Watch then read on ...
What is an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)?
An EPQ is a student-led project where you research an area of your choice. The project can take two forms:
- A 5000-word report on your chosen topic
- Producing an artefact with a 1000 word minimum report on how you developed it
Why did I do an EPQ?
I had considered going into chemical engineering at university, but I still wasn’t fully sure about my choice. I also knew that I needed something to differentiate me from applicants and show my skills and interest in my chosen course. Doing an EPQ gave me the opportunity to confirm my interest in chemical engineering while simultaneously demonstrating it within my personal statement.
What did I do my research project on?
I wanted to complete my report on renewable energy, so I looked through the different types of energy I could study and decided on geothermal energy. I split my report into two parts, the first part looking at how geothermal energy is used to generate heat and electricity. For the second part, I focused on the Rift Valley, a region of geothermal activity in Eastern Africa. I researched the impacts (both environmental and socio-economic) its use had in Kenya, a country that contains part of the Rift Valley.
How did I fit my EPQ around my other studies?
In all honesty, it was tough, but I’m incredibly grateful for the experience. I was taking 4 A-levels so time was a precious resource.
However, the experience taught me a lot about time management, how to create project plans and set personal deadlines for myself. I created a task list of what I needed to do from research to writing up the report. From this master task list, I created a weekly checklist and allocated time to complete each task.
The EPQ is taken alongside your studies meaning it does not take priority. I decided upon a weighting of about 3:1 for my time studying versus researching. The key was to make small progress consistently rather than getting it all done in large chunks of time.
How has the EPQ helped me at university?
In hindsight completing the EPQ made the transition to university a lot easier for me. There is a significant disparity between how you learn at sixth form or college and at university. You are responsible for your learning. There is no one chasing you to get things done or telling you how to spend your time.
The EPQ taught me how to take my learning into my own hands and have accountability for completing a project. I knew how to find sources and gather information, which was useful for writing lab reports and completing my research project.
And finally one of the biggest benefits: I got to go abroad! My university application for my course was most definitely strengthened by completing the EPQ as it showed my ability to research independently. I completed my Master's research project at the University of Auckland, meaning that during the start of the pandemic I was fortunate to be in one of the safest countries in the world.
Why should you consider doing an EPQ?
A levels can feel like a deep dive into random pockets of knowledge but doing an EPQ can give you the opportunity to get a wider perspective on how your subjects or just any interest you have fits into things in the wider world. Committing to learning on your own, outside of the classroom sets you up great for both university and just life itself.
The quality of your life is dependent on your decisions therefore knowing how to access information and critically assess it is vital. Completing an EPQ gives you the opportunity to develop these skills and you could also benefit from an alternative offer if you get an A grade in your project!