Extended Project Qualification

Ashbourne offers a designated EPQ programme for students applying for competitive degree courses or universities such as Imperial College, London School of Economics, UCL and Oxford and Cambridge.

Competitive edge

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a formally assessed independent research project that can help students gain a substantive advantage when competing for highly sought after and demanding degree courses.

An essential truth to grasp in modern university applications is that the extended project, or more particularly the research which it reflects, has become the key to entry at most top universities.

— Dr. Timothy Hands, Master of Magdalen College School, Oxford.

The EPQ involves  writing a 5000-word essay and/or creating an artefact (i.e a material or digital product), which provides very clear evidence of super-curricular development, i.e. high levels of personal interest and competency in a specialist subject area beyond the A level curriculum. It demonstrates skills and abilities in relation to personal intellectual development, academic research and academic writing that are the mainstay of success in an undergraduate degree.

Successful EPQ students

Anna was invited to interview at Cambridge University to study English Literature, for which she was subsequently offered a place. When asked why she thought her interview had been so successful, Anna simply responded: “I just talked about my EPQ!”

Anna completed her EPQ on the use of satire in Dante’s Inferno, which she discussed at length in the Personal Statement in her UCAS application.

Soala completed an EPQ on the use of sustainable architecture in her home country of Nigeria, looking at the adaptation of practices in traditional Nigerian architecture to contemporary theories and models of sustainable architecture. She was successful in her application to study Architecture at Cambridge University, which has a strong research specialisation in sustainable development.

Ashbourne’s EPQ programme

Ashbourne provides EPQ students with the specialist academic supervision and guidance to help them complete projects to a very high standard.

EPQ topics
Students must come up with their own project idea which they discuss with their supervisor. There are no restrictions on what they may choose as their topic, but it is highly recommended that it is related to their proposed degree course – it is such an important facilitator of success in UCAS applications that most students elect to make that choice. Ideally, the topic should build on existing academic knowledge and go beyond the A-level syllabus – an example would be studying Italian Fascism in A-level History and then doing an EPQ on Mussolini’s military strategy in Africa in World War Two. Often topic choices with a strong personal or cultural dimension make for very successful EPQs as the research then becomes a journey of self-discovery as much as an academic and intellectual project.

Once the topic is agreed the student will draw up a full proposal including the project aims, initial plans, structure and format.

Production, Product and Presentation
The EPQ comprises three parts:

Production Log
This is a reflective research journal, which should demonstrate the candidate’s ability to record and reflect on the process of production and assess the level of success achieved by the project.

EPQs can take a wide variety of forms including academic essays (5000 words), design and engineering projects, models or constructions, musical or theatrical performances, scientific investigations, multimedia productions, artworks and creative-writing projects.

Students present their final project to an audience of specialists and non-specialists using appropriate media. There is a live question and answer session during the presentation, overseen by the supervisor.
All projects must include a written report or essay of 1000 to 5000 words long depending on the exact nature of the project, which will be internally assessed and external moderated.

EPQ guidance and skills development
EPQs are demanding and require a high level of self-motivation, real curiosity in the subject matter and hard work.

Students will have the opportunity to discuss their ideas with staff who specialise or have experience in their specific subject area and will be invited to take part in small seminars and tuition groups to learn and develop skills vital for successfully completing their EPQ, which include:

  • critical evaluation skills
  • online resource knowledge
  • research methods
  • research writing skills
  • presentation skills
  • planning skills

Students are encouraged to gradually build up the required assessment material over a long period of time to create high-quality production logs and successful projects. The most common mistake made by students is in organisational planning. Writing a 5000-word essay, for example, takes a lot of detailed planning and this is the first time that students will have undertaken such a big project. The struggle to meet the deadlines is mitigated by internal deadlines being created that are well in advance – then the failure to meet deadlines becomes a positive learning experience that the student can carry with them to university rather than a demoralising and punitive one.

EPQ grading
Successful candidates will demonstrate the ability to generate high-quality academic content, project manage, think critically and self-evaluate. The EPQ is graded on a six grade scale: A*, A, B, C, D and E.

Excellent results and university destinations

Ashbourne’s A level students consistently achieve outstanding results, 54% A*A (2022-2023), and students’ performance improvement is excellent, placing the college in the top 5% of UK schools and colleges for value added. Currently, almost 60% of our graduates go on to study at Russell Group universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

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