A-level comp science hard? Watch

magmiles
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#1
I'm in Year 11 and I'm taking A-Level Computer Science in September and I want to know from anybody that's taking it now or has taken it if it's really challenging or not. If so, what are the challenging topics in Computer Science?

+ what resources can I use to start learning Computer Science now (AQA)
0
reply
magmiles
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#2
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#2
bump
0
reply
Bill Nye
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#3
Report 1 year ago
#3
Bump
0
reply
Archon9
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#4
Report 1 year ago
#4
Bump
0
reply
Dysf(x)al
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#5
Report 1 year ago
#5
(Original post by magmiles)
I'm in Year 11 and I'm taking A-Level Computer Science in September and I want to know from anybody that's taking it now or has taken it if it's really challenging or not. If so, what are the challenging topics in Computer Science?

+ what resources can I use to start learning Computer Science now (AQA)
I wouldn't say it's hugely challenging. Getting an A* can be tough because the theory papers have quite a lot of content on them, but the dropout rate in my class is far lower than for physics and chemistry. I'm also doing AQA in case you're wondering.

As for resources, if you did GCSE you'll have a headstart (don't worry if you didn't - I didn't do it and I was fine) as far as theory goes. If you're looking at getting better at coding, you'll be taught the language from scratch so it's not necessary to learn the language your school/college uses. Familiarising yourself with code structures (e.g. branches, loops, functions, recursion) is more important imo.
1
reply
Acsel
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#6
Report 1 year ago
#6
Didn't take it because A Level CS was never a thing for me. But in terms of things that are useful to know a bit about or have experience with:

Programming: Learn basic programming constructs using a simple language. Python is the most common language for beginners and some courses won't do anything more advanced. Others may have you learning Object Oriented Programming with something like Java. If you really want a challenge, learn some C

Networking: Basic things like cables, difference between Simplex and Duplex, the OSI model, a few common protocols with TCP and IP being the most obvious, different pieces of hardware (routers, switches, hubs, etc.) and which are commonly used, different network topologies, routing, IP addresses and subnetting

Hardware, Operating Systems and general architecture: Components (common components and why we have them), converting between denary, binary, octal and hexadecimal, how data is stored on hard drives (tracks, sectors, etc.), basic logic (AND, OR, NOT, etc. gates), not likely to be relevant but I highly recommend getting some experience with Linux. The human side of things, so HCI can come into it as well

Web and the Internet: Basic website design with HTML5 and CSS3 (no using Dreamweaver and tables), this is probably less common at A Level

Computer Security: Applies to all of the above, so things like encryption and PKI for transmitting data securely across networks, secure web design, good programming principles and so on. Also highly unlikely to be relevant but definitely something you need to consider

I'll note, this is not all strictly related to A Level CS. I've assumed that if you are taking it and asking this question, you have some desire to follow up, such as by doing a degree. If so, learning the advanced stuff will be worthwhile. A lot of this will not be relevant at A Level but having some knowledge of everything will be useful if you intend to pursue CS beyond A Level.
1
reply
magmiles
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#7
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#7
(Original post by TheMindGarage)
I wouldn't say it's hugely challenging. Getting an A* can be tough because the theory papers have quite a lot of content on them, but the dropout rate in my class is far lower than for physics and chemistry. I'm also doing AQA in case you're wondering.

As for resources, if you did GCSE you'll have a headstart (don't worry if you didn't - I didn't do it and I was fine) as far as theory goes. If you're looking at getting better at coding, you'll be taught the language from scratch so it's not necessary to learn the language your school/college uses. Familiarising yourself with code structures (e.g. branches, loops, functions, recursion) is more important imo.
Thanks for the info, my school is doing AQA too. I have already taught myself some C++ but I have no idea what language they'll teach me during the course, do you have any idea? I didn't take the subject at GCSE but honestly I'm aiming to get an A*, but looking at previous years, only 3% of people who take the subject get an A* so I'm really looking to get an edge on the subject where ever possible. Anything else do you suggest I do & any websites to add on?
0
reply
magmiles
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#8
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#8
(Original post by Acsel)
Didn't take it because A Level CS was never a thing for me. But in terms of things that are useful to know a bit about or have experience with:

Programming: Learn basic programming constructs using a simple language. Python is the most common language for beginners and some courses won't do anything more advanced. Others may have you learning Object Oriented Programming with something like Java. If you really want a challenge, learn some C

Networking: Basic things like cables, difference between Simplex and Duplex, the OSI model, a few common protocols with TCP and IP being the most obvious, different pieces of hardware (routers, switches, hubs, etc.) and which are commonly used, different network topologies, routing, IP addresses and subnetting

Hardware, Operating Systems and general architecture: Components (common components and why we have them), converting between denary, binary, octal and hexadecimal, how data is stored on hard drives (tracks, sectors, etc.), basic logic (AND, OR, NOT, etc. gates), not likely to be relevant but I highly recommend getting some experience with Linux. The human side of things, so HCI can come into it as well

Web and the Internet: Basic website design with HTML5 and CSS3 (no using Dreamweaver and tables), this is probably less common at A Level

Computer Security: Applies to all of the above, so things like encryption and PKI for transmitting data securely across networks, secure web design, good programming principles and so on. Also highly unlikely to be relevant but definitely something you need to consider

I'll note, this is not all strictly related to A Level CS. I've assumed that if you are taking it and asking this question, you have some desire to follow up, such as by doing a degree. If so, learning the advanced stuff will be worthwhile. A lot of this will not be relevant at A Level but having some knowledge of everything will be useful if you intend to pursue CS beyond A Level.
Is the language really likely to be python as it seems really basic in comparison to C++ (teaching myself)

I've never come across Networking or Hardware, OS & General Architecture, where can I get a better knowledge of them?
0
reply
Dysf(x)al
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#9
Report 1 year ago
#9
(Original post by magmiles)
Thanks for the info, my school is doing AQA too. I have already taught myself some C++ but I have no idea what language they'll teach me during the course, do you have any idea? I didn't take the subject at GCSE but honestly I'm aiming to get an A*, but looking at previous years, only 3% of people who take the subject get an A* so I'm really looking to get an edge on the subject where ever possible. Anything else do you suggest I do & any websites to add on?
Depends on the college. Mine does VB *proceeds to vomit on keyboard*, but I learned C# for my project (it's a Unity game) and I'm in the process of relearning Python for competitive programming purposes.

I don't really know of many resources for theory - my college makes their own and everyone just uses those. If you're a strong coder, you can try things like coding common algorithms (e.g. merge sort, quick sort) or look at programming competitions like the British Informatics Olympiad (very difficult), Google Code Jam (insanely difficult) or TCSOCC (not that difficult but in the real thing you only have 1 hour for the entire lot).
0
reply
fl0wvo
Badges: 8
Rep:
?
#10
Report 1 year ago
#10
Depends on your attitude towards computing. You really need to put in a lot of time learning theory, practising your programming language and also reading extra stuff. I've just finished my year 12 finals and I can safely say that in the unit 1 paper for AQA, a lot of the questions require expanded knowledge of terms which are only briefly mentioned in the textbook!
0
reply
Acsel
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#11
Report 1 year ago
#11
(Original post by magmiles)
Is the language really likely to be python as it seems really basic in comparison to C++ (teaching myself)

I've never come across Networking or Hardware, OS & General Architecture, where can I get a better knowledge of them?
Most likely, plenty of degree programs will use Python as an introductory language. Keep in mind that while it may seem basic compared to C++, there are many different languages all in common use. Python is a very widely used language because of it's a productive language and being familiar with many languages is important.

In terms of common languages to teach beginners, I've seen Python, Java, C (and to a lesser extent C++ and C#) and Visual Basic. By far the most common one I see, both in schools/colleges and recommended to beginners is Python. That doesn't mean you have to give up C++ though. If you're learning C++ then great, stick with that. You'll find Python easy to pick up. But it's highly likely you'll need to use Python at A Level. Having experience with both would be great though because there's no one language that's good for everything.

For the other topic, Google is your friend. I don't have any specific resources I can recommend. If you know you're taking A Level CS with AQA then the AQA spec and textbooks would be your first point of call. If it were me, I'd get the AQA spec, make a list of all the topics covered that I don't know and then Google them. Find resources that work for you and focus only on things that are present in the spec at first. Probably the most important skill you'll need in CS is the ability to find things yourself.

EDIT: Looking at the spec myself, it seems the majority of emphasis is placed on programming with a bit of networking, architecture and database content so these are where you want to focus at first.
0
reply
magmiles
Badges: 11
Rep:
?
#12
Report Thread starter 1 year ago
#12
(Original post by Acsel)
Most likely, plenty of degree programs will use Python as an introductory language. Keep in mind that while it may seem basic compared to C++, there are many different languages all in common use. Python is a very widely used language because of it's a productive language and being familiar with many languages is important.

In terms of common languages to teach beginners, I've seen Python, Java, C (and to a lesser extent C++ and C#) and Visual Basic. By far the most common one I see, both in schools/colleges and recommended to beginners is Python. That doesn't mean you have to give up C++ though. If you're learning C++ then great, stick with that. You'll find Python easy to pick up. But it's highly likely you'll need to use Python at A Level. Having experience with both would be great though because there's no one language that's good for everything.

For the other topic, Google is your friend. I don't have any specific resources I can recommend. If you know you're taking A Level CS with AQA then the AQA spec and textbooks would be your first point of call. If it were me, I'd get the AQA spec, make a list of all the topics covered that I don't know and then Google them. Find resources that work for you and focus only on things that are present in the spec at first. Probably the most important skill you'll need in CS is the ability to find things yourself.

EDIT: Looking at the spec myself, it seems the majority of emphasis is placed on programming with a bit of networking, architecture and database content so these are where you want to focus at first.
Really helpful, thanks
1
reply
winterscoming
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#13
Report 1 year ago
#13
(Original post by magmiles)
Is the language really likely to be python as it seems really basic in comparison to C++ (teaching myself)

I've never come across Networking or Hardware, OS & General Architecture, where can I get a better knowledge of them?
As Acsel mentioned, there's nothing wrong with Python at all, but the best thing to do is choose a language and stick to it.

C++ doesn't have as many good quality resources compared with Java and Python, but you could try these:

Free Microsoft C++ Courses (ignore paid-for certificates, click the 'Audit' link when enrolling):

For learning networking, try Cisco courses - no other courses really come close in terms of quality:

(Again, Its free - when clicking to enrol, choose the link which says "audit" and don't click the ones which ask you to pay)

Check out this game as a fun way of learning to quickly think in binary:

Also try some of the codecademy interactive lessons to get a bit of practice in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and SQL - https://www.codecademy.com/catalog/subject/all
2
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Latest
My Feed

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.

Personalise

University open days

  • Bournemouth University
    Clearing Open Day Undergraduate
    Wed, 31 Jul '19
  • Staffordshire University
    Postgraduate open event - Stoke-on-Trent campus Postgraduate
    Wed, 7 Aug '19
  • University of Derby
    Foundation Open Event Further education
    Wed, 7 Aug '19

Are you tempted to change your firm university choice on A-level results day?

Yes, I'll try and go to a uni higher up the league tables (161)
17.54%
Yes, there is a uni that I prefer and I'll fit in better (81)
8.82%
No I am happy with my course choice (546)
59.48%
I'm using Clearing when I have my exam results (130)
14.16%

Watched Threads

View All