The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is an alternative but equivalent qualification to an AS level. Rather than being a taught course, assessed by a written exam at the end of the year, the EPQ is student-driven, giving students the freedom and responsibility to select a topic they are interested in, conduct a particular piece of research and make a presentation of their findings to an audience. When completing a project qualification, students follow a clearly structured process: they plan, research their topic and create a product.
The product of their project can be in one of three formats:
• a research-based written report
• a production* (e.g., a charity event, a fashion show, a sports event), supported by a written report
• an artefact* (e.g., a piece of art, a computer game, a realised design), supported by a written report.
This work is all recorded in a Production Log. Finally, students deliver a presentation. During the process, they develop as independent, reflective learners and acquire knowledge and transferable skills that are invaluable for further study and the workplace. Students are assessed on the product of their project and on the process itself.
The Benefits of the EPQ
Students gain the experience of in-depth study, more so than is possible at A-level. The written project is like a small dissertation. It gives students confidence in working independently to explore their specialised topic. Universities may take the EPQ into account when formulating offers, especially if you do not have a fourth AS subject. The skills you learn will benefit your university studies, and help you make the right decisions in higher education and future employment. It will make you stand out from other students, both in your personal statement and at interview. This is particularly important when applying for very competitive university courses such as medicine and law, or if you are making an application to a top university such as Oxford and Cambridge.
Among the Project titles students have investigated are:
- Do violent computer games contribute to anti-social behaviour?
• How do supermarkets gain competitive advantage? Case study between Asda and Tesco.
• Can we justify the expense of human space exploration?
• Is there a perceptible difference between organic and non-organic food?
• What are the long term-health effects of binge drinking?
• How can we make classical texts popular with young audiences?
How is the EPQ different from AS levels?
It requires independent research and learning. The student chooses their path of study not the teacher. You have to be self-motivated and have strong organisational skills because you must plan, deliver and present your project work. You will be “mentored” by a Project Supervisor, who will not necessarily be someone who teaches you. You will learn how to carry out research effectively, by being taught necessary skills e.g. ICT and research skills. This will enable you to study something in more depth, which will improve your personal learning and thinking skills.
How is the EPQ assessed?
Your EPQ is assessed in respect of:
• the completed project log, which demonstrates in detail the journey you have taken with your project. It’s your responsibility to make sure that every element is completed.
• If you are presenting an artefact or event, then the evidence of your project will be assessed; this might be a slide show presentation, an exhibited artefact or photographic evidence.
• A written report between 1000 to 5000 words depending on what type of project you do.
• A presentation, which may be oral or written. You will be expected to answer questions from the audience about this. You must provide evidence that your presentation has taken place.
At Brampton we have seen some fantastic examples of the EPQ in recent years. Jack O’Connell’s memorable demonstration of the fire-power of the English archers at the Battle of Crecy was part of his investigation into the myths and realities of this famous episode in late medieval history. And Max Bull’s examination of the role of hedge funds in the 2008 financial crash was also very impressive and informative for all who saw it. Both these projects received top grades. This year’s projects include one on the scientific and technical challenges posed to manufacturers of snake venom! As long as you are seriously interested in a topic and really want to research it further, you can turn it into an EPQ. Why not give it a go?
AQA Extended Project Companion by Nelson Thornes ISBN 978-1-4085-0408-6