What is the EPQ?

The EPQ, in contrast to the AS level, offers an A* grade, enhancing the amount of UCAS points available to candidates. Extended Projects are supervised and marked by teachers initially, and then the final submissions are moderated by Pearson Edexcel.

Emanuel has created an impressive introductory course which teaches a range of useful transferable study and research skills. Students can then pursue their own line of enquiry and interest, having agreed their project with their supervisor.

The four forms of the EPQ

 The end result produced by the student will take one of four forms:

  • A dissertation: focused on a research question, with an argumentative discussion.
  • An investigation: focused on a hypothesis, with research to explore context and methodology, data collection and analysis, including discussion of alternative interpretations of data.
  • A performance: focused on a ‘commission’, with consideration of the audience and the desired effect of the work, together with research into genre, influences, processes and techniques, and consideration of the merits of alternative ways of achieving the desired effect.
  • An artefact: focused on a design brief, with research into materials, processes and techniques, leading up to a specification of how the brief is to be fulfilled and consideration of the merits of alternative ways of realising the brief.

The EPQ can support a student’s A level choices: e.g. a project about art history to support an Art A level. Alternatively, it can be a cross-curricular project (e.g. a project about gravity, which would support both Physics and Maths) or it can be in an area which the school does not offer at A level (e.g. a project about film or TV, or involving photography or computing). In other words, a project can be on any subject at all, as long as it can be developed to a sufficiently high standard (which will be established when the student agrees their title with their supervisor). Often students select project titles aligned with their higher education applications (e.g. a project on climate change by a student applying for a degree in Environmental Science).

It is primarily assessed in relation to the quality of processes students adopt in pursuing their project and the evidence of the skills they used and developed, rather than the subject-specific content. Whichever final form a student’s project takes, they will be assessed on the submitted report and a presentation. If submitting as one, the artefact or performance itself will also form part of the assessment.

The advantages of the EPQ

Emanuel is using the EPQ as a way of encouraging students to extend their thinking and reasoning processes, and by teaching them an array of important academic skills regarding research, project planning, evaluation of sources, self-evaluation, presentation skills etc. to help them develop confidence as independent learners, preparing them for the advanced academic work at university.

If students pick their EPQ titles shrewdly it is a way to demonstrate their enthusiasm for their intended degree subject by pursuing their studies far beyond the A level syllabus. It enhances the quality of their UCAS personal statements as it enables them to show evidence of the ‘super-curricular learning’ and extra reading that universities are looking for as they can write about a real piece of independent research that they have accomplished.

Equally, a student can pursue an independent interest in a niche area of research or link disparate curriculum subjects, or pursue a creative passion not accommodated by their A level choices. In this way Emanuel is offering students the opportunity to expand their research into an area of learning about which they feel passionately, but which would not be addressed at all in the conventional A level curriculum. This also demonstrates a student’s flair, creativity and curiosity as an independent learner to future employers and university selection panels.

Click here to read an article written by the headmaster about the merits of the EPQ for the magazine Absolutely Education, September 2019.

EPQs and universities

EPQs are widely regarded as an excellent way to prepare students for undergraduate study, and universities look upon them very favourably. In 2018, 24% of UCAS applicants from Emanuel had reduced offers for their chosen courses as a result of completing an EPQ. Additionally, while an EPQ grade will not count instead of an A level when meeting offers, having an EPQ will make students with otherwise parallel qualifications to those without EPQs look more appealing in their UCAS applications. If a student missed the required grade for a course, having an EPQ with a good grade could weigh in their favour.

Titles of past Emanuel EPQ projects

  • “Should the IRA have been given amnesty as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement?”
  • “Would a decriminalised system of prostitution be beneficial to modern British society?”
  • “Has American democracy in the 21st century been eroded through existing political parties and an inherently unfair electoral system?”
  • “Can we maintain food security while reducing the negative ecological impacts of agriculture?”
  • “How effective are current treatments of dementia?”

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