Subject content

This subject content should be taught within a range of realistic contexts based around the major themes in the specification. To gain the most from the specification, a number of the sections will benefit from being taught holistically. For example, algorithms could be taught alongside programming techniques as there is a close relationship between them.

The specification content in Sections 3.1–3.7 is presented in a two-column format. The left hand column contains the specification content that all students must cover, and that is assessed in the written papers. The right hand column exemplifies the additional information that teachers will require to ensure that their students study the topic in an appropriate depth and, where appropriate, gives teachers the parameters in which the subject will be assessed.

We will review the list of supported programming languages annually. The list for the assessment series will be available from the AQA website at the start of the course, 1 September. For example, the list for the 2019 assessments will be available on our website from 1 September 2017.

For the summer 2018 assessments we will support the following programming languages:

  • • C#
  • • Java
  • • Pascal/Delphi
  • • Python
  • • VB.Net.

Schools and colleges will be asked to indicate their programming language when starting to use the specification and subsequently for each assessment series.

Grade descriptors for GCSEs graded 9 to 1: computer science

Grade 8

To achieve Grade 8 candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate relevant and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of fundamental concepts and principles including digital systems and societal impacts
  • effectively apply fundamental concepts, principles and mathematical skills, using sustained analytical, logical and evaluative computational thinking, to a wide range of complex problems
  • develop and refine a complete solution that meets the requirements of a substantial problem

Grade 5

To achieve Grade 5 candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate mostly accurate and appropriate knowledge and understanding of fundamental concepts and principles including digital systems and societal impacts
  • appropriately apply fundamental concepts, principles and mathematical skills, using analytical, logical and evaluative computational thinking, to a range of problems
  • produce a working solution that meets most requirements of a substantial problem

Grade 2

To achieve Grade 2 candidates will be able to:

  • demonstrate limited knowledge and understanding of fundamental concepts and principles including digital systems and societal impacts
  • apply fundamental concepts, principles and mathematical skills, using basic analytical and logical computational thinking, to straightforward problems with limited accuracy
  • produce a partially working solution that meets some requirements of a substantial problem

3.1 Fundamentals of algorithms

3.2 Programming

3.3 Fundamentals of data representation

3.4 Computer systems

3.5 Fundamentals of computer networks

3.6 Fundamentals of cyber security

3.7 Ethical, legal and environmental impacts of digital technology on wider society, including issues of privacy

3.8 Aspects of software development

Glossary and other links

Glossary of computing terms.

AQA 8520: The 2016 syllabus