Comparing the Specs – The theory Element GCSE Computing 2016

This is post 2 of 2 comparing the AQA and OCR specs for GCSE Computing. At the moment this is the decision I will be making in the next few weeks on what exam board my students will be taking in September.

the problem that is faced here is there is a lot of similarities (Which you would expect being a GCSE).

The hardware element looks pretty similar, the AQA asks for knowledge of Cloud Storage and how it works, whereas the OCR doesn’t, but the expansion of these points in the draft spec aids me more in the AQA Spec.

Networks – the changes start

it seems that in networks the changes start, there are similarities in how the discussions of terms work, but AQA wants knowledge of Bus and Star, OCR wants ring and mesh. There is also greater discussion in the AQA of ISO/OSI Layer model, where OCR just wants the idea of layers.  I think here, I’d cover all the content as standard because it’s useful. I think erring on the side of caution and teaching the students everything can never hurt, as long as it’s applied to real world specification.

System Security

this looks like a really interesting one . OCR seems to have this one as the way it is written I’m interested in what/how I would teach this one. However AQA has a good lineup and it’s well explained.

Summary – I’ve had enough!

I’ve tried going through this and I’m getting more and more information, but it’s so difficult. Obviously there are differences, but these are subtle. I’d love opinion here as to how people have taught AQA and OCR.

I think the key here is the amount of detail. the OCR spec just doesn’t have any expansion or discussion of the key points. The AQA spec is very detailed, but some of it I’m not sure of it’s relevance to “real world” (e.g. bus networks are dead really as everyone uses a star formation now-a-days). I do like the idea of covering the binary in the theory element of the course which AQA offers. But I am very familiar with how OCR teaches and likes the answers (shouldn’t be a factor I know, I think I’ll aim to moderate papers this year no matter what).

I think what has happened here is because coursework is now in year 11, there is lesson in the theory elements exam (compared to previous years), in my mind this is because there needs to be greater planning from the teachers on how this is going to be structured next year.

I think your choice will be what your structure of your course will be and what you feel is more suited to teaching as theory in each exam.




  1. Mary McIntyre

    Hi Ben
    I saw your post on CAS about the OCR AS Level spec. Like you I taught the previous spec and it was easier to teach databases all together. Have you created any ‘mock’ questions? Also, what about networks? I can’t get my head around what they actually need to know – has serial/parallel gone? Any suggestions as to what to include would be helpful. Thank you

    • mrgict

      Hi mary, The guidance on OCR is a bit shakey. How I’ve been advised to teach the new spec in OCR A-Level is with the old content with the new content on top. E.g. give methods of data transmission to give context to things like the ISO/OSI 7 layer model. This post is more about GCSE but I can advise a little bit(not saying I’m an expert) on the A-Level and how I’ve put it together. find my email address on CAS and email through there.

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