Updated: May 31
Alongside A levels and BTECs, many schools and colleges offer the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which is a dissertation or project created on the basis of independent research. It is a Level 3 qualification usually taken in Year 12 or 13 and can help to encourage independent learning and prepare students for university or further study.
A different approach to learning
There’s minimum supervision for EPQs and your child will be expected to complete their project independently. This means that research, structure and composition of the project is down to your child, as is meeting deadlines. This approach is much closer to what will be expected at university (or even in the workplace) and can be a good way to help your child develop the skills they will need when they leave school or college. However, this style of working doesn't suit everyone, so check whether your child can cope with the added pressures an EPQ may bring, particularly if they have an already demanding school schedule.
What can my child choose to do as their EPQ?
Students can choose the subject matter for their EPQ and there are very few restrictions on what angle they might choose to take. This provides an excellent opportunity to focus the EPQ on their interests, hobbies or future degree or career plans.
The EPQ can also take different forms and options include writing a 5000-word essay, building an artefact or conducting a performance with a shorter report of around 1000 words.
Some examples of EPQ titles include:
Is it right that football players are paid 1000 times more than a nurse?
Was the 2016 EU referendum legally binding?
Is it ethical to have a child to save another child’s life?
Can large-scale charity fundraising, such as Live Aid and Comic Relief, do more harm than good?
Should we use parkland in London to build housing for the homeless?
A comparative analysis of the German and British responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
What are the benefits of doing an EPQ?
It can give your child academic confidence;
It can help them prepare for further education;
It can help your child demonstrate passion for a topic or subject – particularly helpful if they are applying for an apprenticeship or university course in the same subject area as their EPQ;
It can be a useful talking point during an interview;
It can help your child develop key skills, which are useful in the workplace; and
It can be incredibly rewarding!
How will my child be assessed?
The EPQ is an internally assessed qualification. Students will need to produce a production log documenting their journey; a written report, artefact or performance; supplementary evidence; and a presentation with time at the end to respond to questions.
Students will be assessed against four objectives and will include their ability to plan and organise, obtain and select information from a range of sources, make decisions and evaluate outcomes.
An EPQ is the equivalent to a Level 3 qualification, such as an AS-level, so it can be a useful way for your child to increase their UCAS points. Furthermore, some universities may make two offers: one without the EPQ and one including the EPQ. For example, the standard offer might be BBB but the second offer (with the EPQ) could be BBC plus a pass grade in the EPQ. This might allow your child the flex they need to meet the entry requirements of competitive universities.
What skills will your child develop
In developing their own way of working, your child is likely to improve at:
Managing their time and meeting strict deadlines;
Processing lots of information from a variety of sources;
Motivating themselves when things become challenging;
Presenting to an audience and dealing with nerves;
Reflecting and looking for ways to improve and develop;
Working independently with minimum supervision;
Responding to constructive feedback;
Accepting when things don't go to plan; and
These can be excellent qualities to mention in personal statements or for discussion in interviews for jobs or apprenticeships.
There’s some great advice online about the Extended Project Qualification and if you want to find out more here are some of our favourites:
Is your child unsure about what to study after their GCSEs?
To learn more about the different qualifications they can choose to study at 16, have a look at The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options (full edition).
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