There are many GCSE subjects that can be chosen from. One of these is GCSE Computer Science. It contains the core concepts of computers, with things like computational thinking and writing and testing programmes. It is a very practical subject, and many may consider choosing it as one of their GCSE options. However, like all subjects, there is the question of, is GCSE Computer Science hard?
Disclaimer: This article shows the opinion of the author and is meant to guide the reader. The opinions expressed in this article may differ to your own.
In this article, we will be discussing the difficulty of computer science from the perspective of a computer science student, as well as other information like exams, and whether it is for you.
Table of Contents
What is GCSE Computer Science?
GCSE Computer Science is the study of how computers work. In it, you will learn how the hardware (the physical components) interact with the software (programmes on the computer). For example, you learn about how images and sound are stored, or how various parts of the PC work.
There are also sections on programming. This could be learning a high-level programming language, like Python. It also includes learning about algorithms, and how to plan, write, evaluate and create your own programme.
Laws regarding computers is also something learnt, like ethical, cultural, and environmental impacts and laws put in place due to computers.
Finally, you will learn about networks. This is the communication of computers. Your school, workplace or home probably has a network, and you will learn exactly about that.
Each exam board may differ slightly. To find exam board specific information about GCSE Computer Science, see below.
Is computer science one of the hardest GCSES?
From my experience, computer science has not been too difficult compared to other subjects. There is a lot to remember, and not all of it is easy to do so. I found remembering search and sort algorithms the hardest, but there are also a lot of other things like computer architecture, storing files and binary and hexadecimal to remember.
Overall, the hardest part for students will be programming. You will need to know some parts of a high-level programming language and your exam board reference language. There is also a lot of theory to that programming you will need to remember like constructs. For a lot of students this could be the hardest aspect. If you are comfortable with programming, you will be great at this.
All subjects are hard in their own way; however, I do not think that computer science is the hardest GCSE. It contains a lot of information, but most of it can be easy to learn and remember. There is also a balance between theory and programming. Usually, half of your lessons are theory and the other half programming. This provides an enjoyable way to not be bombarded by one topic and allows for a nice flow of lessons.
In terms of revision, computer science can be seen as fairly easy. Revising the content, and doing past papers really helps. Where it gets tricky is the programming. The students are expected to know a decent amount of a high-level programming language by the time the exam comes. Arguably, the only way to revise this, is to practise it! If you would like some tips on revision, you can click here to a Think Student guide.
Many people find computer science very hard, and that learning code is one of the hardest things they have to do. Usually, it is found that if you are experienced in knowledge of computers, you will be able to get your head around it better. It still means that a lot of effort is needed, as with all GCSEs. Some teachers also say that even the most intelligent still find computer science hard.
What is programming in GCSE Computer Science?
Programming is split into different sections. These are algorithms, computational thinking, and then the actual programming. Here you will learn the structure of most programming languages, and then be able to study one. A lot of schools offer Python or C++.
Along the way, you will create different programmes that will test your problem solving skills and learn different parts of coding like iteration and sequence.
For the exam, you will also need to know your exam board’s reference language, which may differ slightly to actual code. For example, on page 25 of the OCR GCSE Computer Science specification, you can see how they want certain functions to be.
This is because, in the exam, you will be asked to create a number of programmes, in several different programming languages. This isn’t always code but could be a flowchart. To find out more, check your exam board website for specific information.
Is GCSE Computer Science worth it?
Before we get to this part, it’s important to note that ‘ICT’ is not the same as computer science. Computer science can be seen as the study of how computers work, while the other is more focused on how to use the computer.
Computer science teaches the user a lot of skills. It implements hints of mathematics and data handling, but also problem solving, critical thinking and communication with links to real world examples. That is apart from the obvious of being able to programme software and knowledge on computers.
From my experience, I think that GCSE Computer Science is worth it. The lessons are usually quite fun and interactive, allowing for the student to programme in lessons. I also found the theory quite interesting of finding out how a computer, and things like our home internet really work.
In terms of trips, there are not a lot of places you might go. I was able to go to the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park to view machines used in WW2, and a timeline of computers from the original, to the modern ones.
While that is my experience, some have said that computer science was not their best choice, and even their least favourite GCSE. At the end of the day, it is down to you to decide whether you will enjoy the subject.
What can GCSE Computer Science lead to?
After GCSE Computer Science, the student can then do A-Level computer science. Having GCSE Computer Science also looks great for subjects like mathematics, design and technology, ICT, and physics.
After A-Level there are a number of courses you can take. You can click on each one below to take you to the UCAS course finder page.
- Computer science
- Information systems
- Software engineering
- Artificial intelligence
- Health informatics
The UCAS website has lots of suggestions for careers related to computer science. For example, you could be a computer games tester, network manager or forensic computer analyst. All of this information, and more, can be found on this link to the UCAS page for computer science.
What is the pass rate for GCSE Computer Science?
For the 2022 GCSE Computer Science examinations, 75.2% of computer science students received a grade 4 or higher, which is a pass. 34% received a grade 7 or higher. This came from a TES GCSE results analysis, which you can find at this link.
The overall pass rate for GCSEs in 2022 was 73.2%. This means that the pass rate for computer science was actually slightly above the average. However, as discussed in this article, there are lots more things to consider, when deciding if GCSE computer science is right for you.