Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

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The Independent Online

What is it?

It's not just for nerds. Information and communications technology (ICT) teaches you how to apply technology to the real world. You will pick up a lot of computer skills such as how to create documents, spreadsheets, databases, multimedia presentations and websites. But you'll also solve problems in the workplace using what you have learnt.

Why do it?

"Technology pervades our lives," says Barbara Wilson, the chief examiner in ICT at AQA. "There isn't an area of life that isn't affected by it. No matter what you do later in life, you will use the skills and knowledge you gain on this course."

What skills do you need?

Obviously, computer skills are very useful, but you will be taught everything you need to know on the course. Plus your written communication skills need to be adequate.

How much practical work is there?

A lot. Learning how to use computers and software is an essential part of the course.

Ratio of coursework to exams:


Is it hard?

"No, it's practical, hands on and very enjoyable," says Richard Hanna, principal officer for ICT at CCEA. "Your coursework could involve building a simple website, or designing a software solution to a business problem."

Wh0 takes it?

Far more boys than girls study ICT. "But the girls do better," says Barbara Wilson. "There are still a lot of misconceptions about the subject."

How cool is it?

"You couldn't get a more up-to-date subject," says Wilson. "Five years ago 9,000 students did it. This summer 25,000 students will take the AS exam."

Added value:

The opportunity to make a bit of money on the side. One pupil created a scoring system for a vintage racing car business for his coursework. The company was so impressed that they paid him for it and gave him a job.

What subjects go with it?

"Every subject is enhanced by the use of ICT," says Hanna. "You can make your projects come alive with digital images, movie clips and sound, or combine it with mathematics if you are thinking of a software engineering or programming career, or with art and design for creative media, or design and technology for engineering or product design."

What degrees does it lead to?

Business information technology, computing, software engineering or courses in graphics, animation and music technology.

Will it set you up for a brilliant career?

"Yes, almost every career path is touched by computers and the use of ICT," says Hanna. "IT is a global industry and career opportunities are considerable and varied."

What do the students say?

"I'm really enjoying studying the internet. We are learning about how it is put together and how data is sent," says Vikki Josling, 18, who is also studying for A-levels in English language and business studies at Sir John Deane's College in Cheshire. "For my project work, I set up a database for a dry cleaner's, which they're now using."

Which awarding bodies offer it?

AQA, CCEA, Edexcel and OCR.

How widely available is it around the country?

Very. Most schools offer ICT A-level.