The majority of our Year 12 students take an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) as their fourth option. EPQs add significant interest to academic studies, will add considerable value to your university application and attracts slightly more UCAS tariff points than an AS Level. Read through this information to find out what an EPQ is, and how you can prepare for your EPQ studies before you start Year 12 in September.
What is an EPQ?
An Extended Project Qualification, or EPQ, is an independent research project which involves writing an essay of 5000 words or creating a product, which might be anything from an art object to an iPhone app. As the project evolves, you complete a production log to record specific stages of the project and provide details of your research, analysis and reflection to the examiner. You also need to complete an oral presentation.
Generally, the whole process from start to finish takes about 120 hours. We officially start our EPQs in September of Year 12, but there is plenty you can be doing now to prepare, and therefore reduce your workload in the busy autumn term. Most students will complete their EPQ by June of Year 12
We follow the AQA Level 3 EPQ Specification (attached below), and you need to attend EPQ lessons for taught skills (about 30 hours), as well as having scheduled time with a project supervisor. The taught skills lessons help with planning, researching, writing, referencing and presentation skills, and your supervisor will provide you with individual advice and guidance on your project. Your supervisor will mark your project, but these will also be moderated through the exam board to ensure marking is fair and consistent.
What is the benefit of completing an EPQ?
The Extended Project Qualification teaches you some key high-level skills that individual A-level courses don't have time to include,
However, there are also several major benefits to completing an EPQ when it comes to applying to university.
• At its simplest EPQ helps you with UCAS points - EPQ is valued at 50% of a full A level in the UCAS tariff, so carries more UCAS points than a standard AS-level.
• But perhaps the greatest advantage of an EPQ is in helping convince top universities to make you an offer. EPQ provides very clear evidence of that you have interests and ability which go beyond the A-Level curriculum. It demonstrates clearly that you are capable of undertaking the kind of independent reading, research, and essay writing that is the mainstay of most undergraduate degrees. 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 your UCAS Personal Statement and for you to talk about in university interviews.
• Finally there is significant research that suggests students with EPQs achieve higher A-Level grades and better university degrees than their non-EPQ taking classmates, and universities not only know this, but are behind the research.
What skills do you need to complete a successful EPQ?
An EPQ is the longest and most extensive project that you will do during your school years, so it stretches your normal skills. The EPQ requires:
• a great interest in the research topic: interest and curiosity in a subject are the fuel of motivation to keep you going deeper in order to answer a research question.
• organisational 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 you manage your workload -making sure you spend enough time on the project each week, while juggling the demands of your A-Levels, is key to a successful project.
What should you be doing to prepare?
The single biggest thing you can do to prepare for your EPQ before arriving is to decide what you want your EPQ to be about. Choosing your topic is easy for some students, and very tricky and time consuming for others. Here’s what you should be doing now:
1. Understand what the EPQ is:
a. Watch this video for an introduction to the EPQ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-ZQeWz5Ssk
2. Identify a topic that you want to write about or design something around.
a. Watch this video. It is aimed at choosing a university project, but the same principles apply. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjuvdglDyoY
b. Download the choosing a title booklet here. You can fill this in online or print it out. Take your time and include as much detail as you can, this will form the start of your written log when you begin the course fully in September.
3. Start some research around your topic. This will help guide your research further: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QbrUjLASxc
4. Make sure you bring your work to school in September!
More useful links:
AQA EPQ Specification: https://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/projects/project-qualifications/EPQ-7993
Course textbook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/AQA-Extended-Project-Qualification-EPQ/dp/1510443142