What is an EPQ?
An Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a standalone A-Level qualification designed to extend students beyond the A-Level specification and prepare them for university and beyond. It is worth half of an A-Level (28 UCAS points for an A*) and is recognised for university applications.
There are four main types of EPQ:
- Write a dissertation - A 5000 word essay on the student’s chosen topic
- Carry out an investigation - Conduct research on a testable hypothesis
- Give a performance - Putting together an artistic production such as a play or a musical
- Create an artefact - Students create a product such as a piece of artwork or a phone app
Alternatives to a 5000 word dissertation must include a 1000 word report detailing the creation process.
Finally, students will have to give a 10-15 minute presentation on their project which will include a Q&A session.
Should I do an EPQ?
An EPQ is a respected qualification that will help students improve their university application as well as providing an opportunity to explore a subject that fascinates them. Universities tend to look favourably on EPQs as it demonstrates that students are capable of completing independent research (which is especially necessary for Oxbridge courses!) as well as giving students a chance to show their passion for their subject. On occasion, universities will offer a reduced entry requirement to students with an impressive performance in the EPQ.
If your chosen university subject is something that you are not directly studying for A-Level (common examples include Law, Medicine, or Psychology) then an EPQ could be a great opportunity to explore this subject further and highlight your skills for potential universities.
It is recommended that students spend 120 hours on their project, so it is important to take this additional workload into consideration before deciding to start an EPQ. The bulk of the research is usually conducted in the Year 12 summer holidays, while the project is completed in the early part of Year 13.
How is an EPQ graded?
An EPQ is graded much like an A-Level: students will receive a final grade from A* to E based on the quality of their research and presentation. Each exam board has its own marking criteria, but the general structure of mark scheme is as follows:
- Manage (20%) Identifying project aims and producing a plan to efficiently manage time in completing the project goals
- Resources (20%) Detailing which resources were used throughout the project, and explaining how data was analysed and applied
- Producing an Outcome (40%) Creating an outcome that is in line with the stated project goals, and using problem solving skills throughout the process to guide research and development
- Presentation (20%) Clearly communicating the results of your project through writing and the final presentation; highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the project with sound evidence and judgement.
For the AQA 2022 EPQ, the grade boundaries out of 50 marks were:
- A* 44 out of 50
- A 39 out of 50
- B 34 out of 50
- C 29 out of 50
- D 24 out of 50
- E 20 out of 50
Which topic should I choose for the EPQ, and what makes a good title?
It is important for students to pick a subject that greatly interests them, as an EPQ is a large time commitment that involves a lot of independent research. An EPQ can be about almost anything, but choosing a title that maximises the potential of the project will be a key step in the process. Students should bear in mind that an EPQ is a Level 3 Qualification, so their work should be comparable to the A-Level standard. In other words, choosing a simplistic topic may limit the marks that the project could earn, while choosing an overly complex topic may make the project much harder to complete while not necessarily guaranteeing any extra credit. It is vital to extend yourself while keeping the scope of your project realistic.
Here are some example EPQ project ideas:
Medicine - Should smokers be treated on the NHS?
Psychology - To what extent are recalled memories accurate?
Biology - A study of aggressive behaviour in different species.
Chemistry - Is it possible to create a plastic that decomposes?
Physics - Is there life on other planets?
Mathematics - Is Mathematics invented or discovered?
Computer Science - Developing a video game.
Engineering - Designing and constructing a remote-control plane.
Architecture - How does the structure of a building affect the inhabitants’ wellbeing?
Economics - How has Brexit affected the UK economy?
Business Studies - To what extent is advertising to children unethical?
Law - Should we replace juries with artificial intelligence?
History - Should museums return historical items to their countries of origin?
English Literature - Can you separate written work from its author?
Art - Exploring the effects of social media on teenagers through sculpture.
Music - Are fines an effective deterrent to illegally downloading music?
A good title will be clear and specific; it is important to have a focus for your project to meet the qualifications requirements. For a dissertation or investigation, this is usually a question (but it doesn’t have to be!) that the project will aim to discuss throughout the project. Having a clear and concise goal will help to keep the project on track. For a performance or artefact, a question may make the project a little confusing, so choosing a title that defines the purpose of your project may be more useful, such as ‘Developing a video game’.
It is key to pick a subject that has potential and direction for a depth of research. ‘What qualifications do I need to become a therapist?’ is a closed question with an answer that can be found in far less than 120 hours, and a project like ‘What is the best sport?’ has a vague direction for research. A title with a lot of angles to consider, such as ‘How can we avoid another financial crash?’ or ‘Writing a play about childhood and nostalgia’, would make a great starting point for an extended project. While a good title is essential for an EPQ, it is natural to change the direction of your project throughout the creation process, so adjusting the title after some more research is a viable option.
How do I structure an EPQ?
The structure of an EPQ should roughly follow the guidelines set by the marking criteria above.
- Plan: You may already have some idea of the topic on which you would like to base your project, so reading around this idea to narrow the scope of your research would be a good start. Once you have chosen a title, you can create a plan for areas of research and start to picture your project as a whole. This would be a good point to allocate time to each stage of your development process.
- Research: It is suggested that about half of the time spent on your project should be centred on research and recording your discoveries. Remember to cite your sources and keep track of how your research directs the goals of your project, as well as your personal analysis of the raw information. You may find that the scope of your project will change as you complete more research, so be sure to document these changes.
- Creation: After completing the exploration of your chosen topic, you can apply your newfound knowledge in writing an essay or producing your outcome. It is essential to seek feedback throughout this process to help guide your work, and keeping a project diary will help you track the course of your work when assembling your evaluation. It is important to show that you are implementing your original plan and aiming to reach your project goal (ie. answering your project’s question).
- Evaluation: With the project completed, the key discoveries from your work should be used to create your presentation and written report (if applicable). This should outline the full scope of your project: the project goal, the research conducted, the creation process, and your outcome. You should be prepared to answer questions during your presentation, and assess how you would improve your work in future.
Keystone has a range of specialist tutors who can assist students approaching the EPQ. The EPQ tutors we work with can ensure students think broadly about the subject they are focusing on, considering all angles and approaches carefully. Tutors will follow guidelines set out by the exam boards and therefore will be unable to directly review, edit or provide written feedback on the EPQ.