What is the EPQ?

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is an independent research project which involves either writing an essay of 5000 words in the form of a “mini-dissertation” or creating an actual product, which might be anything from an art object to an iPhone app. The EPQ is a formal ‘level 3’ qualification that attracts UCAS Tariff points equivalent to half an A-Level. The final grade is internally awarded according to set criteria and moderated by the examination board involved, in our case the AQA.

As the project evolves, students must complete a “production log” to record specific stages of the project and this contributes to the final grade awarded. The third component of the project is an oral presentation which is delivered to fellow students and staff. There is no formal restriction on what students can do the project on and this is negotiated and agreed at the start of the project.

Although there is no set time limit for undertaking and completing an EPQ, the whole process from start to finish normally takes about 120 hours. Most students use the summer vacation at the end of Year 12 to do their preliminary research and then complete the project in the early part of Year 13.

During the EPQ, students receive teaching and guidance to help with planning and researching and to develop presentation skills. Each student is assigned a personal supervisor to work alongside

What is the benefit of completing an EPQ?

The Extended Project Qualification teaches students many valuable high-level skills that individual A-level courses do not have time to include. In addition, many students say that it adds considerable interest to their sixth-form programme.

There are also several major benefits to completing an EPQ when it comes to applying to university. In terms of UCAS points, the EPQ is valued at 50% of a full A level in the UCAS tariff. However, perhaps the greatest advantage of an EPQ is in helping to convince top universities to make an offer by providing very clear evidence that students involved have interests and abilities which go beyond the A-Level curriculum. It demonstrates clearly that students are capable of undertaking the kind of independent reading, research, and essay writing that is the mainstay of most undergraduate degree courses. This is hugely important in the UCAS application process where universities often have little to distinguish between students with similar predicted grades.

Additionally, an EPQ provides highly relevant material for completing the UCAS Personal Statement and for students to talk about during university interviews.

What skills do I need to complete a successful EPQ?

An EPQ is an extensive research project which is designed to stretch and challenge students to develop additional study skills. The EPQ requires students to exhibit the following:

  • a deep interest in the research topic of their choice;
  • excellent organizational skills. Planning the project over a 20-week period and making sure that each stage is completed in time is essential to creating a high-quality end-product and attracting the highest assessment marks in the process;
  • good time-management skills. Because the EPQ is not part of the normal school curriculum, devoting sufficient time to the project each week, whilst juggling the demands of A-Level courses, is key to a successful project.

To decide if EPQ is right for you needs sound advice from teachers who know you well. If you are a top-grade student, you should enjoy and cope well with EPQ and it could make all the difference in helping you to gain a place at a prestigious university.

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