N5 Specimen Coursework

  • Peter Thoresen

    N5 Specimen Coursework now on SQA (public) site



    Peter Thoresen

    Computing Science N5 – Specimen Coursework Task


    For a specimen task, I am fairly ok with this. It does seem to meet the objectives of allowing pupils to complete it with very limited teacher input.


    Here are my thoughts on my first look over the task.


    Assessment Conditions:

    “all candidates must be within direct sight of the teacher or lecturer throughout the session”

    My room has computers around sides and an island in the centre. I can see all candidates, but not their screens.

    “The assignment is conducted under open-book conditions”

    The list of permitted resources does not include the Internet. My pupils and I use sites such as w3schools as our main resource.


    Instructions for Candidates

    Page 5 is incredibly “wordy” – lots of pupils will be put off by this before they even see the actual tasks.


    Task 1A (Database Design)

    Need to separate the pupil instructions from the description of information.

    Task does not make it obvious that a surrogate/primary key is required – pupils will have been well-trained on this however.

    Pupils will have trained not to just write “restricted choice”, but to also include the options.

    Not sure about penalty for using application specific field types – pupil training (again) should prevent this


    Task 1B (Database Implementation)

    My fault for not reading course specification carefully, but I had been working on assumption that using a RDMS (ie Access) has been replaced by SQL. Task makes it clear that pupils to use RDMS *and* SQL.


    Task 2 (Software Development)

    Pupils need to be taught to create program that matches algorithm exactly, even if they see better ways.

    The average is not an output, but in assumptions “the average should be displayed to 2 decimal places”. The algorithm actually rounds the average but never displays it. Rounding a variable is not the same as displaying a rounded variable.

    Need to read the instructions very carefully to avoid putting text values as exceptional data.

    Evaluation – I suspect pupils will be taught standard answers to all of this.


    Task 3 (Web)

    Still not sure what End_User requirements and Functional requirements are. I await the course support materials.

    Need to update my CSS notes  – I’m currently teaching font-size with % and px measurements. Now I need to add pt measurements as well. Hmm – wireframe is in pts, but sample answers are in px.

    In the specimen question paper, the wireframe for images must include file type. The wireframe in the coursework does not do this.

    Marking scheme include both external, internal and even inline CSS – task specifies “Implement the above design using HTML and an external CSS.”

    Implementation of image dimensions – answers give examples of CSS, but do say that HTML is allowed.

    Using HTML to change body background colour is not supported in HTML5 – pupils should not be given marks for this obsolete method.

    Scott Leiper

    Just on the point regarding the internet, it does not specifically mention not using the web as a source, I also use w3 schools as my “textbook” for the year as I see no point in wasting resources duplicating the best resource going on paper.  It only says not to make use of email or mobile, presumably implying all communication tools.

    As long as you are monitoring their use then I can’t see a problem with it.

    If you are still unlucky enough to be on an RM network like CC4 you may have access to RMTutor, or a similar tool, where you can restrict student machines to permitted domains.


    I have worked through the database and SD tasks and noted the following:

    When creating the database a relationship is asked for but no explicit mention of referential integrity is made. Referential integrity appears as a requirement in the marking scheme, though.

    Inconsistency in the design compared to the analysis. Analysis describes an additional point being given, whereas the design uses “2 points earned?”. This inconsistency is repeated at the testing stage.

    Sean Stratton

    So if you were doing this in SQL and not an Access hodgepodge you would need a constraint ?



    There is a good explanation of font sizes and units here:


    As Peter pointed out the wireframe text sizes are given in pt and the sample code in px.

    14pt is not the same as 14px as the sample code gave

    14pt is the same as 19px.

    I’m assuming whoever made up the coursework task and answers just made a mistake?

    I wouldn’t think they want the pupils to convert from pt to px.

    It would be helpful if a mistake was acknowledged and the document changed and updated. Or if it was intended then an explanation given.

    From my knowledge and what I’ve read about online with regards to css and font sizes, mostly em and px are recommended. pt is seen as a no-no unless it is for print.


    Tracy Rennie

    My colleague and I have spent some time looking over the specimen assignment task and have some concerns.

    • We think it lacks depth.  Most of the task seems easy.  The program seems more on target in terms of difficulty, but the testing is also trivial.  Is this really a true representation of what pupils will be asked to complete in the real coursework task.
    • Given that pupils will be working on networked machines where their accounts are accessible throughout the school, how can we ensure that they do not access their work out with the controlled classroom environment?
    • Task 2
    • The program asks for 2 decimal places to be displayed, but the round() function doesn’t achieve this in many circumstances.  In this specific task, it’s possible to have a different number of decimal places.  Rounding will only display 2 decimal places in the instances where the true result isn’t 0 or 1 decimal place.
    • Regarding input validation, the marking instructions mention “hits >=0 and hits <=30”, but that won’t work in an input validation loop in python.
    • “input validation – input player hits, Award 1 mark if not implemented within input validation loop” – the meaning isn’t clear here.  Do they lose the previous 2 marks but gain 1?
    • The flowchart implies that no loops are used.  It also implies that getting the  data and calculation the total is done separately ( are pupils penalised for having a single loop with a running total?)
    Tracy Rennie

    It seems that I cannot post all of our issues with the coursework as I keep receiving an error message.  But be assured that what is shown above is only some of the concerns that we have.  We are very disappointed with the assignment and feel that all materials given to teachers at this late stage should be completely air-tight.

    David D Miller

    Printing to 2dp (as opposed to rounding to 2dp) is a specialised output technique, which I didn’t think was taught for National 5.

    In TrueBasic, the printing could be done with a template, something like

    PRINT USING “##.##”: value

    Scott Barbour

    Surely common sense must come into play.  Yes they ask for round in the assessment but surely Python users just use format without any penalty?

    I am more concerned given that we can have them complete the tasks in any order and at ‘any time’ then why would you not do a mock ‘unit test’ for each Area of Study then straight after that do the corresponding sections from the ‘Assessment Task’?  If I suspect we’re allowed to I’d assume many teachers need the real Assessment Tasks soon.

    The evaluation stuff as well, does Internal commentary clash with Code Efficiency?  If so there’s a double edged sword.

    Robert Young

    My understanding is that the coursework must be done in one go and not in individual sections throughout the year, just the same as the last coursework.  Plus the pupils will actually have a time limit with the new coursework (8 Hours).  To quote the specimen paper (page 2)

    ‘Candidates have 8 hours to carry out the assignment, starting at an appropriate point in the course after all content has been delivered. ‘

    With my classes already I suspect that  a few pupils won’t complete the coursework task since they will run out of time and I imagine that this will be true throughout the country.  Every year I’ve had pupils coming in at lunch and after school to try and finish the coursework since they’ve misused their time in class.

    Lee Murray

    There are too many issues to post and this thread will be ignored.  Who do we email to direct our concerns?

    Scott McBride

    Robert, Yes, the assignment must be completed within 8 hours and with NO learning and Teaching within the block that you assign.

    What I plan to do is set up exam acounts with no access to their documents but access to the web and software required. I will start the clock and if kids miss lessons then I will have to note the time that they miss. My biggest concern in setting up exam accounts is that they have no access to previous files to use as support.

    It will be a logistical nigtmare. However, I feel that the time limit is accessable for most and would encourage them not to faff about.

    It will take us 3 weeks minimum to complete the assignment in class time. This assuming that every kid will not miss a single minute!

    In regards to marking, will they be looking for markers? It is bad enough marking our own assignments, nevermind others!

    Sean Stratton

    Why are you not letting them access previous tasks?

    “The assignment is conducted under open-book conditions, which means candidates are permitted to access resources such as programming manuals, class notes, textbooks and programs they have written throughout the course.”

    It clearly states that they are permitted to access programs they have written throughout the course. It also goes on to say that

    “Teachers and lecturers must not create learning and teaching tasks which make use of constructs required in the assessment task, with the specific purpose of developing a solution that candidates can access during the assignment.”

    So they can access previous tasks but you shouldn’t have manufactured in class a problem they have solved to get a solution they can use in the accessment. Which is a hard thing to do when we create scenarios and develop solutions all year only to be given the assessment late on. As always I plan to develop a code dictionary with the kids, this I feel will be even more vital with SQL. This I would consider to be class notes.

    Any thoughts?


    Scott McBride

    I may have worded that poorly. My biggest concern is the ability to keep them away from accessing their assignment outwith the classroom. This is the most difficult aspect of the admin, I want them to access their files, just like they have in all other assignments.


    The glossary for SQL, CSS and HTML will be created as per revision for exams anyway and they will have completed tutorials in Python also.

    They will be well prepared and I would never make a task similar to the actual assignment.

    Apart from the admin aspect, my biggest concern is the functional functional requirements etc. for the web and if pupils cannot get program to work, will that impact on the testing?


Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 24 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.