Programming Challenges

The A451 exam paper often had questions requiring students to produce an algorithm. For instance:


Questions follow that test understanding of key constructs and/or ability to construct a flow chart or algorithm.

I have been through all the A451 past papers and pulled them out and turned them into practical programming challenges to complete in lessons. They can be found here: GCSE Programing Challenges

So the example in the exam paper above now looks like a programming card like so:


In most cases I have added things to stretch and challenge including:

  • Functions
  • Iteration
  • Error Handling
  • Reading and Writing to a CSV file

The aim of this was to a) improve application of programming skills and have some challenge to use as practice but b) through this practical experience improve students ability to be able to answer these types of questions.

I usually use these in the Spring Term of Year 10. The Autumn term is usually used to give students the chance to acquire and practice all the skills and constructs (input, output, variables, constants, data types, sequence, selection, iteration, error handling, functions, string manipulation, file handling) before moving onto these challenges in the Spring. In the Summer we moved onto SQL and the practice NEA tasks.

I print three copies of each challenge onto card and place in the middle of the room and students come out select a challenge, solve it and then move onto another. I try and guide them which to do as some are harder than others.

As help they have all their past work from the Autumn term, help resources and videos for different programming constructs on the networked shared area, this Programming Code Bible and then some resources as show here (Programming Challenges Resources) that have a PowerPoint including a video of the intended output to help students visualise what the program needs to be able to do, and also what the csv file might look like once data is output. This folder also contains python solutions to each problem. I try not to give students the code initially. This folder is now ready and available for students resource bank in September.

Let me know what you think

Other posts you may be interested in: Resource: GCSE Computer Science Revision

GCSE Resistant Materials Exam Questions

When planning lessons it is important to ensure you as a teacher understand ‘what does exceptional look like for this topic?’

If you as a teacher don’t know what exceptional looks like for the topic you are about to teach then you will not be able to pass this onto the students and therefore they will not know what success looks like.

One way I gather information about what success looks like is looking at past exam papers. However, what I do is look at each exam paper and split out the questions into the different topics. This allows me to see the types of questions that come up per topic and the types of things students need to be able to know and do for each topic. I can use this in helping students understand what success looks like for each topic.

When revising with students rather than completing one paper after another, we use these “revision packs” to practice exam questions. The end result is still that all questions are completed just done by topic. It helps students see patterns, common questions and understand what is required for each topic and question. They can identify their stronger and weaker topics and practice exactly what they need to.

Here are some links to all the GCSE Resistant Materials Past Paper Exam questions by topic (including the 2017 paper) along with a checklist of what each topic appears to require.

Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments

Expert Checklist
Tools and Equipment Questions
Sustainability Questions

Section A Questions

Production Questions
Product Development Questions
Materials Questions

Electrical systems questions

Ergonomics Questions

Finishes Questions

Health and Safety Questions
Making and Sketching Questions


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Using Assessment Tickets

Year 8 – Assessing email skills

Assessment Tickets in ICT

The assessment ticket is created for the work beforehand and the criteria is shared with the students.

The advantages of using the assessment tickets:

  • means all staff are marking against the same criteria
  • feedback to the students is linked to the success criteria
  • feedback is quick
  • students can quickly identify what they need to demonstrate in their work to improve

Two different coloured pens (red and green) are used to show the before DIRT and after DIRT marking. The work is on the computer therefore the student has reflected on what they have done to improve their work through a written comment in their booklet which the teacher has signed off.


Other posts you may be interested in: Year 7 Word Processing