Dominique Collins, Head of Library and EPQ at Hurstpierpoint College, explains why Sixth Formers should undertake an Extended Project Qualification to benefit their future academic and professional lives
What is an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)?
The EPQ is a research project that is roughly equivalent to half an A-level in UCAS points. There is a taught element of around 30 hours, and 90 hours of independent work. Students can choose any topic as long as it has sufficient research to support the project. They can write a 5,000 word essay or create an artefact and write a 1,000 to 5,000-word report. An artefact can be almost anything; for example a play, cookbook, app or short film. Students must document their process through a production log as they go, and the process culminates in a presentation at the end as part of the assessment.
Why should students consider doing an EPQ?
Research shows that students who undertake an EPQ are more likely to enter higher education than those who do not. They are also better prepared for higher education and more likely to achieve a good degree. A study found that EPQ boosts students’ attitudes towards learning and increases their self-perception, making them better able to cope whilst at university. Students themselves also value the option of a ‘dual offer’ from some universities (eg: AAA or AAB plus an A in EPQ) as reducing the entrance requirements for certain universities removes some stress at exam time.
Whilst undertaking an EPQ, students learn a variety of skills which are beneficial for their future academic and professional lives. These include research skills, skimming and scanning documents, note-taking, referencing, planning, time management, academic writing, presentation skills, editing and proofreading. These skills are crucial for success in higher education and in many careers.
In addition, students who take an EPQ improve a variety of personal qualities. They learn resilience, commitment, independent thinking, critical thinking, reflection, attention to detail, decision making, and problem solving. These reflect the independence required by the qualification and are also attributes that a traditional A-level may not focus on, further demonstrating the usefulness of the EPQ. In an increasingly automated world, qualities like problem-solving and critical thinking will enhance employability. These are the types of qualities valued by employers and will be useful throughout life.
We have already covered the opportunity to develop skills that will help students to succeed in higher education and in their careers, but there are also many benefits on a personal level. An EPQ offers students the chance to explore a topic which they are interested in and to gain a deeper understanding. This can be especially valuable for students who may be unsure of what they want to study at university or who want to explore a topic in more depth than is possible in their regular courses. Due to the depth of topic knowledge required for an EPQ, students can learn whether the course they have chosen is the right one for them. Projects that are based on a personal interest or hobby can also be very successful as this generally helps maintain student motivation.
The EPQ also allows students to showcase their passion and knowledge to universities and potential employers. By choosing a topic related to their proposed degree - or one in a similar field to a potential employer - students signal their interest in the topic, allowing them to talk at length about what they have learned. It also demonstrates an ability to manage their time effectively and produce high-quality work, something any employer looks for in a future employee.
To conclude, the Extended Project Qualification is a valuable opportunity for Sixth Formers to develop a range of skills which will help them succeed both in higher education and their future careers. It allows them to explore a topic that they are passionate about and to demonstrate this to universities and employers through the high-quality work they produce. With its academic and personal benefits, the EPQ is something that every student should look to undertake.