The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a unique course which puts you in control of what you are learning. It is an opportunity for you to study something outside of your a-level curriculum. This means you get to select the topic, you get to decide what to research and you get to guide your own learning. Studying the EPQ means you will carry out a research project to answer a question that you have come up with yourself. Effectively you will be writing your first dissertation.
Below are a few of the EPQ questions composed by students at John Fisher:
• What will be the impact of Brexit on the UK economy?
• Is genetic modification morally acceptable?
• Will robots ever be able to replace doctors?
• Is the right to bear arms justifiable?
• What makes a murderer?
• How has the London Skyline changed?
The course is designed primarily to give students a flying start on the UCAS track by teaching them the skills needed to perform well at university. For that reason, students often pick a question that relates to their chosen degree or current A-Levels. However it is also seen as hugely beneficial for employers who are keen to see evidence of initiative, self-management skills and the ability to be an independent worker.
As well as becoming an expert in your chosen topic you will learn the skills needed to become an effective researcher. For example one student wrote the following about the course…
“My research skills have definitely developed as I am now able to scan texts at a more efficient rate and pick out vital pieces of information, this will help me at university. I have also learned about how to reference and its importance in a research project. My precision of judgment is now also improved because I am much more aware of a sources’ reliability and that what is written on the internet may not always be true. My management of projects has massively improved due to the development of organisational skills. Learning how to use the gantt chart and adding time frames to my project proposal form helped me to stick to deadlines and work in a more efficient way as well as plan my time in the future. The project has also taught me to challenge my preconceptions. At the beginning I thought I knew everything there was to know about the topic. However stumbling across new research that changed what I thought was a surprise and a great learning opportunity. This also taught me the importance of being flexible and adapting my plan as I went along.”
EPQ is only available at KS5 when students begin their A-Levels. At this point they will be studying the Edexcel specification. The benefits of this board are that it offers clear marking criteria so that students are aware of what they need to do to achieve their potential in terms of their EPQ project.
Furthermore students have the option to select from four different types of projects:
Dissertation: Students plan, research, analyse information and then evaluate and review the project (ideal for those a range of subjects including politics, business and economics, social sciences, languages, technologies and many more).
Investigation/Field Study: Students plan, carry out and evaluate primary research to find out if the evidence supports their initial question or hypothesis (ideal for those studying a range of sciences).
Performance: Students plan, research, develop and evaluate the performance (ideal for those studying music or drama etc)
Artefact: Students plan, research, develop and evaluate the production of an artefact, for example, a painting or 3D model (ideal for those studying art & design, technologies, architecture etc)
The EPQ project is a very independently led course that expects a lot of initiative from learners. However you will be given a timetabled session in which a teacher will act as your EPQ supervisor. The first term of your project will involve active lessons that aim to teach you the skills needed to select an appropriate question, plan your project and embark on your research. After this you will be expected to attend regular research sessions in which you will be given the opportunity to conduct your research both in class with the support of your teacher. However you will also be expected to conduct your research and seek the support of subject specialists (starting with your other teachers!) during your own time. At the end of the project you will also need to present your project to your EPQ tutor.