Being the first year group to sit the reformed OCR Computer Science A Level, I wanted to review my experience with it and to showcase the outcome of my coursework project as part of the module.
The course is split into 3 main modules, the first being Component 1 which is examination paper on what I would refer to as “the main theory part of the course”. In this component, there were many concepts presented such as:
- Processor architecture;
- The IPO model;
- Operating systems;
- Systems software;
- Application Generation;
- Software Development processes and concepts;
- Programming language theory;
- Compression, encryption, and hashing;
- Web technologies;
- Data types;
- Data structures;
- Boolean algebra,
- and finally: legal, moral, cultural, and ethical issues.
Personally, I quite disliked this component as there was so much theory packed into this part of the course, however, the majority of the theory was fairly easy to interpret having already done the GCSE equivalent. I found the boolean algebra, encryption, hashing, and processor theory probably the most complex part of this module, however, I also found the software development processes part of the course extremely relevant and transferable.
As much as I complained about the theory, this is essentially second/third-year degree-level content summarised into an A Level course. Having just started Computer Science at university, I know that they’re still expecting students to come in with no prior knowledge, so knowing all this coming into the course really builds great momentum for the first year of university. I would highly recommend studying it.
The second paper was again examined and contained significantly less content than the first paper, however, it is very practical and great for encouraging problem-solving. The component lays out the theories and approaches surrounding computational thinking in a very simplistic and easy to grasp format.
OCR break this component down by thinking abstractly, ahead, procedurally, logically, and concurrently. I found it great to apply this approach to breaking down problems in order to form algorithms. Using and knowing this approach for the exam really will lead you into following good processes for the coursework, and ultimately will get you good marks.
We covered this part of the component again in my first week at University so starting during the first-year of A Levels really will help you get prepared for university.
This paper also follows on from the first component theory about data structures, and it defines several sorting and search algorithms which you have to learn. This by far, was the most difficult part of the component as learning how to recite the steps of Dijkstra’s and the A* algorithm is quite difficult, though not impossible.
“I don’t see that on my exam timetable“, I hear you cry. That’s because it’s a rather large coursework module, but it is fun.
I had to find a real stakeholder for my project and performed a full development lifecycle for the project. This started with a feasibility analysis and ended with a fully functional commercial product.
Undertaking this project definitely developed me as a person because it enabled me to fully experience project management in many ways. I applied agile workflows in a practical context, performed project management, communicated with the client, met their needs, and engaged with senior staff in proposal and development meetings, alongside a wide range of other tasks which helped me to develop my metacognitive skills.
I titled my project “Badges“, which is now an online skill recording and auditing platform which I made in collaboration with the Clevedon Learning Hub for schools. I also researched and applied gamification theories to the project in order to encourage students to develop their skills, whilst considering it as a tool for staff to perform CPD.
As much as I would like to publish my 234 paged documentation for the project (it totalled 67,500 words!), I would also like to withhold it because the project I worked on simply has quite a bit of industry value. However, here is my contents page and problem identification which details the level of work that was required of the project.
I feel that the course went extremely well. I achieved an A grade overall and obtained around 100% of the marks in the coursework section of the course. I thoroughly enjoyed this A Level and really feel that I gained so many practical skills from Component 2 and 3, and lots of transferable knowledge from Component 1 which really set me up well for university.
Finally, I would like to thank Mr Major for teaching and mentoring me throughout the A-Level course at Clevedon School. As well as Mr Mears who taught the earlier part of the course. @ClevedonCompSci