A-Levels have undergone various reforms in past decades, but one thing never really changes, and that’s the stress levels students feel come exam time. Back in 2006, a new idea was introduced into the system that increases the variety of qualifications and results students can attain. It’s called the Extended Project Qualification, and while it doesn’t replace exams, it has had a significant impact on the world of secondary education.
I will be exploring this exciting qualification, expanding on the details of all the essential aspects for students. There will be some crucial advice for parents, too, so look out for that.
The Extended Project Qualification, or EPQ, is an increasingly popular project-based assignment that students finishing year 12 and preparing to move into year 13 undertake. It involves three main parts — an essay or final “product”, a production log, and a live presentation — which we will discuss in more detail.
The EPQ is a large-scale piece of project work, typically covering about 120 hours of work in total. The topic of the project is entirely up to the student, with the freedom to choose from almost any topic area, as long as it doesn’t directly overlap with regular coursework. Students will select their topic areas at the end of year 12, after which they will complete their initial research during the summer break before entering year 13. The written/production stage of the project is usually done in the early part of year 13 before students become busy with preparation for final A-Level exams.
The EPQ is offered by all the major exam boards and is listed by AQA, for example, as a “Level 3” qualification attracting higher UCAS Tariff Points than a new AS-Level subject. We will be creating a guide for students and parents so they can learn all the vital information about the EPQ that they need before they embark on it.
The topic of your EPQ is a crucial decision not to be taken lightly. Some may imagine that doing something that extends from students regular coursework in some way would be the most comfortable option. Still, the truth is that this project is not about finding easy paths to the conclusion.
You should choose a topic based on the following three questions:
The supervisor will act as a kind of mentor to you throughout the process. They will fill in parts of your production log and continuously offer support and advice. When choosing a mentor, you should think about whether or not that teacher has the time to meet with you regularly. If you know that the teacher is often at outside events or in important meetings, then they’re not an ideal candidate.
Don’t presume either that the teacher needs to have a background in the subject area you choose to research. It might be beneficial to have a teacher with no knowledge because they can join you on your learning journey. It’ll feel more like collaboration then, rather than you testing your mentor to see if you have the “right answers.”
There’s a reason the EPQ is already being taken on by tens of thousands of students across the country, and that is the many benefits that come with it. First of all, it shows your child has a definite career direction and passion, which universities find very attractive in candidates.
On top of that, the demands of quality and thoroughness prepare students well for university-level work, which means students come into the universities having had active and practical experience in project writing.
The EPQ will also go a long way to proving your child’s aptitude in a particular field. If they’re interested in law, for instance, an EPQ related to an independently chosen legal topic will demonstrate much greater passion and ability than getting a high mark on the Law A-Level test.
Whether or not the EPQ is right for you will depend on several things:
These questions, factors and other facets are all ones I will explore in greater detail in this exciting new article series. I hope you find the new series informative and useful as you prepare yourself to embark on the exciting EPQ journey.