Head of Sixth Form Autumn 7
‘Exceptional work’; ‘incredibly interesting and diverse topics’; and ‘I've learned such a lot this afternoon!’ were comments heard following Sophie, Becky and Kayla’s EPQ presentations. Their audience was comprised of Lead Supervisor, Mrs Lamagna-Richardson and a number of Sixth Form teachers and students who were spellbound by the fascinating topics which included: ‘Have the goals of 1960’s Feminism been met?', ‘Which social factors had the most detrimental effect on the life of Amy Winehouse?’ and, ‘To what extent does true altruism exist?’ Successful students are intellectually curious; self-driven; manage their time well; are creative and original; communicate effectively; understand other perspectives; read, write and analyse skilfully; and perform under pressure. Sophie, Becky and Kayla are all these things, and more, and must be commended and applauded for their remarkable projects.
Why have they invested so much time and energy in their EPQ? Well, taking the Extended Project Qualification adds significant interest to their other studies and considerable value to their university application. An EPQ is an independent research project which involves writing an essay of 5000 words or creating a product, which might be anything from an art object to an iPhone app. As the project evolves, the student must complete a production log to record specific stages of the project which also contributes to their project result. The third component of the project is an oral presentation. Generally, the whole process from start to finish takes about 120 hours. Most students use the summer vacation at the end of Year 12 to do the preliminary research and then complete the project in the early part of Year 13. It is a formal 'Level 3' qualification that attracts slightly higher UCAS Tariff points than the new AS Level.
There is teaching and guidance from the outset to help with planning and researching, presentation skills and to keep students on track as they work through their chosen project. There is no formal restriction on what the project can be on: that is negotiated between the student and their project adviser, who will help them choose a topic they will enjoy and cope with.
Why complete an EPQ? It teaches some key high-level skills that individual A Level courses don't have time to include, and many students say it adds considerable interest to their studies.
There are also several major benefits to completing an EPQ when it comes to applying to university. At its simplest, an EPQ helps with UCAS points - EPQ is valued at 50% of a full A level in the UCAS tariff. But perhaps the greatest advantage of an EPQ is in helping convince top universities to make a student an offer. It provides very clear evidence that they have interests and ability which go beyond the A Level curriculum. It demonstrates clearly that they are capable of undertaking the kind of independent reading, research, and essay writing that is the mainstay of most undergraduate degrees. This is hugely important in the UCAS application process where universities often have little to distinguish between students with similar predicted grades.
Additionally, an EPQ provides highly relevant material for their UCAS Personal Statement and for them to talk about in university interviews. At least half a dozen Year 12 students were inspired by Sophie, Becky and Kayla to start their own EPQ after half term and I am confident they too will be a great success!
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