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Computer Science A-Level at Burnham Grammar School

Course description

Computer Science is not about learning to use computers or just training in a programming language. Instead the emphasis is on computational thinking. Computational thinking is a kind of reasoning used by both humans and machines. Thinking computationally is an important life skill. Thinking computationally means using abstraction and decomposition. The study of computation is about what can be computed and how to compute it. Computer Science involves questions that have the potential to change how we view the world. For example, we may be computing with DNA at some stage in the future, with computer circuits made of genes. This leads to the question, does the natural world "computeā€Ÿ?

Experimental Computer Science can be done with computers whereby we can learn more about the natural world by observing the emergent behaviour of a colony of interacting software agents in a simulation. Computer Science is about designing new algorithms to solve new problems. In this sense Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. Many great challenges lie in the future for Computer Scientists to solve.

Course content

Paper 1: On-screen exam: 2 hours 30 minutes, 40% of A-level

This paper tests a student's ability to program, as well as their theoretical knowledge of Computer Science

  • Fundamentals of programming
  • Fundamentals of data structures
  • Fundamentals of algorithms
  • Theory of computation
  • Systematic approach to problem solving

Students answer a series of short questions and write/adapt/extend programs in an Electronic Answer Document. The Examiner will provide in March of the exam year Preliminary Material, Skeleton Program and, where appropriate, test data, for use in the exam.

Paper 2: Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes, 40% of A-level

This paper tests a student's ability to answer short-answer and extended-answer questions on

  • Fundamentals of data representation
  • Fundamentals of computer systems
  • Fundamentals of computer organisation and architecture
  • Consequences of uses of computing
  • Fundamentals of communication and networking
  • Fundamentals of databases
  • Big Data
  • Fundamentals of functional programming

Non-exam assessment: 75 marks, 20% of A-level

The non-exam assessment assesses student's ability to use the knowledge and skills gained through the course to solve or investigate a practical problem. Students will be expected to follow a systematic approach to problem solving. There are two alternative types of project: the development of a traditional system for an end-user or an investigation.

Entry requirements

You must achieve at least 368 GCSE capped points (i.e. your best 8 subjects) for entry to the Sixth form. You must also achieve a C grade in English Language GCSE and Mathematics GCSE alongside meeting the entry criteria for each individual subject. Option 4 is conditional upon achieving 400+ GCSE capped points. 

GCSE points: A*= 58, A= 52, B= 46, C= 40, D= 34

Subject Specific

B in GCSE Computer Science. Students who have never studied Computer Science at GCSE may be considered. These students need a B in Mathematics and will be required to demonstrate their programming skills in any appropriate language.

Future opportunities

This course, with its emphasis on abstract thinking, general problem-solving, algorithmic and mathematical reasoning, scientific and engineering-based thinking, is a good foundation for understanding these future challenges. This specification has been designed for students who wish to go on to higher education courses or employment where knowledge of Computing would be beneficial. Students can study Computer Science and go on to a career in Medicine, Law, Business, Politics or any type of Science and Engineering. Students wishing to further their study of Computer Science at University level are normally required to be studying A-Level Maths.

How to apply

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

Last updated date: 28 April 2015

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