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Preparing to study Computer Science

Students working in Computer Science


To help you make the transition to university, we've put together some resources which we hope you will find useful.

We have links to free courses, tips on brushing up your skills, recommended reading, and useful information if you're looking to purchase a new computer for your studies.

Questions? Contact us! Email us at  and we'll be happy to help.

Preparing for University

To support your transition to higher education, the University of York has created two online short courses exclusively for offer holders which will help you prepare to become part of our academic learning community.

Both courses are completely free of charge and use the FutureLearn platform. You can participate from anywhere in the world - all you need is an internet connection and a web browser. 

Register for our free online courses

Professor Andy Hunt is based in the School of Physics, Engineering and Technology here at the University of York. He has recently updated his book Surviving and Thriving at University, and is providing an extract completely free of charge to new students, or to those who would welcome extra support.

Read the extract from 'Surviving and Thriving at University' (PDF sample - UoY login required): Surviving and Thriving at University (PDF , 3,092kb)

Preparing for Computer Science

If you're looking to brush up on your maths and programming skills over the summer, then this is the place to start!


  • A Level Maths Revision - A great resource with tutorial videos and past A Level papers for both Mathematics and Further Mathematics.
  • Project Euler - Free to use, Project Euler offers a range of mathematical and computer programming problems.
  • MIT Mathematics open courses - A fantastic range of courses at undergraduate and graduate levels. If you’re looking for a challenge in mathematics, this is it!


  • Code Academy - If you're not sure where to begin, Code Academy takes you through the fundamentals of Computer Science, with opportunities to put your learning into practice.
  • and - Free, interactive tutorials which guide you through programming, from learning the fundamentals through to more advanced concepts.
  • Code Wars - Codewars combines programming and competition in order to hone your programming skills.

Preparatory reading before you start

We're often asked by new students whether there is any preparatory reading that can be done before joining us here at York. We've put together a reading list for you to explore: we don't expect you to have read all these titles by the start of the autumn term, but we hope you find them interesting.

Undergraduate Preparatory Reading List

A good all-round introductory text to the study of Computer Science is that by Brookshear (2). If you would like something more advanced (and fun), then take a look at Harel and Feldman’s text (9). For a thought provoking  discussion of the consequences of the creation of superintelligent machines, the text by Bostrom (1) is excellent.  Dewdney (6) makes good background reading, and single subject students who would like to prepare for the hardware modules may find Clements (4) useful. Downey (7) provides an introduction to programming in Python for beginners. To explore Human-Computer Interaction, the texts by Christian (3), Fry (8) and Krug (10) are good starting points. Cottrell’s book (5) is a useful guide to study skills at university, and prepares you for what to expect before, during and after your studies.

When you arrive, recommended reading will also be indicated for each module that you will be studying. You should be able to borrow these books from the University Library.

  1. Nick Bostrom. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  2. J. Glenn Brookshear. Computer Science: An Overview. Pearson, Thirteenth edition, 2019. 
  3. Brian Christian. Algorithms to live by: The Computer Science of Human Decisions. William Collins, 2016.
  4. Alan Clements. Principles of Computer Hardware. Oxford University Press, Fourth edition, 2006. 
  5. Stella Cottrell. The Study Skills Handbook. Red Globe Press, Fifth edition, 2019.
  6. A. K. Dewdney. The New Turing Omnibus (66 Excursions in Computer Science). Palgrave Macmillan, 1993, 2003 (reprint). 
  7. Allen B. Downey. Think Python: How to think like a Computer Scientist. O'Reilly Media, Second edition, 2015. 
  8. Hannah Fry. Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine. Black Swan, 2019.
  9. David Harel & Yishai Feldman. Algorithmics: The Spirit of Computing. Springer, Third edition, 2004, 2012 (reprint). 
  10. Steve Krug. Don’t make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Useability. New Riders, Third edition, 2013.

First year reading

Want to keep really busy over the summer? It is by no means essential to complete the indicative reading before you start but, if you wish, you can take a look at the recommended reading for two of our first year modules: Theory 1 and Software 1.

Advice about computers

The Department has three dedicated software labs which are available to our students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our lab PCs are set up with all the software needed for teaching and assessments, and are upgraded on a regular basis by our specialist in-Department team. 

​Many students have their own PCs or laptops​ ​​and we know students may prefer to use their own machines. ​​Some find laptops more practical; others prefer to have a desk-top PC - the choice is yours.

To support your studies in the Department of Computer Science, a laptop or PC with at least 500GB hard disk is ideal, as it enables you to dual boot Windows and Linux if you wish​. ​8GB RAM is a minimum and i3 ​is ​the minimum processor to go for. We recommend an SSD as the performance will be much better.

While we don’t teach anything that has Mac-specific software, you can buy a Mac laptop if you prefer. All our teaching is in Linux and Windows, so most applications will either have a Mac version or will compile in macOS. You can dual boot Windows and macOS using Boot Camp and we can provide some software in Windows if you need it.

Purchasing your computer:

Frequently asked questions

When you start your studies at York, you'll no doubt have lots of questions!

We've pulled together the answers to questions that are most frequently asked by our new students. Of course, if you can't see the answer to your question here, then contact us at, and we'll be happy to help.

Read the FAQs