University entrance is getting ever more competitive. Students increasingly compete to be accepted to the top universities and onto courses that are oversubscribed. Having 28 extra UCAS points is a huge boost to an application, raising the applicant above the competition.
So how do your students gain this big advantage?
The answer is the extended project qualification known as the EPQ.
The EPQ has other advantages to applicants beyond the extra UCAS points which makes the applicant very attractive to universities. The EPQ:
- develops and demonstrates research skills
- proves that the student can work independently
- demonstrates they can write academically in a report of up to 5000 words
- evidences critical thinking skills
- shows that they can deliver a presentation and take questions afterwards
Of course, these are the very same skills that students need to demonstrate at university. Therefore, it makes sense that students who have completed an EPQ are attractive to universities. They know that the candidate is likely to be a good bet. Furthermore, from the students’ perspective they are in a much stronger place when they go to university having already gained these essential skills on their EPQ.
Many universities, including some Russell Group Universities, the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton, recognise the importance of the EPQ in their application guide. Even Oxford and Cambridge recognise it as an important qualification. For example:
- The University of Cambridge states ‘We welcome the EPQ and would encourage applicants to take one as it will help to develop independent study and research skills valuable for higher education.’
- University of Cambridge
- The University of Manchester states ‘The skills that students develop through the Extended Project are directly relevant to and useful for university-level study. Students can refer to the Extended Project in their UCAS personal statements and at interview to demonstrate some of the qualities that universities are looking for.’
- University of Manchester
For further Russell Group examples see:
What exactly is the EPQ?
The EPQ qualification gives students the opportunity to investigate a topic that is interesting to them personally, in practically any field. They formulate a suitable research question with the aid of an academic supervisor, then research their question critically using a variety of resources. They explore the question thoroughly, construct a reasoned argument, and reach a judgement in a dissertation of up to 5000 words. As part of their final assessment the students will also give a presentation and take questions on their work.
The assessment for the EPQ is based on the students’ final dissertation, the final presentation and the learning record that they maintain throughout the project. There is no written exam for the EPQ, which makes it perfect to study alongside A levels.
That is not to say that it is an easy option. This is a qualification worth up to 28 UCAS points, so students are expected complete 30 guided hours with an EPQ Assessor and possibly a subject-specialist Tutor as well as an estimated 120 hours independent study. An EPQ that is worth the top marks generally takes around 6 months work
What sort of projects are suitable for the EPQ?
The answer is a huge range of options. It really depends what the student is interested in and what will make a decent research question. At The Tutor Team we have worked on a wide range of projects with EPQ students. These have been in the fields of history, sociology, maths, English, computing, music, physics, politics, and business to name just a few. Basically, as long as the question is deemed to be answerable in the period of time available and with the resources available, the students can choose a subject and a question that is of personal interest to them.
What about those UCAS points?
The UCAS points are awarded on a sliding scale, with 28 points for the top grades and reducing points on lower grades. Experience has shown us that with hard work, diligence, and following the expert guidance given it is very highly possible for students to achieve the very top mark of a star and obtain the entire 28 UCAS points.
Anything else to be aware of?
It is worth being aware that the EPQ is a serious qualification. Students need to work independently as well as attending all the guided sessions in order to be successful. One thing we have discovered at The Tutor Team is that some businesses, schools and independent students who enquire about the qualification do not realise it is a significant commitment for students and therefore cannot be achieved at the highest standard in just a few weeks. Each cohort takes around 6 months to complete their projects.
How do students register for an EPQ?
Our EPQ currently has 2 cohorts running per year, starting in March and October. When students come to us they are registered with our exam centre and with the exam board. As part of our registration package we include the first session with an approved EPQ Assessor. This allows students to test if their suggested projects are viable in order to start crafting a suitable research question. From that point, they are allocated a supervisor and begin to work on their EPQ research. There is a final date when the work needs to be complete and assessment takes place. This date is laid down by the exam board. Whilst it is, in some cases, possible to get an extension, part of the skill learned is working to a deadline as they will have to do at university.
About the author
Dr Janet Rose is Head of Centre at The Tutor Team. We are a registered exam centre for the EPQ and we manage the whole process in house including the assessment.
Contact us to find out more about how your students can benefit from the EPQ.