OCR Unit A452: Practical Investigation

Controlled assessment: 30% of the total GCSE – 45 marks

The marks are broken down as follows:

  • Practical activity – 15 marks
  • Effectiveness and efficiency – 10 marks
  • Technical Understanding – 10 marks
  • Testing, evaluation and conclusions – 10 marks

Duration: Approx 20 hours

A practical investigative task where OCR sets a scenario with a choice of research tasks.

  • This unit is designed to provide students with an opportunity to carry out a practical investigation into a computing issue and engage with computing in the real world.
  • Students should study one from a range of topics which will be supplied by OCR. Students will be expected to carry out practical investigations of the topic(s) and any supplementary research necessary to complete these investigations.
  • Assessment is based on a report in which the topic is analysed, justified and evaluated showing evidence of the practical work undertaken.

For Unit A452 students will need to deal with new concepts and these will be introduced as a class activity before starting the controlled assessment task.

Following this preparation, students will be introduced to the task through teacher led activity, then group activity and finally individual work on the task.

This controlled assessment is to be taken under Medium Control meaning students must complete all work, with the exception of research, under informal supervision. Informal supervision means that the teacher must be able to authenticate the work as the students’ own unaided work.

A candidate can re-take a controlled assessment but any work that has been previously assessed cannot be returned to the candidate and, along with moderated work returned to centres, should be destroyed. Candidates may re-use any controlled assessment group research work but must completely redo the individual activity part of the assessment.

The current sets of A452 assessment tasks can be downloaded by logging onto OCR Interchange.

OCR Specimen Controlled Assessment Material (2010/11 Pilot) (PDF file)

Little Man Computer Specimen Assessment Material – MS Word document, provided by Darren Travi

Support notes

Note: There is no requirement that all the pupils in the class do the same investigation but pupils cannot mix and match sections from different OCR tasks.

The importance of the conclusion should be emphasised as it’s importance is often underestimated in the rush to finish. Although it is linked to the previous tasks it will a slightly different emphasis or extend the topic in some way. For example, in the investigation into low level programming the conclusion is not specifically to do with the LMC, instead it asks pupils to compare RISC and CISC processors.

OCR advise that for able pupils in particular, who have no difficulties completing the previous tasks, the conclusion should be seen as the differentiator. It should have evidence of individual research, arguments for and against the particular issue, and a final conclusion that is clearly justified.

General notes:

  • During the research part of the task, answering the questions can be done on a MS Word document which can be brought into the Medium controlled part of the assessment and copied into the report.
  • During the research part of the task, pupils should be encouraged to work together in small groups or pairs, clearly identifying the research as group work in their individual reports.
  • To achieve the “The practical investigation shows clear signs of planning and a structured approach to evidence gathering…” mark pupils will need to present their findings in a methodical way so that what they present shows some evidence of forethought.
  • The statement on the mark scheme that refers to “Practical investigation has been carried out with skill and due regard to safety issues” is a generic catch-all statement to cover future tasks that might involve working with the physical components of a computer. In this case, some comment could be made about storing their work securely and how they did that. As with all of the mark scheme, consider if a particular statement is relevant to the task being undertaken before assessing the work completed under that heading.
  • For the testing there should be a list of tests with sensible test data and an expected outcome. Also include boundary data too, plus any other exceptions.

Unit A452 2.1: Practical Activity

Candidates should be able to:

  • plan and carry out a practical investigation of a topic
  • use practical skills effectively and efficiently to develop solutions to problems
  • test their solutions
  • evaluate and modify these solutions in light of test results.

Practical activity 0-15 marks

Under this category you should provide evidence of the practical activity you carried out.

0-5 marks 6-10 marks 11-15 marks
There may be limited evidence of any practical investigation. There is evidence of a practical investigation. There is evidence of a well structured practical investigation.
The evidence supplied is minimal with limited relevance to the set task. The evidence supplied is documented clearly and is relevant to the set task. The evidence supplied is well organised and clearly relevant to the set task.
The practical evidence may be largely the result of group or teacher led activity with limited input from the student. There is evidence of individual research beyond the group activity and any teacher led activity. There is extensive evidence of individual practical investigation beyond the group activity and any teacher led activity.
The practical investigation shows signs of planning but there may be omissions made in assessing the consequences. The practical investigation shows clear signs of planning and a structured approach, providing a complete investigation of the set topic area.
The practical investigation has been carried out with skill and due regard to safety issues.


Unit A452 2.2: Effectiveness and Efficiency

Candidates should be able to:

  • select suitable techniques for the development of their solution
  • use suitable techniques to solve all aspects of the problem
  • deploy practical techniques in an efficient and logical manner.

Effectiveness and efficiency 0-10 marks

Under this category you should show effective use of the skills you have developed to produce the solutions to the identified problems.

0-3 marks 4-7 marks 8-10 marks
The techniques used will produce partially working solutions to a small part of the problem. The techniques will be used appropriately giving working solutions to most of the parts of the problem. Some parts of the solution may be executed in a partial or inefficient manner. The techniques are used appropriately in all cases giving an efficient, working solution for all parts of the problem.

Unit A452 2.3: Technical Understanding

Candidates should be able to:

  • show an understanding of the relevant information by presenting evidence of the development of their solutions
  • show an understanding of the technical terminology/concepts that arise from their investigation through their analysis of the data collected
  • use the terminology/concepts surrounding their topic and contained in the information collected correctly when it comes to producing their analysis in the supporting script.

Technical Understanding 0-10 marks

  • You should present the evidence behind your investigation and apply the evidence in order to support your analysis of the scenario.
  • You will be expected to use appropriate technical vocabulary in a way that indicates that the principles are understood.
0-3 marks 4-7 marks 8-10 marks
The candidate demonstrates a limited understanding of the technical issues related to the scenario. The candidate demonstrates a reasonable understanding of the technical issues related to the scenario. The candidate demonstrates a thorough and secure understanding of the technical issues related to the scenario.
Little detail is presented. The amount of detail presented is adequate to support the arguments. A wide range of relevant and detailed information is presented.
There will be limited indication of any evidenceprovided being analysed. There is some analysis carried out on the evidence collected. The evidence which has been collected is fully analysed.
There is limited use of technical terminology. Technical terminology is for the most part used appropriately. Technical terminology is used correctly. At the top end of the band, this will be extensive and confidently used.

Unit A452 2.4: Testing, Evaluation and Conclusions

Candidates should:

  • produce a full report covering all aspects of the investigation
  • present the information in a clear form which is understandable by a third party and which is easily navigable
  • critically appraise the evidence that they have presented
  • test their own solution
  • present their evaluation in a relevant, clear, organised, structured and coherent format
  • use specialist terms correctly and appropriately
  • present a conclusion to the report
  • justify their conclusions based on the evidence provided.

Testing, evaluation and conclusions 0-10 marks

0-3 marks 4-7 marks 8-10 marks
Conclusions are limited  with little justification. The material has structure and coherence with justifiable conclusions being reached although there may be some omissions. Thorough and convincing conclusions have been reached, which are borne out by the research carried out by the candidate.
The solution is presented with limited evidence of testing. There is evidence that the solutions have been tested for basic functionality. The solutions are fully tested and there is little doubt that the solutions presented are fully functional.
Information may be ambiguous or unclear. This material has been presented in a clear and relevant way which is simple to navigate.
There is limited reference to evidence.
The evidence of written communication is limited with little or no use of specialist terms. There is evidence of good written communication using some specialist terms.

Specialist terms will be used appropriately and for the most part correctly.

A high level of written communication is obvious throughout the task and specialist terms/technology with accurate use of spelling is used.
There are many errors in spelling,punctuation and grammar. There are few errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation. Grammar and punctuation is consistently correct.
The evaluation may be simplistic with little or no relevance. Candidates will have produced a sound evaluation which reviews some aspects of the task. The evaluation is relevant, clear, organised and presented in a structured and coherent format.