Throughout this eight-part series on the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), I’ve been advising students on things like how to choose a topic, how to approach their essay/product and production log, and the essential roles of their supervisor and centre coordinator. In this, the seventh part of our series is a special section aimed at parents of A-Level students who are wondering about the benefits of the EPQ.
I understand you are worried about your son or daughter going through A-Levels. It’s a hectic time, with high-pressure exams to finish at the end of the second year, you may be thinking that adding the burden of the EPQ is just too much. Below we will explain some of the fantastic benefits the EPQ gives to your child, benefits that make the hard work worth it.
The EPQ process often begins in the summer between years 12 and 13. In the winter term of year 13, your child will be sending off their UCAS applications to their desired colleges. A completed EPQ can go a long way to helping secure a place on their desired course at their dream university.
First of all, admissions tutors aren’t just looking for students who can get the right grades, but also for those who can go the extra mile and prove their genuine passion for a subject, or prove their ability to withstand any level of academic rigour.
Second, if your son or daughter is applying to a school where admissions are highly competitive, then it’s likely other candidates for admission will have similar or equal predicted A-Level grades. All things being equal, the EPQ is an ideal way for your child to stand out in the admissions process as truly exceptional.
Finally, some universities may even be willing to lower their final grade requirements for students who perform exceptionally well in the EPQ. If the project is stunning enough to prove a student’s particular aptitude or proclivity in a subject area, a top university may be willing to lower the grade threshold to secure this student after A-Levels are over.
Learning at university is quite different from secondary school. Students are expected to be able to study far more independently, and the EPQ is excellent preparation for that. Since the EPQ does not fall into the regular A-Level timetable, students have to use their own time and initiative to complete it. This self-starting approach is the first useful skill that students can directly transfer to their university life.
Besides this, the EPQ requires students to do independent research, write a lengthy dissertation and deliver a high-quality oral presentation. The competence and confidence needed to achieve all this is another area which translates well into university life. It’s another thing that can help give you an edge when it comes to admissions, too.
In the process of completing their EPQ, many students find or confirm their genuine passion for a particular subject. Having control over the topic and subject matter of the EPQ allows students to explore issues to a depth not before possible in the course of their regular schoolwork. A student who is keen on biology, for instance, may discover a particular passion for microbiology through an EPQ related to a microbiology topic. That provides them with a more robust and tangible career option to explore than their regular biology class would.
Students know how vital their A-Levels are, and many of them work very hard to complete the exams successfully and get top grades. During the two-year A-level marathon, the work can become tiring, and even grating and demoralising on candidates. The EPQ offers hardworking students a break from their regular study routine while still allowing them to complete something with value to their university application and long-term goals.
It may seem odd to some when we describe the EPQ as “a break,” when we have reminded students in previous parts of this series how challenging the project is, and how much hard work is required. While the EPQ is not a break in the sense of resting, it is a break from the humdrum of regular A-Level classes and exam preparation, which can become repetitive.
A unique student-directed project in which candidates are free to choose a topic they genuinely care about, as well as the chance to deliver results without having to take a single exam — for a diligent student, this is the kind of break worth taking.
For many years, there has been growing sentiment that school has become too focused on exams and grades. Countless students over the years have remarked on how, after leaving school, they have quickly forgotten the vast majority of what they learned during those two years in the sixth form. If that’s the case, then what was it all for? To get those pieces of paper with the grades on? It’s hardly inspiring.
EPQ’s increasing popularity is a testament to the fact that students and parents want more out of their school life. Giving the students control over their topic, requiring independent research, and basing results more on the process rather than merely the final product are all factors that make this a learning experience that better emulates life. That’s why the experience sticks with students more closely. It’s relevant!
The result is students more connected to their learning, and students who can more positively reflect on the experience and take lessons into their future careers. That’s a benefit we believe all parents can appreciate.
Don’t miss the eighth and final part of our series, which will help undecided students make a final decision on whether or not to pursue the EPQ after all.