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Computer Science International Baccalaureate *Fees payable* at Brentwood School

Course description

What is Computer Science?

Computer Science is the study of the (programmable) machine - the detailed workings of the hardware components and software algorithms that have been developed over the past 50 years. 

It is the study of how computers and computer systems work and how they are constructed and programmed. 

Its primary aspects of theory, systems and applications are drawn from the disciplines of Technology, Design, Engineering, Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. 

Computer Science has many sub-fields; some emphasise the computation of specific results (such as computer graphics), while others relate to properties of computational problems (such as computational complexity theory). Still others focus on the challenges in implementing computation. For example, digital hardware design focuses on the electronic systems that execute programs and the communication networks that connect them; programming language theory studies approaches to describing computations; while computer programming applies specific programming languages to solve specific computational problems. A further subfield, human-computer interaction, focuses on the challenges in making computers and computations useful, usable and universally accessible to people. 

To this we might add critical thinking about the social and ethical implications of computing technology. Computer Science is a discipline, like mathematics or physics that explores foundational principles and ideas (such as techniques for searching the Web), rather than artefacts (such as particular computer programs), although it may use the latter to illuminate the former. Specifically, Computer Science is not 'MT', ICT is a skills-based course focusing, typically, on the use of applications such as databases and spreadsheets. Of course, ICT skills are fundamental, but fundamental to all areas of the curriculum as are literacy and numeracy. 

Computer Science is not just programming, either. A working knowledge of programming is necessary but not sufficient for a thorough grounding in Computer Science.  Programming nevertheless plays a special role because it is an extremely powerful motivator: nothing motivates students like making computers dance to their tune. For this purpose 'programming' clearly includes scripting and other form of 'glue' that allow us to build working artefacts from software components. 

Skills you will develop

  • A deeper understanding of how computers work and operate 'under the bonnet' 
  • The knowledge and the ability to utilize computer hardware and software and related emerging technologies efficiently 

Logic skills ranging from elementary (yet efficient) use to programming and advanced problem solving 


Course content

The Computer Science course provides an excellent grounding in computational thinking allowing students to develop and build computer systems that can solve simple and complex tasks in an efficient manner.  Programming in either Visual Studio's VB .NET or C# the student's will gain hands-on experience of developing applications for real-world problems.  Games programming is often at the core of the practical exercises taught.

Computer Science requires an understanding of the fundamental concepts of computational thinking as well as knowledge of how computers and other digital devices operate.

The Diploma Programme Computer Science course is engaging, accessible, inspiring and rigorous. It has the following characteristics.

  • Draws on a wide spectrum of knowledge
  • Enables and empowers innovation, exploration and the acquisition of further knowledge
  • Interacts with and influences cultures, society and how individuals and societies behave
  • Raises ethical issues
  • Is underpinned by computational thinking.

Computational thinking involves the ability to:

  • Think procedurally, logically, concurrently, abstractly, recursively and think ahead
  • Utilize an experimental and inquiry-based approach to problem-solving
  • Develop algorithms and express them clearly
  • Appreciate how theoretical and practical limitations affect the extent to which problems can be solved computationally.

During the course the student will develop computational solutions. This will involve the ability to:

  • Identify a problem or unanswered question
  • Design, prototype and test a proposed solution
  • Liaise with clients to evaluate the success of the proposed solution and make recommendations for future developments.


For both Higher Level and Standard Level Core topics include:

  • 1. System fundamentals (20 teaching hours)
  •  2. Computer organization (6 teaching hours)
  •  3. Network (9 teaching hours)
  •  4. Computational thinking, problem solving and programming (45 teaching hours)

The Higher Level requires a further breadth of study and in addition to the core topics you are required to study the following:

  • 5. Abstract data structures (23 teaching hours)
  • 6. Resource management (8 teaching hours)
  • 7. Control (14teaching hours) In addition, Higher Level students will cover an annually issued case study.

Optional Topics

One of the following options must be studied at both HL and SL:

  • A  Databases
  •  B Modelling and simulation
  •  C Web science
  •  D Object-oriented programming (OOP) 


This comprises a development of a computational solution with a total of 34 marks. Students must produce:

  • A cover page that follows the prescribed format
  • A product
  • Supporting documentation (word limit 2,000 words) 

Group 4 project

This is assessed using the criterion Personal skills and accounts for a total of 6 marks 

IB Computer Science (Standard Level)

External Assessment

There are two examinations which together account for a 70% weighting of the overall grade

Paper 1: An examination paper consisting of two compulsory sections.

  • Section A  The maximum mark for this section is 25.
  • Section B  The maximum mark for this section is 45.

Paper 2: The paper consists of between two and five compulsory questions.

Internal assessment

This component is internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB at the end of the course. It accounts for maximum 40 marks or 30% of the overall grade.


This comprises a development of a computational solution with a total of 34 marks Students must produce:

  • A cover page that follows the prescribed format
  • A product
  • Supporting documentation (word limit 2,000 words)

Calculators: The use of calculators is not permitted in any computer science examination.

IB Computer Science (HL and SL)

Course Specific Objectives

Within Group 4, Computer Science students should become aware of how computer scientists work and communicate with each other and with other stakeholders in the successful development and implementation of IT solutions. While the methodology used to solve problems in computer science may take a wide variety of forms, the Group 4 Computer Science course emphasises the need for both a theoretical and practical approach.

It is in this context that the Diploma Programme computer science course should aim to:

  1. Provide opportunities for study and creativity within a global context that will stimulate and challenge students developing the skills necessary for independent and lifelong learning.
  2. Provide a body of knowledge, methods and techniques that characterise Computer Science.
  3. Enable students to apply and use a body of knowledge, methods and techniques that characterise Computer Science.
  4. Demonstrate initiative in applying thinking skills critically to identify and resolve complex problems
  5. Engender an awareness of the need for, and the value of, effective collaboration and communication in resolving complex problems.
  6. Develop logical and critical thinking as well as experimental, investigative and problem-solving skills.
  7. Develop and apply the students' information and communication technology skills in the study of Computer Science to communicate information confidently and effectively.
  8. Raise awareness of the moral, ethical, social, economic and environmental implications of using science and technology.
  9. Develop an appreciation of the possibilities and limitations associated with continued developments in IT systems and Computer Science.
  10. Encourage an understanding of the relationships between scientific disciplines and the overarching nature of the scientific method.

How the course is taught

Both the Standard Level and Higher Level courses are normally taught by two subject teachers. Clearly, there is an expectation of pupil participation, research and independent learning. The Department Library is well resourced for the delivery of this course but further learning resources are available through the Computing Department Virtual Learning Environment. Students are supervised through the process of completing their Internal Assessment.


A homework timetable is agreed at the beginning of the course ensuring a frequency and variety that is appropriate to the International Baccalaureate. Homework should not merely be 'completed' but used to consolidate learning and improve practical programming skills. Pupils are expected to undertake several hours of independent study outside the classroom and complete tasks set by their teachers.

The Extended Essay

Higher Level pupils may wish to consider Computing as the focus for their Extended Essay, particularly if they intend to study Computing Science or a closely related discipline at university. Students are free to select any topic that lends itself to personal exploration of a research question which allows them to communicate ideas and develop an argument. The essay must be completed within 4000 words. Up to five hours of staff supervision are available to assist with the planning, research and execution of the Extended Essay.

Preparatory Work

Students will be expected to leant the fundamentals of 'Java' and cover a few topics from the syllabus before starting the course in September. They are provided with the necessary resources, hard copy and online in the preceding June. The results of their work are presented to their teachers during the first few lessons of the course. Students are then tested on this material within the second week of term. 


Entry requirements

Ideally a minimum of B grade in IGCSE Computer Studies or equivalent. 


Internal Assessment

Students will be assessed on their practical application of skills through the development of a product and associated documentation.

IB Computer Science (Higher Level)

External Assessment

There are three examination papers which together account for 80% weighting of the overall grade.

Paper 1: 2 hours 10 minutes, total 100 marks, 40% weighting. 

• Section A (30 minutes approximately)

• Section B (100 minutes approximately) consists of five compulsory structured questions. 

Paper 2: 1 hour 20 minutes, total 65 marks, 20% weighting. 

Paper 3: 1 hour, total 30 marks, 20% weighting

An examination paper of 1 hour consisting of four compulsory questions based on a pre-seen case study.

Internal assessment

This component is internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB at the end of the course. It accounts for maximum 40 marks or 30% of the overall grade. 

IB Computer Science (Standard Level)

External Assessment

Paper 1: 1 hour 30 minutes total 70 marks 45% weighting. 

  • Section A (30 minutes approximately) consists of several compulsory short questions. 
  • Section B (60 minutes approximately) consists of three compulsory structured questions. 

Paper 2: 1 hour total 45 marks, 25% weighting. 

Internal assessment

This component is internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB at the end of the course. It accounts for maximum 40 marks or 30% of the overall grade.

Group 4 project

This is assessed using the criterion Personal skills and accounts for a total of 6 marks 

Future opportunities


According to the latest Association of Graduate Recruiters survey, information technology posts are among the most numerous graduate jobs with some of the highest starting salaries. This is backed up by ('the world's leading career network'), which states that "graduates with degrees in mathematical sciences and informatics are likely to obtain jobs with higher starting salaries than graduates in other disciplines'

The recent Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey shows that 90% of recent Computer Science graduates are in graduate jobs, earning a competitive starting salary within six months of graduation.

The modem world is heavily reliant on computers and the hardware and software is developing and changing all the time. Computing is perceived as a young profession working in a young industry. It retains informality and openness to fresh ideas and practices which many engineering disciplines have lost. There are fewer barriers of age and sex, and the industry is leading the way in flexible working practices and career planning. Constant updating of knowledge is essential. A good computer scientist does not just have skills but learns how to adapt to technological change, with its challenges and opportunities.

Major employers of Computer Science graduates include not only IT and communications companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BT and Philips, but also important computer users, including investment banks and finance houses.

Further information

Students will study current computational techniques used to write efficient algorithms. These are implemented into an array of different applications from fluid dynamics to mobile communications and gaming.

You will study the history of the subject from Alan Turing to Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Zuckerberg!

You will go beyond the scope of the syllabus to gain a deeper understanding of the digital age and the ‘light speed' communication between one computational machine and another.

You will visit the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, studying cipher text and witnessing the 'oldest' working computer in the world.

You will have the opportunity to enter the Informatics Olympiad, a global competition to find the best logical minds in the field of computation 

Computing Science can be studied as a discrete subject at University, indeed one of our pupils has recently been offered a place at Cambridge to study such a course.

That said, many institutions offer joint courses, in which Computer Science is studied alongside subjects such as Mathematics, Engineering and Psychology.

Courses in multimedia technology, game development including 3D graphics and mobile technology are also becoming more popular. 

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Brentwood School directly.

Last updated date: 04 January 2017

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