Everyone has questions about the Extended Project Qualification. It is not like any of the other subjects, courses, or qualifications that you will have studied at GCSE, A Level, or at any other point in your secondary education. It’s structured completely differently – and, given the difference, it is natural that you want some reassurance.
So, here, we’re going to be giving you a brief overview of everything that the Extended Project involves. There’s a lot to get your head around – from the timetable and structure of the course to the dreaded presentation, from the topic itself to the benefits it is going to bring. As such, there’s a lot to cover too – so, in each section below, you’ll find links through to dedicated articles on each of the topics discussed.
Have fun reading it all – and we hope you find it answers some questions.
Just remember that the EPQ is designed for you to study (finally!) something that is of a personal interest to you – and the aim is that you enjoy it. So, choose a topic that will inspire you, that will encourage you to make it the best work possible, and that will excite you to share it with an audience in your presentation.
Use it to study something that you love and care about. Otherwise, its most important feature is overlooked.
Anyway, let’s have a look at everything else you need to know about the EPQ.
What is the EPQ?
So, what actually is the EPQ? The Extended Project is a qualification that you take during sixth form, across the both of years twelve and thirteen. And, as you’ll know, it is a qualification that encourages independent learning, independent research skills, and – most importantly – dedicated work in an area of interest specific to you.
For your project, you can choose between two options: either a 5000-word essay; or an artefact that you have made alongside a written report. The topic of each is determined entirely by you in conversations with your supervisor.
And here’s the thing. Whilst you will be conducting all that research yourself, the emphasis of the assessed elements of the project will be less on the actual material you produce and more on the process that you will have followed. You will be assessed on a range of skills, from your planning of and sticking to timetables to your research management skills, from your presentation skills to your ability to evaluate your own work.
If you write the most earth-shatteringly original essay, this is important – but it is not all. Staying up on the night of the deadline and writing until you fall asleep won’t get you through this qualification.
You can find more about this in our Guide to the Extended Project Qualification.
Choosing Between an Essay and an Artefact
However, one of the decisions that you are going to have to make about your EPQ is whether you want to do a research-based essay or make an artefact. This difference is fairly fundamental – and will affect what you do, obviously, from the very beginning.
The important thing about the essay is that it is driven by and organised around research. Whether you want to do it in English literature or media studies, it needs to be academically presented, referenced, and written – and you will need to come up with some sort of research plan from which you work.
The artefact, on the other hand, can be anything that you fancy: a poem, a computer game, a song or composition, an app. This will be accompanied by a report in which you are explaining what it is you have done. Again, though, it is not so much about the artefact itself as the process by which you arrived at it.
How long does an EPQ take?
The EPQ takes place usually between the last two years of secondary school, or between the years of sixth-form college. You will usually draw up your ideas for your project in the last term of year 12 and do the research in the summer. You’ll then finish the project around Christmas of year 13.
Overall, the EPQ should take no more than the expected 120 hours.
The Benefits of Doing the EPQ
Your headteacher or tutors will no doubt have bored you and your tutor group to death with how important an EPQ is for university, for your personal statement, for UCAS points, etc etc. And it’s true: the EPQ really does set you up for whatever it is you will want to do next.
You can find more about all this in our article on the Benefits of the EPQ. However, let’s take a brief look here.
Will the EPQ Help Me to Get into Top Universities?
Yes, the EPQ will help you when applying to university or further education – as the key skills that it demands of you are precisely those that higher education institutions like (that’s pretty much why the EPQ was invented).
Top university courses – at Oxbridge or at Russell Group universities – want to see that you have the ability and passion for independent study into a subject that you like. They also want to see that you actually do like subjects – as this is going to be fairly crucial when you are at university.
And to Find a Job?
The world of work will also be fairly enthusiastic about your Extended Project too. Presentation skills, time management, showing an initiative when it comes to personal development, all of these things matter to employers. So yes – of course they are going to like students with an EPQ.
How will the EPQ Benefit Me?
Perhaps most important of all – and probably the thing your head of sixth form is least likely to tell you – are the ways that the EPQ will benefit you as an individual. Not everything in school is about employment or the entry requirements for university after all.
When was the last time you were able to study anything you wanted at school, by the way? When was the last time you could achieve academic success in a field that you actually cared about? Completing an EPQ is a real achievement that you should be proud of.
Examples of EPQ Projects You Could Take
Sometimes people struggle with the freedom to study whatever they fancy. This is normal – particularly when “whatever you fancy” does actually mean “literally anything”.
However, it is a shame nonetheless – because this choice should really be liberating. Presumably there are some things that interest you, no? This is the perfect opportunity to explore them!
Choosing a Title
EPQ projects should not really be large and general things. Nor should they be on subjects that you have studied in your GCSEs or A Level courses.
Rather, they should show details of a specific topic – and the title should invite that to happen. So, all thesis titles for the EPQ should really be specific questions that demand you take an argumentative position.
The more specific, by the way, the better. Find out more about different EPQ topics to take in our article!
Some Titles that You Could Consider
When you are considering what to do your EPQ on, think broadly. Is there something in religious studies that has piqued your interest? Or in maths? Are you interested in the education system more broadly or in social care? Or is there something in the expressive arts that you could turn your attention to?
All of these have something in them that could be interesting to you.
The EPQ Presentation
Finally, at the end of your project, you could to the EPQ presentation – perhaps the part of the qualification that is most scary for students (after choosing their title). Don’t let it scare you – because you will be literally among friends, and you will know your topic better than anyone else.
What Do You Need to Do for the EPQ Presentation?
A common misconception about the EPQ presentation is that you are presenting your research findings or subject. Rather, you are actually presenting your process of research itself: how you did it, how it went, how you even chose the topic.
These are the things you need to think about for your EPQ presentation.
How is the EPQ Presentation Assessed?
The reason for this is that this is how your presentation is assessed. Not on the quality of your project itself, but on your capacity to evaluate that project – and to communicate it well, in non-specialist language, to people who don’t necessarily know much about it.
Remember, it is about how you tell it, rather than what you did. Find out more in our article on the EPQ presentation.