Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free

Computer Science/Computing A level a prerequisite? Watch

    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    Should Computer science at A level be a prerequisite to take computing/computer science related courses at university (undergrad).

    Although I understand the reason behind maths being a requirement as it pops up almost everywhere in computer science it's not fair on the students to go into a course they have no idea about (assuming they haven't done a formal qualification relating to computer science before hand).
    Offline

    14
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    Should Computer science at A level be a prerequisite to take computing/computer science related courses at university (undergrad).

    Although I understand the reason behind maths being a requirement as it pops up almost everywhere in computer science it's not fair on the students to go into a course they have no idea about (assuming they haven't done a formal qualification relating to computer science before hand).
    I feel current undergrad degrees don't need Computer Science A-level as a prerequisite (universities claim that this is because of how poor the old CompSci A-level was) due to the fact that the course is built for beginners in first year. If they made it a prerequisite though, the undergrad degrees could cover a lot more without having to teach CompSci from the ground up
    Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
    Offline

    21
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    Should Computer science at A level be a prerequisite to take computing/computer science related courses at university (undergrad).

    Although I understand the reason behind maths being a requirement as it pops up almost everywhere in computer science it's not fair on the students to go into a course they have no idea about (assuming they haven't done a formal qualification relating to computer science before hand).
    You don't need a formal qualification to have an idea about a subject, although I do think that universities don't ask for enough from prospective CS students. I'm most surprised that they still take people with no prior computing experience - it's cheap and easy to get, so why not require it?
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by ImprobableCacti)
    I feel current undergrad degrees don't need Computer Science A-level as a prerequisite (universities claim that this is because of how poor the old CompSci A-level was) due to the fact that the course is built for beginners in first year. If they made it a prerequisite though, the undergrad degrees could cover a lot more without having to teach CompSci from the ground up
    Yeah that's my point. Also with the newer computer science a level specs I can guarantee that there's quite a good overview of CS (for OCR and maybe aqa). Everything's covered in some detail including networking/security/encryption/algorithms/ethics/binarystuff/computer hardware/components/programming(Javascript, SQL, CSS and pseudocode)/datastructures etc I really feel like the first year of Uni is gone to waste for students who've taken the new spec as I've seen many of the modules and I understand that they go into slightly more detail in the first year than A level but still.. not a very efficient first year to say the least.
    Offline

    14
    ReputationRep:
    Why? No one applies to a decent uni without some idea of the subject they're studying. Otherwise their personal statement would be completely irrelevant. It's not like people applying to Natural sciences with their PS for medicine, unis understand that people will do this so will not be too worried about a medicine PS. If you have 0 knowledge of CS then they'll have to reject you. There's a ton of resources online. Most people applying to top unis will use these resources to compensate for a lack of A level.
    Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Appleorpear)
    Why? No one applies to a decent uni without some idea of the subject they're studying. Otherwise their personal statement would be completely irrelevant. It's not like people applying to Natural sciences with their PS for medicine, unis understand that people will do this so will not be too worried about a medicine PS. If you have 0 knowledge of CS then they'll have to reject you. There's a ton of resources online. Most people applying to top unis will use these resources to compensate for a lack of A level.
    Yea but you don't get into a maths course just by having an idea of what maths is about Lmfao?
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    As of right now, requiring all students to have taken COmputer Science at A Level would restrict a lot of students from taking the subject. Now, as the A Level matures and becomes more widespread across the country it may eventually make sense for it to become a requirement, however I believe that we are quite far away from that at the current time.
    Offline

    14
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    Yeah that's my point. Also with the newer computer science a level specs I can guarantee that there's quite a good overview of CS (for OCR and maybe aqa). Everything's covered in some detail including networking/security/encryption/algorithms/ethics/binarystuff/computer hardware/components/programming(Javascript, SQL, CSS and pseudocode)/datastructures etc I really feel like the first year of Uni is gone to waste for students who've taken the new spec as I've seen many of the modules and I understand that they go into slightly more detail in the first year than A level but still.. not a very efficient first year to say the least.
    AQA is great we do all that with programming in detail (OOP and Recursive & huge project [very much like undergrad]), lots about computer architecture and programming in assembly language (in order to understand the processor better). But I feel like CompSci A-Level is now super detailed!
    Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
    • Community Assistant
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Community Assistant
    Realistically, first year (let's be honest, first term) CS and A-level CS are focused on teaching programming. Anyone can learn programming, and anyone can be a programmer. Computer Science is much broader and deeper than this, and while students having programming experience could accelerate things a little bit, realistically it won't make a difference.

    Outside of a couple weeks saved, the university is going to want to teach specific programming languages themselves which they will hence assume as a prerequisite for other courses - unless A-level CS requires a given language as the language of tuition and this is a useful/common language used ubiquitously by universities in teaching CS, then they can't assume that anyway.

    Essentially, it's not required because it's not required. Even with knowledge of programming, almost all of the course will be "new" and they benefit more from teaching you the core programming themselves (i.e. to ensure you don't pick up bad programming habits, you learn the languages they want you to learn, etc, etc.) than they lose from having to pay lecturers to teach it and spend time on the course teaching it.

    If you're interested in CS and want to learn to program, you can easily do that just by looking up on the internet tutorials and programming projects - there are dozens of forums devoted to such. You will then unlearn all the bad habits you picked up and relearn how to write code properly, which is quite likely true if you'd done A-level CS as well anyway.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    Realistically, first year (let's be honest, first term) CS and A-level CS are focused on teaching programming. Anyone can learn programming, and anyone can be a programmer. Computer Science is much broader and deeper than this, and while students having programming experience could accelerate things a little bit, realistically it won't make a difference.

    Outside of a couple weeks saved, the university is going to want to teach specific programming languages themselves which they will hence assume as a prerequisite for other courses - unless A-level CS requires a given language as the language of tuition and this is a useful/common language used ubiquitously by universities in teaching CS, then they can't assume that anyway.

    Essentially, it's not required because it's not required. Even with knowledge of programming, almost all of the course will be "new" and they benefit more from teaching you the core programming themselves (i.e. to ensure you don't pick up bad programming habits, you learn the languages they want you to learn, etc, etc.) than they lose from having to pay lecturers to teach it and spend time on the course teaching it.

    If you're interested in CS and want to learn to program, you can easily do that just by looking up on the internet tutorials and programming projects - there are dozens of forums devoted to such. You will then unlearn all the bad habits you picked up and relearn how to write code properly, which is quite likely true if you'd done A-level CS as well anyway.
    Lmao what? You clearly aren't familiar with the new specs then. They go into functional/imperative/OO programming (programming paradigms) and they also cover Computer Science as a whole not just programming. Programming makes like 1/5 of the course content.

    Since when did lecturers give lectures on programming habits? The only way you're going to improve them is by practice and research.

    With all due respect I think much of what you're saying isn't backed up and is what someone who has a broad idea of computer science/ a level computer science would say.
    Offline

    14
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    Yea but you don't get into a maths course just by having an idea of what maths is about Lmfao?
    Because everyone has studies maths all their life.
    Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    IMO the computing courses are kind of pointless. I got an A * in GCSE computing only because I had a really good teacher. Or else, I would have failed because the courses are not organised properly.
    • Community Assistant
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Community Assistant
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    Lmao what? You clearly aren't familiar with the new specs then. They go into functional/imperative/OO programming (programming paradigms) and they also cover Computer Science as a whole not just programming. Programming makes like 1/5 of the course content.

    Since when did lecturers give lectures on programming habits? The only way you're going to improve them is by practice and research.

    With all due respect I think much of what you're saying isn't backed up and is what someone who has a broad idea of computer science/ a level computer science would say.
    If it wasn't clear, I would consider "Basic boolean algebra, simple introduction to data types, and computer arithmetic" as "programming". Essentially you can learn all that content by yourself easily, or in a one or two week course covering basic aspects of programming (and elements of CS as necessary).

    The only thing that could be a relevant prerequisite is e.g. big O notation and algorithm analysis - but this is taught much more formally and mathematically by the vast majority of CS courses so you just end up with a trivial introduction otherwise. Which again, the university doesn't care as they reintroduce it anyway, and would likely plan to do so regardless.

    It's a fine option but there is no realm in which I could see it being a necessary or even useful prerequisite.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    If it wasn't clear, I would consider "Basic boolean algebra, simple introduction to data types, and computer arithmetic" as "programming". Essentially you can learn all that content by yourself easily
    There's much more than just that in the course, what you just said makes up a small fraction of it. You could easily say that about the maths A level too it gives you a basic understanding of calculus etc.

    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    Which again, the university doesn't care as they reintroduce it anyway, and would likely plan to do so regardless.
    This is my point why waste your time reintroducing it when you could do an A level which covers the basics of everything before hand.
    • Community Assistant
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Community Assistant
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    There's much more than just that in the course, what you just said makes up a small fraction of it. You could easily say that about the maths A level too it gives you a basic understanding of calculus etc.



    This is my point why waste your time reintroducing it when you could do an A level which covers the basics of everything before hand.
    It doesn't take that much time to re-cover those topics from CS - whereas it takes longer to develop calculus from scratch. Reviewing calculus is quick - teaching it is not. Reviewing and teaching those aspects of CS are both quick, relative to that.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    It doesn't take that much time to re-cover those topics from CS - whereas it takes longer to develop calculus from scratch. Reviewing calculus is quick - teaching it is not. Reviewing and teaching those aspects of CS are both quick, relative to that.
    Calculus isn't any more difficult to review. That's entirely opinion based so your argument is null
    • Community Assistant
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Community Assistant
    (Original post by EpicMan)
    Calculus isn't any more difficult to review. That's entirely opinion based so your argument is null
    Well, to begin with your supposed "defence" against my argument is "null" because you didn't read the post, which states calculus is easy to REVIEW and difficult to TEACH as opposed to misreading or willfully misinterpreting it as as me suggesting it's difficult to review having learned it previously.

    Secondly, your "gotcha" of "it's opinion! therefore I don't need to justify any of my arguments and can continue jerking off over A-level CS!" is false because the content you have indicated should be the prerequisite which you are deluding yourself is challenging is normally taught in a one semester course in the US. Most core calculus where not taught with the background of A-level mathematics or equivalent where they DON'T have the benefit of excellent student preparation in mathematics (such as MIT) takes two semesters of university level study to cover the necessary single variable calculus content, or at a few two and a half where the final aspects of integral calculus are developed with multivariable (non-vector) calculus.

    Before you leap on the whining train of "but america is differeeeeent", computers and mathematics are the same everywhere, so you can take that argument and shove it somewhere.

    Whether you like it or not the content you are so vigorously defending is easier to grasp, easier to teach, and thus takes less time to build up. Calculus presents many conceptual difficulties for students learning it for the first time, and so many take longer, and universities need to account for this when designing curricula. Additionally calculus has a single format in which it exists, and barring a handful of rare notation and terminology changes which do not affect the mechanics of the concept, is the same everywhere. Programming languages vary immeasurably, and unlike calculus what may be in vogue one year is likely to be very unappealing even 10 years hence. Nobody uses FORTRAN unless they have an axe to grind.

    There is a reason for this. The core function of computers are in fact continually evolving - wireless network technology didn't even exist in it's current format 20 years ago. It makes no sense for universities to expect that A-level students, half of whom (assuming a top tier university which engages in outreach and recruitment of state sector candidates) may well have had sub-par teaching which focused excessively on teaching to the exam, to have up to date knowledge of a field which continues to rapidly change even at the "Basic" level.

    Moreover, the basic computer arithmetic and concept of binary representation, along with extremely simple digital electronics and programming concepts are not, as above, difficult to teach. Such topics are easily contained in a single semester module/course, or if they want to develop each to a much greater depth than the A-level course covers anyway, in perhaps two separate courses, breaking apart the hardware and software content.

    The A-level will likely remain what it is - a useful taster course for those unsure of their long term objectives that provides no particular benefit or hindrance for candidates in the long term, much like Law. Which your flawed argument could also be applied to, and I think most can agree making A-level Law a prerequisite for Law degrees would do more to weaken the quality of graduating Law students who may as a result have a weaker grasp of core principles of e.g. contract and criminal law as contained in the A-level, than those who had done other generally academically rigorous A-levels that provide the highest level of transferable skills relevant to the course.

    As you've made it clear you actually have no interest in "debate" on the subject and instead purely wish to zealously attack those who offer a contradicting viewpoint, you may as well drop all pretense and remake this thread in chat, where your irreverence towards actual educational debate is the norm.
    Online

    8
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    Well, to begin with your supposed "defence" against my argument is "null" because you didn't read the post, which states calculus is easy to REVIEW and difficult to TEACH as opposed to misreading or willfully misinterpreting it as as me suggesting it's difficult to review having learned it previously.

    Secondly, your "gotcha" of "it's opinion! therefore I don't need to justify any of my arguments and can continue jerking off over A-level CS!" is false because the content you have indicated should be the prerequisite which you are deluding yourself is challenging is normally taught in a one semester course in the US. Most core calculus where not taught with the background of A-level mathematics or equivalent where they DON'T have the benefit of excellent student preparation in mathematics (such as MIT) takes two semesters of university level study to cover the necessary single variable calculus content, or at a few two and a half where the final aspects of integral calculus are developed with multivariable (non-vector) calculus.

    Before you leap on the whining train of "but america is differeeeeent", computers and mathematics are the same everywhere, so you can take that argument and shove it somewhere.

    Whether you like it or not the content you are so vigorously defending is easier to grasp, easier to teach, and thus takes less time to build up. Calculus presents many conceptual difficulties for students learning it for the first time, and so many take longer, and universities need to account for this when designing curricula. Additionally calculus has a single format in which it exists, and barring a handful of rare notation and terminology changes which do not affect the mechanics of the concept, is the same everywhere. Programming languages vary immeasurably, and unlike calculus what may be in vogue one year is likely to be very unappealing even 10 years hence. Nobody uses FORTRAN unless they have an axe to grind.

    There is a reason for this. The core function of computers are in fact continually evolving - wireless network technology didn't even exist in it's current format 20 years ago. It makes no sense for universities to expect that A-level students, half of whom (assuming a top tier university which engages in outreach and recruitment of state sector candidates) may well have had sub-par teaching which focused excessively on teaching to the exam, to have up to date knowledge of a field which continues to rapidly change even at the "Basic" level.

    Moreover, the basic computer arithmetic and concept of binary representation, along with extremely simple digital electronics and programming concepts are not, as above, difficult to teach. Such topics are easily contained in a single semester module/course, or if they want to develop each to a much greater depth than the A-level course covers anyway, in perhaps two separate courses, breaking apart the hardware and software content.

    The A-level will likely remain what it is - a useful taster course for those unsure of their long term objectives that provides no particular benefit or hindrance for candidates in the long term, much like Law. Which your flawed argument could also be applied to, and I think most can agree making A-level Law a prerequisite for Law degrees would do more to weaken the quality of graduating Law students who may as a result have a weaker grasp of core principles of e.g. contract and criminal law as contained in the A-level, than those who had done other generally academically rigorous A-levels that provide the highest level of transferable skills relevant to the course.

    As you've made it clear you actually have no interest in "debate" on the subject and instead purely wish to zealously attack those who offer a contradicting viewpoint, you may as well drop all pretense and remake this thread in chat, where your irreverence towards actual educational debate is the norm.
    ^ I feel obliged to rep this just because of how well written the response is.
    Offline

    14
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by artful_lounger)
    Realistically, first year (let's be honest, first term) CS and A-level CS are focused on teaching programming. Anyone can learn programming, and anyone can be a programmer. Computer Science is much broader and deeper than this, and while students having programming experience could accelerate things a little bit, realistically it won't make a difference.

    Outside of a couple weeks saved, the university is going to want to teach specific programming languages themselves which they will hence assume as a prerequisite for other courses - unless A-level CS requires a given language as the language of tuition and this is a useful/common language used ubiquitously by universities in teaching CS, then they can't assume that anyway.

    Essentially, it's not required because it's not required. Even with knowledge of programming, almost all of the course will be "new" and they benefit more from teaching you the core programming themselves (i.e. to ensure you don't pick up bad programming habits, you learn the languages they want you to learn, etc, etc.) than they lose from having to pay lecturers to teach it and spend time on the course teaching it.

    If you're interested in CS and want to learn to program, you can easily do that just by looking up on the internet tutorials and programming projects - there are dozens of forums devoted to such. You will then unlearn all the bad habits you picked up and relearn how to write code properly, which is quite likely true if you'd done A-level CS as well anyway.
    I think a fair bit of the theory behind programming languages and computer architecture & hardware, algorithms etc. Is now covered in the CS A-level too
    Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
    • Community Assistant
    Offline

    20
    ReputationRep:
    Community Assistant
    (Original post by ImprobableCacti)
    I think a fair bit of the theory behind programming languages and computer architecture & hardware, algorithms etc. Is now covered in the CS A-level too
    It is however largely unmathematical, thus needs to be "re-"taught rigorously anyway, and boards are loathe to include any non-trivial degree of mathematics in A-levels other than Mathematics. So, as above - it's fine for what it is. An introductory survey course for those wanting to test the waters with an unfamiliar area.

    I would argue A-level Physics would also fall into this category if they extended the core mechanics content of A-level Maths, but until they do it fulfills the requirement of further mechanics training as a prerequisite for university level Physics and Engineering. It technically also covers circuit electronics and introductory EM but this seems to be a pretty consistently weak area of teaching on the course so is of debatable reliability...
 
 
 
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • Poll
    What's your favourite Christmas sweets?
    Useful resources
    Uni match

    Applying to uni?

    Our tool will help you find the perfect course

    Articles:

    Debate and current affairs guidelinesDebate and current affairs wiki

    Quick link:

    Educational debate unanswered threads

    Groups associated with this forum:

    View associated groups
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

    Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

    Quick reply
    Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.