Thursday, February 28, 2013




Since 1988 all students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been able to take the General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations-the GCSE.

At the moment a new Standard Grade examination is being introduced in Scotland, although centres will still be able to enter candidates for the Ordinary Grade examinations. This book takes into account both of these examinations and is suitable for candidates of both.

Outside Scotland, for the GCSE, the Examination Boards have been grouped together so that there are six different syllabuses. There are four Groups or Associations in England, one in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. The syllabuses are all based on a set of guidelines called 'The National Criteria'. As a result they share some common themes, although there are also some important differences between them.

For the GCSE in Computer Studies candidates are expected to be able to use computers to solve worthwhile problems, that is, ones which would be difficult to solve without a computer. Students will be encouraged to make use of available software where possible, designing and writing programs only when necessary.

Courses are intended to produce students who enjoy using computers and can do so with confidence and skill in a variety of areas. Great importance is attached to knowledge and understanding of a wide range of present-day applications. The work also emphasizes the impact of computers on our society.

Topics such as binary arithmetic and digital logic are no longer regarded as important, although these aspects have not disappeared completely .

Assessment Objectives

Any GCSE course in Computer Studies has to balance the main parts of the syllabus in a certain way. The candidate's abilities in these main areas will then be tested by timed written examinations and by coursework.

The abilities to be tested are set out as 'Assessment Objectives'. Each GCSE syllabus contains a list of these objectives. They are set out in the table below. The table also shows the minimum and maximum percentage of the total marks which will be given to them.






Showing knowledge and understanding of the techniques needed to solve problems related to practical applications.




Using computers sensibly to produce solutions to appropriate problems and documenting the solutions.




Showing knowledge and understanding of the functions of the main hardware and software components of a computer system and their relationships with the representation of stored data and programs.




Showing knowledge and understanding of the range and scope of computer applications.




Showing understanding of the social and economic effects of computerized systems on individuals, organizations and society.



Each of these objectives is then further subdivided.

Examinations and Coursework

Most of the GCSE examining groups use coursework to test the ability to use computers, that is, ability B. Abilities A,C,D and E are mainly examined in written papers.


Coursework will probably be assessed by your own teacher. These assessments will be moderated. by the Examination Board. (Some boards have special arrangements for external candidates, who are not attached to a school or College.)

The maximum mark a syllabus could allow for coursework would be 40% of the total marks.

In practice, for most of the syllabuses, it is about 30% (see the Table of Analysis), All the syllabuses allow candidates to use existing software for projects and/or to write their own programs, although some do insist on a certain amount of programming by the candidate (see Table of Analysis of Syllabuses),


GCSE examinations cater for students of widely differing abilities. Computer Studies Syllabuses take this into consideration in their written papers.

Most boards have differentiated papers. Thus each candidate takes only some of the available papers, the ones which are at the right level for him/her. A candidate taking a particular combination of papers is only eligible for a set range of grades. A decision has to be made beforehand which papers to take. This method is used for the following syllabuses:

London East Anglian Group, Midland Examining Group, Northern Ireland Schools Examinations Council, Scottish Examination Board Standard Grade and the Welsh Joint Education Committee.

Papers may have differentiated sections. The Midland Examining Group (MEG) divides each paper into sections. Each section relates to a different grade and candidates will concentrate mainly on the section they think, or have been advised, is most relevant to them.

The Northern Examining Association (NEA) and the Southern Examining Group (SEG) both use stepped questions. The early parts of these questions are relatively easy and then the later parts are harder.

The Southern Examining Group also have a stepped paper (paper 1). The questions in this paper are arranged in ascending order of difficulty, so that they get progressively harder as you work through the paper. However, the candidates must attempt all the questions.

Note: The Scottish Examination Board's Ordinary Grade Examination is not differentiated.

Case Study

Many of the examining groups expect candidates to do some work on an application of computers. This is called a case study. The work may be done as part of course work, as part of an examination paper or may take up the whole of an examination paper. If the case study is assessed in a timed examination paper, some examining groups give candidates details of the application beforehand. This may be by an explanation in the syllabus or by some details given to the candidates some days or weeks before the examination. The Table of Analysis shows what the various syllabuses say about this.