A level Design and Technology

What is the A level about?

We offer Pearson Edexcel A level Design and Technology which offers a clear route from GCSE study. The A level syllabus has been created using feedback from all parts of the design and technology community, not least higher education, and reflects the demands of a modern and evolving society. Pupils undertake a large design and make project and a written examination in the Upper Sixth.


The A level is assessed in two ways: Component 1 is a written examination and Component 2 is a Design and Make project and portfolio.

Component 1: Principles of Design and Technology

Written examination: 2 hours 30 minutes

  • 50% of the qualification
  • 120 marks

Content overview

  • Topic 1: Materials
  • Topic 2: Performance characteristics of materials
  • Topic 3: Processes and techniques
  • Topic 4: Digital technologies
  • Topic 5: Factors influencing the development of products
  • Topic 6: Effects of technological developments
  • Topic 7: Potential hazards and risk assessment
  • Topic 8: Features of manufacturing industries
  • Topic 9: Designing for maintenance and the cleaner environment
  • Topic 10: Current legislation
  • Topic 11: Information handling, Modelling and forward planning
  • Topic 12: Further processes and techniques.

Assessment overview

The paper includes calculations, short-open and open-response questions, as well as extended-writing questions focused on:

  • analysis and evaluation of design decisions and outcomes, against a technical principle, for prototypes made by others
  • analysis and evaluation of wider issues in design technology, including social, moral, ethical and environmental impacts.

Component 2: Independent Design and Make Project

Non-examined assessment

  • 50% of the qualification
  • 120 marks

Content overview

  • Pupils individually and/or in consultation with a client/end user identify a problem and design context.
  • Pupils will develop a range of potential solutions which include the use of computer aided design and evidence of modelling.
  • Pupils will be expected to make decisions about the designing and development of the prototype in conjunction with the opinions of the client/end user.
  • Pupils will realise one potential solution through practical making activities with evidence of project management and plan for production.
  • Pupils will incorporate issues related to sustainability and the impact their prototype may have on the environment
  • Pupils are expected to analyse and evaluate design decisions and outcomes for prototypes/products made by themselves and others
  • Pupils are expected to analyse and evaluate of wider issues in design technology, including social, moral, ethical and environmental impacts.

Assessment overview

  • The investigation report is internally assessed and externally moderated.
  • Pupils will produce a substantial design, make and evaluate project which consists of a portfolio and a prototype
  • The portfolio will contain approximately 40 sides of A3 paper (or electronic equivalent)
  • There are four parts to the assessment:
    • Part 1: Identifying and outlining possibilities for design Identification and investigation of a design possibility, investigation of client/end user needs, wants and values, research and production of a specification
    • Part 2: Designing a prototype
      Design ideas, development of design idea, final design solution, review of development and final design and communication of design ideas
    • Part 3: Making a final prototype
      Design, manufacture and realisation of a final prototype, including tools and equipment and quality and accuracy
    • Part 4: Evaluating own design and prototype
    • Testing and evaluation

Do I need to have studied the subject at GCSE?

Ideally, pupils should have studied Design and Technology at GCSE level, and secured a grade of at least 5.

In exceptional circumstances pupils may wish to study Design at Technology at A level who have not previously done so; in order for this to happen, and informal interview with the Head of Department is usually recommended, for clear communication of expectations and to consider the suitability of the candidate for the course.

Whom does the subject suit?

Design and Technology suits pupils with enquiring minds, who are creative thinkers and who have a degree of self-management. These skills are nurtured throughout the study of Design and Technology, alongside reflective learning, team-working and effective communication. Examples of some of the skills used in the study of Design and Technology are; listening; reading; note-taking; contributing to class work; technical drawing; mathematical skills; modelling; CAD; manufacturing by hand and using CAM equipment; taking photographs and videos; creating digital portfolios. At A level, pupils must take ownership of their work and so independence, maturity and discipline all help.

What skills should I have?

The most important skill to have is that you are willing to learn and work, and that you enjoy a challenge. You should also have resilience, as the design process can be long and it can take time for your results to be seen. Your skills and understanding will grow over the course of study, both in terms of the range and the quality.

Successful pupils of Design and Technology are good listeners, and enjoy solving problems. You should have good organisation skills, and be familiar with using computers for creating work documents. Basic study skills – such as reading, listening, writing, note-taking, contributing to class discussions and time management – are needed for success at A level, as they are in all subjects at this level.

What might the subject lead to?

Choosing Design and Technology at A level prepares you well for a world of opportunities in higher education and careers. Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Architecture, including interior architecture and landscape architecture.
  • Product design
  • Industrial design
  • Interior design
  • Graphic design
  • Engineering (all branches including but not limited to: civil, bionics, climate, cryogenics, CGI effects, energy conservation, medical imaging, robotics, stadium, transport and software)
  • Software tester
  • Disaster relief specialist
  • Digital musician
  • Smart cities specialist
  • Rehabilitation engineer
  • Games designer
  • Prosthetics technician
  • Animator
  • Special effects director
  • Certified ethical hacker
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Furniture designer and maker
  • Apprenticeships, including:
    • Engineering model maker
    • Design and draughting technician
    • Civil Engineering technician
    • Theatre set carpenter
    • Mechanic
    • Plumber
    • Electrician

What trips are involved?

Recent trips have included Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley and Amazon. An educational trip to Japan is in the planning stages, with a view to travelling in 2022.

What else should I consider before choosing?

Before opting for Design and Technology, it is important to remember that you will not be making all of the time! The workshops are well-resourced and are attractive, but they do not represent the whole of the subject. The first 7 stages of the design process are predominantly spent in the classroom, with increasing access to the workshop as you become prepared. You should also consider whether working on an extended project – which can last for over a year – is going to be something that you will enjoy. You will be working on the same project for a long time, and this style of working develops useful skills for life beyond school. Studying Design and Technology is like no other subject; this can feel uncomfortable for some pupils at first, but it is immensely rewarding.

What preparatory work should I do?

Recommended reading:

  • The Design of Everyday Things (The MIT Press) - Donald A. Norman
  • The Design Thinking Playbook: Mindful Digital Transformation of Teams, Products, Services, Businesses and Ecosystems - Michael Lewrick, Patrick Link & Larry Leife
  • Design: The Whole Story Paperback – Elizabeth Wilhide & Jonathan Glancey
  • Making It, Third edition: manufacturing Techniques for Product Design - Chris Lefteri
  • Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals - Rob Thompson
  • Drawing for Product Designers (Portfolio Skills) - Kevin Henry
  • Research Methods for Product Design (Portfolio Skills) - Alex Milton and Paul Rodgers
  • Design for the 21st Century (Icons Series) - Charlotte Fiell and Peter Fiell
  • The eco-design handbook (Thames and Hudson) - Alastair Fuad-Luke
  • Design Sketching by Erik Olofsson and Klara Sjolen

Who will teach me?

Ms White – the Head of Department.

Exam Board

Pearson Edexcel

Entry Criteria

Grade 6 or better in GCSE Design and Technology. In exceptional circumstances, in consultation with the Head of Department, pupils who have not studied at GCSE may be considered.

For American Program pupils: two years of studio art or design courses, maintaining at least a B+ average.

Career Pathways

  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Product Design
  • Project Management