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Computer Science

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Why study Computer Science?

Exam board and specification codes: AQA (7517)

Computers are at the centre of our modern lives but few people actually understand how they work. Computing is also one of the highest paying fields, due to the high demand and low supply of talent. A major aspect of Computer Science is looking at how software is made. These general skills can be applied to a range of scenarios, from making robots and computer games to Facebook and YouTube. Rather than just using apps, Computer Science allows students to create them. It brings together a wide variety of skills from maths and engineering to the creativity required to build the next big idea.

What is covered by the course?

A-Level Year 1

Paper One focuses on programing and making software, topics include:

  • Variables and data types
  • Programming decisions and repetition
  • Structuring code for speed and efficiency

The essence of this unit is understanding how software is made and how it works, this means learning programming usually in Visual Basic.NET

Paper Two covers the theoretical concepts of computing and includes the study of:

  • Binary: how computers understand numbers, characters, images and sound.
  • How computer memory and CPU are built and work.
  • Types of hardware and software
  • Fundamental of network communication including wireless

A-Level Year 2

Paper One - Programming:

  • Advanced structured programming techniques
  • How data is structured, searched and sorted

Paper Two - Theory:

  • The internet and security
  • Database design
  • Big data and functional programming

Non-exam Assessment:

The final unit is coursework-based and normally revolves around a database system. Students have the opportunity to build a website, an app or game. Students are required to program a system that is of a substantially complex nature. Approximately half of the unit revolves around making the system, while documenting the system makes up the remainder. The measure of success is whether the system is of a professional standard and worthy of selling.

How is it examined?

  • 1 x on-screen programming exam. 2hrs 30mins, 40%
  • 1 x written theory paper. 2hrs 30mins, 40%
  • 1 x non-exam assessment (coursework project), 20%

The A-Level exams have questions that require extended prose answers.

The coursework consists of an in-depth extended project from September until April.

Related university courses and careers

The most common related degree is BSc. Computer Science.

Common career paths:

  • Software Developer
  • Engineering
  • Finance
  • Science-related careers

Suggested reading

'My Revision Notes AQA A-Level Computer Science' by Bob Reeves

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