The Extended Project Qualification is one of the most exciting parts of your sixth form years. It is a time in which you get to decide what to study and in what sort of timetable. It is the time that you get to learn the skills that top universities actually want to see. And it is your opportunity to investigate a subject on your own – and directed only by you.
However, it is one of the most challenging parts of these two years too. All of these things that make the Extended Project so good also make it a little tough: the independent study, the self-motivation, the abilities to write academically and structure your time effectively on your own.
These aren’t easy tasks, let’s be honest. But they are important ones – and they are precisely the ones on which your EPQ grades will be based.
However, whilst these life skills are perhaps the most formidable element of the EPQ, the thing that students worry about most is a different one. That, understandably, is the presentation that comes at the end of whole procedure.
What, you have to create a presentation on something that you actually like? That’s right. You have to stand in front of a PowerPoint presentation and talk about something that interests you to an audience of your choice? Exactly that. And a teacher will be grading you on it? Unfortunately, yes – this bit does actually suck.
However, here we’re going to be looking at all you need to know about the EPQ presentation. Believe us: you don’t have to worry half as much as you are. Here’s what you need to succeed, with some presentation tips to end.
And, to feel better again, here are the reasons why to do an EPQ.
What is the EPQ Presentation?
So, firstly, what is the EPQ presentation? At the end of an Extended Project Qualification, all candidates need to present their work. This is part of the assessment and – yes – it is absolutely compulsory.
The presentation needs to last for ten minutes, followed by five to ten minutes of questions (which we’ll talk about in more detail below). This, by the way, will go much quicker than you will expect. You’ll be finished before you even realise – and all that stress will be over. You may well even enjoy it.
Find out more about the different elements of the EPQ.
Assessing the EPQ: How much is the EPQ presentation worth?
A common question that students ask about the presentation is how much it is worth of the final grade. It is an important question, because it is good to know what sort of assessment criteria you are up against – and what sort of presentation skills you need to nail.
For the AQA course, the presentation part is classed under the ‘Review’ section of the assessment. This part comprises 20% of the total mark that you can get – and you will receive marks based on the way that you demonstrate a number of different things.
These include your communication skills, your “ability to present evidenced outcomes and conclusions”, and your capacity to evaluate your own work, progress, and strengths and weaknesses.
What You Need to Focus on
Yes, we agree that all of this sounds quite generic. However, it doesn’t need to sound quite so intimidating as it might.
The point is that your presentation, firstly, needs to be clearly structured and clearly expressed. That means no rambling, mumbling, or going off script and getting lost. This is fairly crucial – and it is one of the reasons why you should practise your presentation outside the classroom before you get on and talk in front of people.
The second thing to note is that the presentation is less about your project and more about the way that you did it: the way you chose the topic, the way that you structured your research, and the way that you reached your particular conclusions.
You remember all that planning you did at the beginning of the EPQ – those desired outcomes? Refer back to them: this is how you evaluate your success.
Starting from the Beginning
So, the thing to remember about your EPQ presentation is to start from the beginning. And we mean the beginning of the whole qualification itself: this isn’t as daft and obvious as it might have otherwise sounded.
So, go right back to the beginning and look at what you had planned for the whole project. In this presentation, you are going to have to show how you met these initial ideas. Did you do what you said you were going to do? Did you deviate a little – and, if so, why? Did you stick to the timetables that you had outlined? If not, show details of (academic!) reasons why.
Your presentation is supposed to tell your story of your project from start to finish. Why you did it, how it went, and what you have learned.
This probably all sounds very dry. And, yes, the majority of people who are doing these presentations all wonder the same thing: how are you supposed to make this interesting to anyone?
However, the point is that it doesn’t have to all be about your evaluation. The best presentations will interweave this with compelling information – through infographics, handouts, and presentation design – about your project itself. This, really, is inevitable. But the key is in making it interesting.
How to Make the EPQ Presentation Interesting
It is an important question: how do you make your presentation – with its fairly niche subject matter – actually interesting?
This matters even more when the EPQ presentation has to be delivered in non-academic language to a non-specialist audience. Remember, in a secondary school community – even in sixth form colleges or among people who are applying to Oxbridge or Russell Group universities – it might be the case that no one knows what you are actually talking about in your EPQ.
It is not surprising that other people don’t have specialist knowledge of black holes, nineteenth-century history, or the obscure works of English literature.
However, part of that ‘communication skills’ element of your presentation assessment is to be able to communicate those ideas in a way in which everyone understands. Keep it simple, keep it light, and communicate your enthusiasm for the topic – if you have any left – more than the minute details of your subjects.
Finally, remember that the thing that is interesting about a topic for you might not be interesting for everyone else. The best presentation – the most effective presentation – will be the one that acknowledges this and brings out the bits that might have a wider appeal.
The Q&A Session
At the end of the presentation – or rather, as the second half of the presentation – you will have a Q&A, a question and answer session that you will have to perform in just as well as in the scripted presentation.
This is the bit of the presentation that sounds scariest to most – because you’ll probably think that you can’t prepare for it. But scary is good – for your personal development, for your preparation for applications to higher and further education, and for entering the world of work. Professional presentations do exist, and you may as well get used to them as soon as you can.
The other thing is that, for the Q&A, you can actually prepare. And you should. Remember that you control the audience – unless your head of sixth form or headteacher has told you otherwise (we’d be very surprised). And as long as you have a couple of sympathetic people in the audience, you can ask them to ask you specific questions.
Yes, this is legit and everyone does it. So, tell your best mate to ask you a complicated sounding question about some important part of your project. Ask another to do the same with a different question. You only have five or ten minutes, remember.
Some Presentation Tips for Your EPQ
We know that the EPQ is all about independent learning. However, academic success – in everything from your GCSE courses to your A Level courses – has always been about knowing how to play the game.
So, to end, let’s discuss some tips for your presentation that can make you all nail your Extended Project Qualifications.
Don’t just read the script. Whether in schools of for your first business presentation, the first piece of advice you will be given is this. Look up, make eye contact with your audience, and speak clearly. The first rule of public speaking.
Don’t crowd the presentation slides. Too much text ain’t a good look. Microsoft PowerPoint slides are supposed to be a support to your speech, not the other way around. Keep the slideshow minimal.
Slow down and relax. In most EPQ presentations in most sixth forms, there will just be you, your mates, and the tutors that helped with your project – or any you invited. You can chill; they are all onside. Try a joke or two. The EPQ presentation is not about academic excellence, but rather communication.
Still struggling to choose an EPQ topic? Check out our guide.