New GCSE ICT Specifications

No pithy title for this one, but it does what it says on the tin.

GCSE ICT is changing from 2010 with completely new specifications across all exam boards. One of the major changes is that ‘coursework’ is out, and ‘controlled assessments’ are in. These are not practical online exams in the style of Edexcel GCE Applied ICT, but more like the DiDA Set Project Brief (SPB) with a certain number of hours for students to work independently but under supervision.

There are a number of short course and double options, but I’m only looking at single award qualifications for now.

So here is my take on some of the specifications and sample assessment materials I have come across.

AQA

3 modules – 1 written exam (40% / 90 minutes), 2 controlled assessments (20% / 15 hours & 40% / 30 hours).

The content in the specification looks pretty similar to what we have now (Edexcel) with hardware, software, applications, legislation, control and so on. The sample paper also looks OK, although in the middle there appears to be a spelling test in which students have to correct 3 errors in a paragraph of text. Errors include a missing capital letter, the word ‘of’ repeated (“The great advantage of of word processing”) and a misspelling (“wthin”). Now while lack of proof reading is a problem for students, it seems a little irrelevant for the middle of a 90 minute exam. Bizarre.

The second unit looks very much like the kind of webquest we would give to Year 7 for a cover lesson, doing some research in advance of a foreign exchange trip and you get more than half marks for “plan[ing] how to tackle the problem”.

The third unit is a bit more like the traditional GCSE coursework in that students would have to complete two activities, e.g. create a website for a band and a spreadsheet model to track costs and expenses.

OCR

This course has four units – B061 (60 minute exam), B062 (20 hour controlled assessment), B063 (60 minute exam) & EITHER B064 or B065 (20 hour controlled assessment).

The first exam (ICT in today’s world) features many of the topics from the current syllabus, although without most of the more technical aspects. The sample paper looks at, for example, input/output and storage in the context of a mobile phone as well as the traditional spreadsheet and database questions.

The second unit looks like a traditional courseowrk unit, making a spreadsheet model in the example documentation.

The third unit is a written exam in a business context with pre-release material. I haven’t seen a sample exam paper yet but it should keep the Business Studies teachers who have been shuffled into doing ‘a bit of ICT’ quite happy at least.

The fourth unit is either to produce some multimedia product (e.g. a multimedia advertisement or simple computer game) or a programming project (e.g. a spelling game for youngsters with a low reading age). This adds a touch of ‘iMedia’ to the syllabus, although it isn’t clear whether the school will have to swing one way entirely or whether individual classes/students will be able to opt for one unit specifically. It is nice to see some options though.

Edexcel

Edexcel astound me. They appear to have spent the whole of their planning budget producing a very flashy but insubstantial PPT presentation which is then not available on their website. I have a copy of it on a USB pen and all I can say is that it looks worse than DiDA. There is no sample syllabus, no sample assessment materials and no clue as to what would actually be involved in the course. They have paid someone to make some particularly unflattering cartoon images of three of the lead people though. At least it makes that part of the decision simple.

WJEC

The single award has 4 units – 2x 90 minute exams (20% each) and 2x 22.5 hour controlled assessments (30% each).

Units 1 and 3 both look very much like traditional GCSE exam papers with the topics you would expect, along with some new looks at animation techniques (e.g. rotoscoping) to go with the spreadsheet, database, HCI, legislation, etc.

Unit 2 is about obtaning and presenting information (topics look to include letters, flyers, spreadsheets and databases) and Unit 4 is based around the creation of a multimedia product (Flash, websites, maybe PPT)

OCR Computing

Yes, you read that right. OCR are releasing a pilot GCSE in Computing.

There are three units – a 90 minute exam (40%) and two controlled assessments (30% each).

The exam picks up on all the things missing from the ICT exam, including logic, denary to binary to hex conversion, some pseudocode, detailed looks at CPUs, Operating Systems, image filetypes, compression and other techy goodness.

The second unit is about researching a current trend, e.g. backing storage. Research should look at books to see what WAS done and look online to see what will be done in the future. It has the potential to be quite dry, but also quite interesting once you start looking at RAID and other technologies. I know a (small) number of pupils who would have thrived on this stuff.

The third unit is a practical programming unit with 3 tasks. In the example there is a Scratch game, a password assessment tool and a database problem.

It certainly looks challenging, but the geek in me loves it.

Summary

Edexcel is hopeless. Based on what I have seen I’m not touching their new course with a barge pole.

AQA seems a little odd with some of the content choices that have been made, but is probably the closest to the old GCSE in terms of the exam paper at least.

OCR looks OK. The first exam seems to be pitched at a fairly low level and the third unit is still a bit of a mystery.

WJEC looks to be the closest match to the previous GCSE model, although with 3 hours of exams and the longest controlled assessments, it’s a bit assessment heavy.

OCR Computing sounds like just thing I’ve been looking for for my more technically minded and capable students. It will be interesting to see what sort of numbers we can get signing up from our current Y8 cohort (who look to be a more challenging yeargroup) but I would love to do this.

Anyone else have any thoughts?

Addendum

A kind soul has pointed out to me that the OCR ICT Unit 3 sounds very much like the current Module 4 from the GCSE Spec B which is not so much business oriented as it is about a detailed look at how ICT is used in the real world. Apparently one of the more interesting and worthwhile elements of the course. I’ve not run that spec personally, so can’t comment beyond that, but hope it clears up the situation a little.

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2 thoughts on “New GCSE ICT Specifications

  1. Steve Brook says:

    Would agree completely with the comments about Edexcel. We currently do Edexcel and will not be going anywhere near their new spec. It is all designed to sell resources such as the awful Active teach cdroms.

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