Taking an extended project qualification (EPQ)
Some schools and colleges offer the chance to take an EPQ alongside A levels. If you live in England and Wales, this qualification is worth looking into.
What is an EPQ?
EPQ stands for extended project qualification. It is an independent research task and involves you either writing an extended essay of about 5,000 words or creating a product with an accompanying shorter essay of about 1,000 words. This product could be anything from a drone to an app to a music composition. Both options require you to present to your peers and assessors for about 10–15 minutes at the end of your EPQ journey about your final product. You are also expected to reflect and evaluate the process as you go along, completing a logbook, which comprises part of your assessment.
A large number of schools in England and Wales offer the EPQ, although not all. It is available via the Edexcel, WJEC, AQA and OCR exam boards – each has slight variations.
Is doing an EPQ right for me?
If you wish to learn about something you otherwise would not have a chance to in your lessons, and to learn more about how you work when faced with an independent research task, then yes! However, you do need to ask yourself if you are able to cope with the extra workload. If you are already doing four A levels it is suggested not to do one. If you are also already not handing work in on time, or struggling with your current workload, this is not suggested. However, if you are doing three subjects or three and an AS, perhaps this would be more suitable for you.
Many people pursue an EPQ because they have a genuine passion and interest in the topic they are researching. These students are more likely to persevere with the task and spend the necessary amount of time on it, increasing their chances of achieving a high grade. Success requires a lot of commitment and motivation.
How much work is an EPQ?
An EPQ is estimated to be roughly 120 hours of work. The bulk of this can be completed in the holidays if necessary.
What topics can you do your EPQ on?
You can do an EPQ on any topic. As long as it does not overlap with the content of your A level studies, and as long as you are able to produce an academic piece of writing about it, you are good to go. Your supervisor can help you to know whether what you wish to write about is appropriate.
How many UCAS points do you get for an EPQ?
An EPQ is equivalent to half an A level, and is worth more than an AS. With an EPQ you are able to achieve an A* grade, unlike with an AS level, so it can be worth more tariff points. For the EPQ:
- A*: 28 points
- A: 24 points
- B: 20 points
- C: 16 points
- D: 12 points
- E: 8 points
Do universities like EPQs?
Universities very much like the EPQ. It shows you can undertake independent research, which is necessary for all students at university and helps to bridge the gap between sixth form and degree-level study. Moreover, it shows passion and self-discipline. Some universities may even lower their typical offer if you achieve a particular grade in an EPQ.
What help will I get with my EPQ?
Your school or college will assign you a supervisor, who is allowed to give you some guidance. However, this is an independent research task so there are limitations to this.
The pros and cons of doing an EQP
- It allows you to move beyond the scope of what you are taught in the classroom.
- It can be used to provide evidence for a passion you have, which may come in handy in university and job interviews. It also gives you something interesting to talk about.
- It can be an excellent way of showing an interest in a degree subject that is not available at A level.
- You learn how to structure a report properly, including an abstract, appendix and bibliography.
- You get to develop a variety of skills including time management and learning how to reference, as well as improving organisation and planning.
- It can enhance your presentation skills and help to increase your confidence.
- As above, some universities may lower your offer if you get a particular grade in your EPQ.
- It is very time consuming, so only enrol if you feel as though you would not be overburdening yourself.
- If you do not have a genuine interest in the topic you choose, you may not be able to complete your EPQ to a high quality. It is a bit of a commitment and a lot of reading needs to take place.
- If your A level work is a bit dull by comparison, it may distract you from your other studies.
Top tips on studying for your EPQ
- Pick a topic you are interested in and genuinely passionate about – if you are interested in what you are researching it will not feel like a chore and will be something you are likely to commit to.
- Make sure you record your sources as you go along. Everything needs to be referenced properly, and having to go back to find original pieces of information can be very time consuming – save yourself the hassle.
- Allocate time each week to work on your EPQ and stick to it. Getting bits of research done consistently over a long period of time, no matter how big or small, will make the workload of the EPQ seem a lot less and make it more manageable, even if you are putting in the same hours.
- Create clear, specific goals and deadlines for what you aim achieve by when. This will help you to hold yourself accountable, rather than neglecting your EPQ in favour of A level work for which your teachers have set the deadlines.
- Make sure your referencing system is fit for purpose. Using Harvard is suggested.