Computer Science A Level

Full name of specification

A Level Computer Science

Exam board specification link

What is A Level Computer Science?

Our A Level Computer Science qualification helps students understand the core academic principles of computer science. Classroom learning is transferred into creating real-world systems through the creation of an independent programming project. Our A Level will develop the student’s technical understanding and their ability to analyse and solve problems using computational thinking.

Why study this course?

Computer Science at A Level, is an extremely useful subject combined with the sciences and maths for the future study of aeronautical, electrical/electronic, civil, mechanical and chemical engineering.

What can you expect from this course?

Complex technical investigations and practical programming tasks

How is it assessed?

Computer Systems exam 40%, Algorithms and programme 40%, Programming project 20%

What are the entry requirements?

Grade 6 at GCSE Computer Science and GCSE Maths

What can I do after completing this qualification?

With computer technologies playing an ever growing role in all aspects of modern life, you’re likely to find your computer science skills in high demand across many different industries. These include: financial organizations, management consultancy firms, software houses, communications companies, data warehouses, multinational companies (IT-related, financial services and others), governmental agencies, universities and hospitals. However, unsurprisingly, most graduates go into roles within the computer industry.

What will I study?

Component 01: Computer systems

Students are introduced to the internal workings of the (CPU), data exchange, software development, data types and legal and ethical issues. The resulting knowledge and understanding will underpin their work in component 03.

It covers:

  • The characteristics of contemporary processors, input, output and storage devices
  • Types of software and the different methodologies used to develop software
  • Data exchange between different systems
  • Data types, data structures and algorithms
  • Legal, moral, cultural and ethical issues.

Component 02: Algorithms and programming

This builds on component 01 to include computational thinking and problem-solving.

It covers:

  • What is meant by computational thinking (thinking abstractly, thinking ahead, thinking procedurally etc.)
  • Problem solving and programming – how computers and programs can be used to solve problems
  • Algorithms and how they can be used to describe and solve problems.

Component 03: Programming project

Students are expected to apply the principles of computational thinking to a practical coding programming project. They will analyse, design, develop, test, evaluate and document a program written in a suitable programming language. The project is designed to be independently chosen by the student and provides them with the flexibility to investigate projects within the diverse field of computer science. We support a wide and diverse range of languages.

Additional activities within this subject

Problem solving challenges
Practical programming challenges

Wider Reading list

  • Computational Fairy Tales by Jeremy Kubica. ISBN: 978-1477550298 – a romp through the principles of computational thinking, illustrating high-level computer science concepts, the motivation behind them, and their application via the medium of a fairy tale. Aimed at secondary school students. “Bonkers, but very enjoyable.”
  • Computer Science: An Overview by J. Glenn Brookshear. ISBN: 978-0321544285 – overview of what computer science is all about: each topic is presented with its historical perspective, current state, and future potential, as well as ethical issues.
  • Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold. ISBN: 978-0735611313 – “What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers? …see how ingenuity and our very human compulsion to communicate have driven the technological innovations of the past two centuries.”
  • Out of Their Minds by D Shasha and Cathy Lazere. ISBN: 978-3540979920 – the lives and discoveries of fifteen unsung computer scientists whose programs have helped people from factory owners to cartoonists.
  • The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work by Daniel Hillis. ISBN: 978-0465025961 – explains the basic concepts of the computer in everyday language.
  • The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. ISBN: 978-0007225736 – a chronicle that shows how information has become “the modern era’s defining quality – the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.”
  • The Pleasures of Counting by Tom Kôrner. ISBN: 978-0521568234 – puts Maths into the context of how it is used to solve real-world problems.
  • The Code Book by Simon Singh. ISBN: 978-1857028898 – not strictly about Computer Science, but an interesting introduction to code-breaking and cryptography, fields that have a strong connection to Computer Science.
  • The New Turing Omnibus by A Kee Dewdney. ISBN: 978-0805071665 – mini-articles on Computer Science topics.
  • Algorithmic Puzzles by Anany Levitin and Maria Levitin. ISBN: 978-0199740444 – “…The emphasis lies in training the reader to think algorithmically and develop new puzzle-solving skills: the majority of puzzles are problems where we are asked to find the shortest distance or the fewest moves to get from A to B, or construct a proof that a puzzle has no solution …”

Magazines, blogs, journals, videos, websites & other stuff

  • CS4FN (Computer Science for Fun) is a magazine on computer science aimed at school students “Explore how computer science is also about people, solving puzzles, creativity, changing the future and, most of all, having fun.” It is printed twice a year and has an associated website with additional articles.
  • Computer Science Unplugged – a Computer Science curriculum for pre-university students developed in New Zealand.
  • Free, online lectures and courses from Academic Earth. (There’s a Maths section as well as the Computer Science one.)
  • BBC’s Make IT Digital initiative.

Useful links or Apps

Craig ‘N’ Dave You Tube Channel, Computermile You Tube Channel, Codeacademy

You may also enjoy studying

Maths, Physics, Programming, Enterprise


Andrew Johnson, Kev Bennett