Computer Studies IGCSE: Project

Candidates need to present one complex piece of practical work for the purpose of the examination. The weighting given to this work is 25%, therefore this is a very important part of the course. The teacher acts as supervisor of the candidates and must carry out the assessment in accordance with the instructions on the Individual Candidate Record Card. The submitted project must be the unaided work of each and every candidate.

From the specification:

Assessed practical work (Paper 2)

Candidates need to present one complex piece of practical work for the purpose of the examination. The weighting given to this work is 25%, therefore this is a very important part of the course. The teacher acts as supervisor of the candidates and must carry out the assessment in accordance with the instructions on the Individual Candidate Record Card. The submitted project must be the unaided work of each and every candidate.

In the role of supervisor, the teacher should do the following.

(a) Help each candidate to choose practical work which is within the candidate’s capability and range of interests.

Good project topics are open-ended in the sense that if the work proves to be easier or the candidate more able (and enthusiastic) than the teacher first thought, it can be developed further. Similarly, if the work proves more difficult or the candidate less able than was first thought, it should be possible to simplify it.

(b) Ensure that candidates start their documentation as soon as they start the work.

The early documentation may need revision as the project proceeds.

(c) Insist on seeing a written description of the aims of the practical work before it is started.

The teacher should discuss the amount of time that the candidate should spend on each stage, and should tell the candidate (and periodically remind them) of the final date for submission to the teacher. Teachers should set this date at least one month before the final date when they have to submit assessed practical work to CIE for moderation.

(d) Closely supervise the work throughout.

Candidates should provide documentation and teachers should regularly inspect it. The teacher may give detailed assistance if necessary, but they must take into consideration the amount of help of this kind when assessing the work. The teacher must include a note about the assistance given in the appropriate place on the Individual Candidate Record Card.

(e) Encourage candidates to implement a back-up policy.

(f) Candidates should use a word processor to produce their documentation and include an overall report contents page; failure to do so will result in a loss of marks.

The mark a candidate can achieve is often linked to the problem definition and therefore teachers should guide candidates in their choice of problem. Teachers must provide on-going support, guidance and supervision during the project. However, if a teacher has to provide excessive help or guidance, the candidate will lose marks: the teacher will decide the level of deduction by taking into account the amount of help given. Excessive help or guidance is when the teacher tells the candidate exactly what to do and the candidate makes no further progress in that particular area. If such help forms part of the normal teaching process then the teacher should not deduct marks. Also if the help enables the candidate to achieve a higher standard without further assistance then the teacher should not deduct marks. However, if a Centre makes a deduction, then the teacher must clearly annotate the reason for the deduction on the individual assessment form for that particular candidate, and the candidate’s project must be included as part of the sample for moderation.

Teachers should make candidates aware that hardcopy output of results is essential except where this is inappropriate (for example in a control application or some graphical solutions). For projects involving control or graphics, Centres usually find no difficulty in obtaining photographs of the screen or screen dumps; the teacher must authenticate any such photos. If a candidate undertakes hardware control or animated projects, they can submit visual evidence in DVD format.

If candidates use material from magazines or other sources in their projects, they must acknowledge this material. Teachers should ensure that they do this.

Suggestions for practical work

The exact method of solution will be the choice of each candidate but the teacher will need to ensure that they have covered all options during the course. CIE will not recommend the use of any specific programming language; the Centre should choose the language according to the resources available. However, if candidates choose to write their own program then the choice of language must allow them to construct their program using a structured modular approach. Previous experience of candidates’ work indicates that the choice of certain projects involving games, quizzes and word processing are unsuitable projects and do not provide the opportunity to achieve high marks. Teachers may find it useful to use the forum to share topics and ideas for project work.

Read pp 37-40 of the specification carefully, which will tell you how to get the marks.

Analysis (11 marks)

1. Description of the problem (max 2)

2 marks: Description of the background to the business or organisation, together with the nature of the problem to be solved

2. Objectives (must be stated in relation to the proposed solution) (3)

3 marks: Objectives listed in both general business terms and computer-related terms; planning, testing and evaluation will refer back to the objectives; each objective should be easy to test by producing a screen or printed output.

General business terms may include saving time or money, improving efficiency or making a service more attractive or useful to customers; computer terms may include greater security of data, reduced processing time, better interface, set up a database, ability to enter data, edit/amend and delete data, search for data, compile reports, maintain up to date information, publish data in a timely fashion.

3. Description of existing solution (max 2)

2 marks: A full description of the current solution, including data input requirements (data capture methods and data dictionary, if applicable) and specifications, the data processing and output requirements and specifications; focus on data flows, input-process-output, data capture, data dictionary, data storage, data processing. There must be an existing solution for this to be possible.

Summarise the data flow in the current system using a systems flow chart or a simplified representation. Show data structures and storage in current system. Describe how data are captured and processed.

4. Evaluation of existing solution (max 2)

2 marks: Complete evaluation of the current solution highlighting advantages, disadvantages and any suggested improvement(s)

5. Description of other possible solutions, (including the proposed solution) (max 2)

2 marks: Description of the proposed new solution and at least one other solution; extend current system; use generic software; create bespoke system with programming language

Design (14 marks)

6. Action plan, in terms of system life cycle (max 3)

2 marks: Detailed action plan, including time schedule

3 marks: Detailed formal plan, including a Gantt or PERT chart. Film on Gantt chart.

As well as a Gantt chart in Excel you should write an account of your plan.

Specify the stages of systems analysis (Analysis, Design, Implementation, Testing, Evaluation) plus the tasks and activities (such as talking to your users or looking at existing systems) within each area that correspond with the sections of the project.

Allocate a specific number of days to the task or use start and finish dates. I don't see any reason to mention that the dates came from your teacher.

Specify milestones - significant stages such as completing a section.

Specify dependencies such as whether you have to wait for the completion of one task before undertaking another.

Specify the critical path - a sequence of tasks that you complete. The best way to do this is with a PERT chart (Program Evaluation and Review Technique). This film shows one way to do this in Excel - the commentary explains how a PERT chart lets you schedule tasks in sequence or in parallel and represent this visually. This short film shows that PERT time values are based on probable times rather than exact ones and how to find the PERT value from pessimistic time, most likely time and optimistic time.

You could try copying and pasting the key components from your Gantt chart into a PERT chart like the one in the film. An alternative approach is to number all the tasks in a key and then represent each one as a circle with arrowed lines between them showing the paths. You could draw this freehand and then make a final copy in Publisher. You should have 15-20 tasks in your chart, derived from the stages in the Gantt chart.

See here (follows the film) . Stages:

  1. Identify activities and milestones (already in your Gantt chart)
  2. Determine activity sequence - number them in the order that they will be done;
  3. Make a network diagram - a numbered circle with lines between to show the paths; parallel activities would be on the same row or at the same height on the diagram;
  4. Add the estimated activity times - e.g. in hours, days or weeks alongside the lines on the diagram
  5. Optional: Find the critical path, which is the longest path through the network diagram.

7. System Flowchart (max 2)

2 marks: Complete solution represented in systems flowchart with correct use of symbols

This should fit onto a single sheet of paper (you can use A3 if you need more space than A4 allows).

A system flowchart does not give details of algorithms such as loops and decisions. It focuses rather on the way that data enters the system through input devices such as keyboards, how it is processed in broad terms, how it is stored in files or a database and how it is output on screen or paper. There should be START and STOP symbols. Lines should be drawn horizontal, vertical or at 45 degrees; where you have a cluster of options you may have to use odd angles. Keep the chart neat and concise; review it and remove unnecessary detail.

8. Description of the method of solution (max 3)

3 marks: Clear and detailed description of the method of solution, including database tables, any relationships (Must include annotation or explanation of at least one module of any software generated coding/queries).

This section should include:

Outputs: tables, charts, forms, reports; the system you build must use these designs (as near as possible)

Inputs: form designs + notes on validation and/or verification; use apropriate methods e.g. text box, drop down list, spinner (but keep it simple, you don't have to use every control in Delphi or Access)

Data storage: list tables, fields in each one, relationships (primary-foreign keys), access control (forms, protection), hardware needed.

Processing: structure diagram to show how modules or units of code are called from a menu e.g. option 1: enter data -> table 1 or table 2 etc. Structure diagram should show input, process, storage, output from left to right. Details of algorithms in flowchart OR pseudocode (no need for both). Algorithms may be simple and should meet your objectives. It is OK to use SQL for a search and to run this in Delphi using a SQL object. You can generate the SQL in Access and copy it into the Delphi object.

Menus and command buttons: You will typically have a menu form with buttons to open other forms for input and output. You could use a Delphi menu and show this as a list of options. Design this and the buttons on it. Your buttons will be all the same and will follow the appearance provided by Delphi (which are derived from Windows). So you can use copy/paste to show all your buttons: just change the caption on each one. Use of colour?

9. Hardware (max 3)

2 marks: A detailed specification OR A list of hardware with at least two reasons why such hardware is needed in the context of the proposed solution

3 marks: A complete list of hardware together with at least two reasons why such hardware is needed in the context of the proposed solution

List the hardware needed for input, process, storage and output. Give examples of suitable items e.g. by searching Amazon so you can add a price and a picture. Justify each choice e.g. high capacity hard disc at a good price from a reliable manufacturer.

10. Software (max 3)

2 marks: Description of the software used

3 marks: Justification as to why this software is being used or written, e.g. why two facilities are needed from the software

List the software that you have decided to use and give at least two reasons for choosing each item. You will probably have decided on Delphi and Access. Do not say that these are your only options: ignore what is available and concentrate on the features of the software that make it suitable. The reasons you give must link clearly to your objectives - see the course guide for an example.

You may need to go back to your objectives to check that you can link them to the software.

Implementation (8 marks)

11. Method of solution related to the problem by suitable means, including annotated coding, spreadsheet formulas, database tables, site plans of website (max 2)

2 marks: Description of the method of solution described in specific details relevant to the problem

Record the following in a table:

Delphi forms used (each of which creates a unit) e.g. My project uses three forms with a unit of code for each one (Delphi creates these for you). If you have a main menu form you will probably have put the Database Connection there. Say how you linked the forms together in the 'uses' section. List the controls on each form e.g. button1, button2, textedit1, listbox1, memo1; state the purpose of each control.

Procedures within each form (Delphi creates these as you double click on objects in design view.) List the procedures and say what each one does (don't give any code, just a summary of its purpose.)

List the global variables, data structures and files (the last item is covered by access to the database). State what each one does in the program.

12. Accurate method of solution (max 3)

2 marks: Partly successful, some of the computer-related objectives achieved as listed previously

3 marks: Completely successful, all of the previously listed computer-related objectives achieved.

Copy and paste the relevant objectives and write under each one how you have succeeded (or not) in meeting it.

13. Programming code (max 3)

2 marks: Code and annotate own macro(s)

3 marks: Code and annotate complete solution in any programming language

Add a comment to each unit and procedure stating its purpose.

Testing (7 marks)

14. Test strategy (Must include the expected results) (max 3)

2 marks: Complete test strategy, which must include the data to be tested together with the expected results

3 marks: Complete test strategy, which must include the data to be tested together with the expected results and linked to the project objectives in section 2.

Define some test data sutable for running through the system. This should include normal data, boundary data and invalid data for every test. Normal should pass the tests; boundary data is up to the limits of validation and should pass; invalid data should fail and trigger error messages.

Make a numbered list of all the tests that you will perform on the data specified. Each test should include:

Test number; the numbered objective to which the test applies; description of test; data used; expected result; actual result.

This is your test plan.

Identify all the features of the software that must be tested and run at least one test on each. You must test your objectives.

Testing should test all aspects of the solution. Should test validation checks. Should specify the data to be used and show that, with these data, the system works as specified. Should link tests to objectives. There should be a test plan that lists and describes all the tests to be done, with space for expected and actual results.

Make notes on the outcome of each test in the 'actual results' column.

Add screen shots in a separate section under the table using the test number to link each screen shot to the tests. The screen shots provide the best evidence for your success in building your system.

15. Test results (acceptable (normal), unacceptable (abnormal) and boundary (extreme) data) (max 4)

3 marks: Three types of data tested

4 marks: Three types of data tested covering all aspects of functionality (data input and processes)

Evidence of testing should include data entry and results. Be sure to use the data specified in the plan.

Documentation (5 marks)

16. Technical documentation (max 2)

2 marks: Overall report contents page and clear and complete documentation which would enable maintenance or modification of the system; headings: purpose; restrictions; limitations; software used; hardware used; system flowchart; security; input & output requirements; design data dictionary; structure charts; algorithms; design views of input and output forms; queries; file formats; validation and verification checks; algorithms in pseudo-code or flowcharts; commented program code; list of variables; file formats and structures (may be database). Much of this will be written in Design so you can transfer material and then reflect on it and illustrate with screen shots of the finished system - such screen shots must not appear in Design.

17. User guide (max 3)

2 marks: Clear details but incomplete

3 marks: Clear and complete user guide

Should include: title; purpose; overview; limitations; installation; run program; data entry; delete/edit/amend data; sorting and searching/queries; printed output; saving; backup; error messages; responding to errors; avoiding problems; troubleshooting; FAQs.

System Evaluation and Development (5 marks)

18. Evaluation (max 3)

2 marks: Reasonable evaluation

3 marks: Reasonable evaluation linked to the computer objectives in section 2 and the testing

Work through objectives and evaluate how well you have met them by referring to test evidence (use test numbers).

19. Developments (The candidate does not necessarily have to be capable of carrying out these suggestions) (max 2)

2 marks: Realistic and meaningful suggestions for development: new facilities (link to limitations); improved data input and/or output; alternative hardware e.g. bar code scanner.

Summary

To do well in the project you must show that you can perform a number of tasks:

The project must attempt to solve a real problem and produce some output. You should check carefully that your proposed problem matches the mark scheme and that you will be able to maximise your marks. It has been strongly recommended in class that you choose a topic that involves storing data in a database with two or three tables and using code in Delphi Pascal to manipulate the data in ways that are useful to the user.

Schedule

Analysis: complete by October/November half term

Design: complete by end of December term

Implementation, Testing, Documentation, Evaluation: by March 10th, 2014 (all lessons to be used for course work in Easter term)