Should I do an EPQ?

EPQ stands for Extended Project Qualification. It’s a popular extra option that many students at colleges opt to take part in and it’s equivalent to half an A Level (which is different to an AS Level F.Y.I). It consists of either a report style dissertation (roughly 5000 words long) or a practical project (like making a sculpture or song) that has to be accompanied with a shorter report. You have to do some serious research and evaluating along with a final presentation, however it can be a great addition to your CV.

Now that we’ve established what an EPQ actually is, read on to see if it’s for you and discover some useful tips…

  • First things first, you need to pick a topic that genuinely interests you but will also have academic value. Some (not all) universities will lower their grade requirements for you if you have an EPQ with a good grade that’s relevant to your course. On the other hand, you will spend A LOT of time researching this topic, so make sure it’s something you will enjoy finding out more about. You also need to ensure there will be lots of resources based on your topic out there that you can use- that means articles, blog posts, books, journals etc. Remember, your EPQ title needs to be phrased as a question and must be broad enough so that you can write a 5000 word report on the subject but not so broad that you cannot cover everything within a suitable word count – but don’t worry too much; you will have plenty of time to construct the perfect title during your research phase.

In short, to do an EPQ you should have a topic in mind that has academic value, but more importantly, that you’re passionate about.

 

  • Don’t put off writing your report. I did my EPQ in first year at college meaning I had a slightly longer deadline than second years, however, I tried to stay up with the pace of the second years to get my project finished so I didn’t have to think about it during exam season. Other people in my group spent months sitting on computers pretending to do research and putting off writing their report which meant they had to rush to get everything finished in the last month (during exam season!)

Essentially, you need to be a motivated student if you want to do an EPQ – you need to stick to deadlines that you set for yourself as well as deadlines set by your tutors.

 

  • Be thorough in your evaluation and don’t be afraid to criticise your work. Nobody is perfect so there will always be something to pick on and talk about how you could’ve done it better. Evaluation in Extended Project is key, so spend a lot of time making your log as detailed as it can be (the log is a document that effectively documents your ‘EPQ journey’ from start to finish and all of the changes you made).

So yes, you do need to be somewhat skilled at evaluating your work to complete an EPQ. Don’t stress too much though, this is a skill that you will pick up/develop during the course of your project.

 

  • Make sure you have an EPQ journal (where you note any changes you make) and an action plan (that details how you tackle any problems you come across) to show the examiner how prepared and evaluative you are – this will ensure you tick the examiner’s boxes. Below are two small extracts from my own Action Plan and Journal to give you a rough idea of what I’m talking about.

 

action plan examplejournal example

 

  • Complete your bibliography and evaluation of resources as you go along! A bibliography is a document that lists all of your sources so it’s a pretty lengthy and important thing. Writing it as you go along will save you so much time at the end! Otherwise, you’ll be forced to go through and find all resources you used, find the URL, date of publishing, the author etc. Then on top of that, you’ll need to evaluate each resource based on how reliable it is (i.e. don’t use Wikipedia!) If you take one thing away from this post, let it be completing the bibliography as you go. Also, don’t forget to footnote all of your sources too!

This point brings me back to research. You will have to put in lots of effort to find relevant and useful information for your project so bare that in mind when deciding whether EPQ is for you.

 

  • The presentation can be one of the most fun bits of the EPQ – you get to reflect on everything you’ve done and show people what you’ve been researching for the last school year. It’s important here that you don’t just focus on what you found out about your topic, but also any problems you came across and how you tackled them and any skills you developed (the examiners will love this!) When you get to the questions your teacher has to ask you, you’ll most likely breeze through them since at this point you will know your topic so well. If you aren’t sure of the answer though, be honest and say you’re not 100% sure and you don’t want to give false information but then you could morph the question into something you can answer to show your expertise!

Public speaking is a skill that’s useful in EPQ, but honestly, only a tiny percentage of the EPQ is based on your presentation so it shouldn’t be the make or break as to whether you do an extended project.

 

  • It’s always a good idea to get a wide range of research; one way of doing this is emailing/contacting an expert in your field so you can question them and include their thoughts or findings in your report to add validity. Alternatively, you could create a questionnaire to collect your own data and test it to help answer your question.

This does require you to be confident and independent and lead your own work without lots of help from teachers or tutors. Indpendence is a huge part of any EPQ.

 

  • One of the best ways to get your EPQ to be as good as possible and to establish whether doing an EPQ will be right for you is to look through past A*/A grade EPQs just so you can see exactly what you are expected to do and get a rough idea of a format you could follow. I’d recommend reading (or at least skimming) as many examples as possible.

This somewhat comes down to time management- if you schedule your deadlines correctly you’ll have time to read loads of past projects. If you don’t, you might only read one or two and be forced to get into writing your report without being fully prepared.

 

 

And there you have it, a brief roundup of what an EPQ entails and my tips for how to be successful in your project. It may sound all very boring and dull from what I’ve described but if you pick a topic/title that is genuinely interesting to you, you will enjoy the project so much more and find yourself glad that you enriched your knowledge in that area. I hope these tips were helpful for you!

 

Are you thinking about doing an EPQ? What topic would you do it on? Do you have any EPQ top tips? Let me know in the comments or tweet me.

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