How I Got A's in GCSE & A Level Computer Science !!!!!!!



Introduction:

In today's post I'm going to give you some tips/advice on how to do well in GCSE and A Level Computer Science. I thought this may be particularly useful for TheNibbleByte's audience given that they target GCSE and A Level Students!


Assessment Overview:

Before we get into the tips, we need to talk about the assessment process. At GCSE level, there's typically a Computer System's 'Paper 1' and an Algorithms 'Paper 2'. There's also a 'Programming Project' where students have to break down a problem and Analyse, Design, Develop, Test, Implement, Improve, Evaluate ; a system, documenting their work. This project doesn't contribute to the grade (see reasons in my 'unprecedented circumstances' section). This means the 2 papers result in a 50-50 split for the grade.


At A Level, there are some variations between different exam boards. Some boards continue the 50-50 split between 2 papers. I did OCR which meant there was a NEA Assessment however there was more freedom. The spilt was 40-40-20.



Unprecedented Circumstances which Affected my Grades:

During my GCSE's, the coursework was set and essentially, it was to make a Spotify style, CRUD system which could create playlists, save them to a database and also allow users to create accounts (I'm pretty sure the brief can be found somewhere on the OCR website, if you're interested). There were strict rules such as no internet access, completing the work in silence … Weirdly, one thing the exam board failed to consider in a COMPUTER SCIENCE class was that people would be able to save their work and 'leak' the coursework. This ultimately resulted in the coursework holding no value in the final grade however we still had to complete it, to keep things fair for everyone. I'll leave some links to articles explaining more about this:

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=5075696

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-42144886

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-42610738


Fast forward 2 years from Year 11 to Year 13 and we get to the business end of the academic year. It's the start of 2020 and exams are in May/June (or so we thought). Because the coursework is only worth 20% of the course, some people were being told not to panic too much if they were struggling because they could still do well in the exams. Admittedly, my project wasn't going amazingly well although I managed to 'play the game' (more on that later). In March, COVID-19 hit the UK and that meant that exams were cancelled and that coursework was going to be more important than ever!! That led to several late nights and lots of test errors/debugging before eventually submitting my coursework in April.


Both of these things had big impacts however below, I'll give some advice on what you can do to do well in Computer Science.


Advice:

Take Coursework seriously!! I was never the best coder in school (although I'm working hard now at coding) however I 'played the game'. Essentially I wrote loads and included plenty of screenshots as evidence, to ensure I hit every point in the mark scheme. I got a B in my mocks and an A in my coursework which ultimately pushed my grade up to an A. I wrote 160 pages (30 were pages of screenshots though) and commented code, performed plenty of tests and offered detailed explanations.


Use Plenty of Resources!!

Whether it's TheNibbleByte's resources or someone like craigndave on YouTube, make use of them. They're everywhere so take advantage!


Start Early!!

When I started Year 12, I thought I could just breeze through tests easily and that started off well but in my second test, I got an E. This was due to a lack of preparation so make sure you don't make the same mistakes that I did.


Use Social Media!!

There are lots of great pages on social media (Like myself!! and TheNibbleByte), posting excellent CS content for you to take advantage of and learn easily, in a fun way.


Code!!

Start coding earlier and your understanding will be much deeper. You will have a much better understanding of logic and overall, a more solid, fundamental base.


Final Things:


As always, thank you for making it this far, please leave comments, they help me so much.

Be sure to like and share also, lets try and get 100 views within a week, like we have done previously.


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