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EPQs explained

Nelly Ali finds out how doing an EPQ can boost your application to university.

What is an EPQ?

The Department for Education describes an EPQ as ‘A single extended piece of work which requires a high degree of planning, preparation, research and autonomous work, providing valuable additional evidence for entry to higher education’

EPQ stands for Extended Project Qualification and is the equivalent of an AS grade, but has the added advantage of being able to obtain the A* grade. It is a fairly new qualification that has been developed and is offered across various schools and colleges.

The EPQ gives students the opportunity to research a topic of their interest; this does not have to be based on an academic subject that the student is studying. However, it is important that students show the project to be relevant to their educational aspirations. So someone who wants to study English literature could examine the way poverty is portrayed in Victorian novels, for example, or wannabe lawyers could look at the relationship between the press and police.

Once research has been undertaken, students must submit their work, which usually takes the form of a dissertation but can also include compositions, an investigative report or an artefact supported with a written piece. EPQs offered by schools and colleges are usually completed over the summer with a minimum guideline of 5,000 words.

Who can do an EPQ?

Unfortunately, this largely depends on schools or colleges who are able to offer the short course and most boards do not offer private entry. Examination boards that offer the EPQ include OCR, Edexcel, AQA, and CIE.

What is an EPQ made up of?

An EPQ is assessed on the following basis:

  • Manage: Identify and plan the project
  • Use resources: Undertake research and select relevant information
  • Develop and realise: Interpret evidence and write up results
  • Review: Present finding / evaluation to an audience

What is an EPQ worth?

The EPQ is worth a maximum of 70 UCAS points, as although it is equivalent to half an A-level, it is worth slightly more as the A* grade is available.

What are the benefits of an EPQ?

According to exam board QCA, '(An) extended project can help students to develop and demonstrate a range of valuable skills through pursuing their interest and investigating topics in more depth’

The EPQ holds numerous benefits such as:

  • Giving you a wide range of transferable skills
  • Preparation for higher education, for example, life at university
  • Demonstrating creativity, initiative, motivation and commitment
  • It can add something extra to your application, was part of your CV or personal statement.

What do students think of the EPQ?

Naomi

Physics

I think the EPQ is a valuable opportunity to demonstrate independence, and to learn new skills such as time-management, writing a dissertation and recognising bias. Although it can be time-consuming I think it will be a great project to show universities. One thing is for sure, I am definitely enjoying the freedom of researching a topic of my own personal interest that is outside the academic requirements.

Lidia

History

I really love the EPQ because it allows you to demonstrate your passion for a subject, in my case history! It is a very independent project, but that is great because it gives you a taste of what life would be like at university. The skills you gain from undertaking the EPQ are vast: planning, organisation, effective research skills and monitoring own progress. I would recommend the EPQ as it can look great on applications, but more important you’ll have fun doing it if you really enjoy the particular subject.

What do universities think of the EPQ?                                                 

  • Bristol: ‘The university recognises that some A-level students may also choose to offer the Extended Project. In such cases some admissions tutors may make two alternative offers, one of which involves success in the Extended Project’
  • Cambridge: ‘We welcome the introduction of the Extended Project and would encourage you to undertake one as it will help you develop independent study and research skills and ease the transition from school/college to higher education.’
  • Newcastle: ‘We value the skills of research and independent learning that the Extended Project is designed to develop. We welcome applications from students offering the Extended Project alongside A-levels…Your offer may be varied as a result, in recognition of the level of study skills you will have developed.’
  • Oxford: ‘Where applicants have undertaken the Extended Project (EP), the university will not make this a condition for an offer but recognises that the EP will provide an applicant with the opportunity to develop research and academic skills relevant for study at Oxford. Candidates are encouraged to draw upon their experience of undertaking the project when writing their personal statement, particularly if the topic is allied to their chosen degree course.’
  • Warwick: ‘Warwick welcomes the development of the Extended Project and we anticipate that this qualification will assist in our assessment of an applicant’s potential to succeed at undergraduate level study.’

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