses of computing
  • Communication and networking
  • Databases
  • Big data
  • Functional programming
  • Problem solving

What is the workload like?
Again, the workload will be similar to that of most A levels. As for all A levels, work outside the lesson will be essential, including developing your programming skills. Time spent developing your understanding of the theory will also be important.

How will it be assessed?
For the main exam boards there will be two 2 hour and 30 minute written papers worth 40% each, and a non-exam assessment worth 20%. For AQA, one of the written papers will be completed as an on-screen assessment.

What is it useful for post-A Level?
A level Computer Science can be a prerequisite for many courses at university. For example, computer science, maths, gaming, product design and many other degrees.
It may also be used to go straight into employment, for example as a computer programmer or game designer.
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Lilllyyyy3
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If I haven’t done GCSEs in computer science but want to do it at a level would that be ok?
Also I want to do it cos I find it interesting even though I know nothing about the subject:rolleyes:
Finally if i do computer science courses in summer could I gain enough knowledge to do at a level
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Lemur14
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(Original post by Lilllyyyy3)
If I haven’t done GCSEs in computer science but want to do it at a level would that be ok?
Also I want to do it cos I find it interesting even though I know nothing about the subject:rolleyes:
Finally if i do computer science courses in summer could I gain enough knowledge to do at a level
In my experience schools will usually take you without you having done GCSE so you'd be fine from that respect. Having said that, I think some basic knowledge is pretty essential if you're starting in a class where most have done it. I'd recommend finding out what language you'll be working in and doing a short online course to get some basics sorted before you start So yes I'd say a course would really help but of course it is possible to do it without, just generally teachers struggle to differentiate between those who have done nothing and those that have a solid GCSE grade so a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in that respect

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Lilllyyyy3
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thank you so much, i was really doubting whether to do it or not as most people had put me down on it since i hadn't done anything! i will for sure do some courses on cs in summer lol
(Original post by Lemur14)
In my experience schools will usually take you without you having done GCSE so you'd be fine from that respect. Having said that, I think some basic knowledge is pretty essential if you're starting in a class where most have done it. I'd recommend finding out what language you'll be working in and doing a short online course to get some basics sorted before you start So yes I'd say a course would really help but of course it is possible to do it without, just generally teachers struggle to differentiate between those who have done nothing and those that have a solid GCSE grade so a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in that respect

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Lemur14
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(Original post by Lilllyyyy3)
thank you so much, i was really doubting whether to do it or not as most people had put me down on it since i hadn't done anything! i will for sure do some courses on cs in summer lol
Plenty of people take up new subjects at A level, computing is less frequent than many but that doesn't mean it's not possible, just some extra work at the start Although I should probably mention if you're interested in taking it beyond A level then maths would be more useful than CS because that's what most unis etc. Want (and it'll be useful for the A level course too if you're doing both!)

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Lilllyyyy3
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oh so what type of maths would be in cs?
(Original post by Lemur14)
Plenty of people take up new subjects at A level, computing is less frequent than many but that doesn't mean it's not possible, just some extra work at the start Although I should probably mention if you're interested in taking it beyond A level then maths would be more useful than CS because that's what most unis etc. Want (and it'll be useful for the A level course too if you're doing both!)

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Lemur14
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(Original post by Lilllyyyy3)
oh so what type of maths would be in cs?
It's mostly binary and stuff which isn't on A level, although there's a bit of further maths in there I wouldn't take it just for that! I think it's more the logical thinking that unis like but could be wrong there

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