The Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ)

‘The Director of Admissions at Cambridge has praised the EPQ for developing insight, clarity of thought, and analytical ability’

In addition to the core A Level subjects, students are encouraged to undertake an Extended Project, especially when students drop down to three subjects. The Extended Project Qualification offers an opportunity to use your study periods to explore in depth an area of academic interest to you, leading to an AS Level qualification graded up to A*.

Students can start researching ideas for an EPQ at any point, but will receive an introduction in January of their Lower Sixth year. From this point they are encouraged to work independently, guided by online resources and lunchtime or after school workshops. In the Upper Sixth year curriculum time of two periods per week, supported by an EPQ Supervisor, is made available and the final deadline is the February half term of the Upper Sixth year.

Any student can apply to study for the Extended Project, and the school strongly recommends it for those applying to competitive universities who are not continuing with four subjects in the Upper Sixth. The EPQ usually takes the form of dissertation but it is also possible to base it around a performance, work of art, experiment or field study. There are very few restrictions on the subject matter, and the choice is down to the individual student in consultation with their appointed supervisor or the EPQ coordinator.

Most often students decide to take further an area of one or more of their existing academic subjects. Alternatively, the EPQ is an excellent way of proving interest in an area that a student wishes to study at university but that is not being taken at A Level, for example Law, Medicine or Architecture.

Why should you take the Extended Project Qualification?

The EPQ will allow you to research an area of interest in some depth, give you a foretaste of undergraduate study and also demonstrate to universities that you have many of the skills and aptitudes they require. For example, it shows admissions tutors that:

  • You are interested in your subject and academic work in general
  • You are willing and able to take on additional study
  • You have developed important undergraduate study skills: research skills, independent study, planning, critical thinking, reflection / self-evaluation
  • The Director of Admissions at Cambridge has praised the EPQ for developing insight, clarity of thought, and analytical ability, and he, along with many senior admissions tutors, encourages candidates to undertake one. Some universities will also make modified Higher Education offers to students, for example accepting a lower than usual grade in an A Level subject, when accompanied by a strong EPQ result.

What is involved?

During the Lower Sixth year, students will have specific Foundation Studies lessons in reading, research and academic referencing. From January, students will have access to online resources and be guided through independent tasks to help choose a suitable project. In the Autumn Term of the Upper Sixth, students are assigned a supervisor and attend EPQ sessions in place of Foundation Studies. Students are expected to work independently towards specific deadlines set by their supervisor. On completion of the project all students also deliver a short presentation, usually to a small group of peers. The work is marked internally and moderated externally by Edexcel, the awarding body. 100% of students have achieved A*-C in the time the project has been running. Since the project requires high levels of personal interest and motivation to undertake it, the majority of students who complete the project achieve grades of A*-A.