What is an EPQ?

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a Level 3 course usually undertaken in year 12 or 13. It was introduced in 2008 and since then the number of students doing an EPQ has steadily risen, with 33,564 completing it this year.

The AQA exam board explains that it requires students to create a single piece of work, requiring a high degree of planning, preparation and autonomous working. The projects that students complete will differ by subject, but all will require persistence over time and research skills to explore a subject independently in real depth.

Many students will choose to complete an extended essay (5000 words is the common guideline) to fulfil this criteria, but it could also be a musical or dramatic composition, report or artefact, backed up with paperwork. What works best may well depend on the topic you choose to be the subject of your EPQ.

You will also be expected to deliver a 10-15 minute presentation on your project, once you have completed it. This will also form part of the assessment and contribute to your final grade.

Why do an EPQ?

EPQs are quite a different way of working than you might be used to through your A Level, IB or BTEC studies. This is part of the reason for doing them – it helps you develop a range of really useful study skills. These include critical, reflective, problem-solving and independent learning skills, through the planning, research and evaluation of a self-selected project.

This process can help prepare you for further study, as independent learning is expected at university, but it is also a qualification in its own right and can obtain UCAS points. This might contribute towards the entry requirements at some universities, including the University of Birmingham (see below – How can an EPQ benefit a UCAS application).

Even where universities don’t include the EPQ in their offers, they will recognise the importance of independent learning and the value of this qualification as preparation for higher education.

It’s therefore great to include it in your personal statement, both to demonstrate your independent learning skills and also show your interest and academic enthusiasm for your subject. As your EPQ is unique to you, it can really help your personal statement stand out.

It’s also a rewarding process which allows you to develop your personal interests on a topic you feel genuinely passionate about.

How can an EPQ benefit a UCAS application?

The EPQ is worth a maximum of 70 UCAS points, slightly more than an AS Level (60 points) as the A* grade is available for the EPQ.

At the University of Birmingham, applicants who take the EPQ and meet our offer criteria will be made the standard offer for their programme of choice, plus an alternative offer which will be one grade lower plus a grade A in the EPQ. For example, where our standard offer is AAA, the offer would be AAA; or AAB plus A in the EPQ (though please note that this excludes our Medicine (A100) and Dentistry (A200) programmes). This is applicable if you make Birmingham your firm choice.

Please contact Admissions for more information about how the EPQ affects entry requirements for your chosen programme.

Who can take an EPQ?

The EPQ is intended to be accessible to students with a wide range of abilities. Students undertaking an EPQ will need to demonstrate a great deal of commitment and motivation; and an ability to work independently. Students who have difficulty completing coursework or handing in work on time would be advised to consider other options.

The AQA exam board advises that students are required to:

  • Choose an area of interest
  • Draft a title and the aims of the project for formal approval
  • Plan, research and carry out the project
  • Deliver a presentation to a non-specialist audience
  • Provide evidence of all stages of project development and production for assessment

Which subjects are acceptable for an EPQ?

Students may study any topic they wish – and many choose something related to the subject that they intend to study at university. It is an opportunity to expand learning in an area that really interests you, so don’t be afraid to go beyond your A-level syllabus. Do try to be specific, as it will help you to focus your research and help you develop a great project. Whatever you choose, remember that the title must be agreed by your supervisor (usually one of your teachers).

How is an EPQ completed?

All projects must include a written report of at least 1000 words, but the outcome of the EPQ can be almost anything: a dissertation, an artefact or model, a performance, a short film, a website or pieceof software, a design or blueprints, etc. Once a project is complete, students must also give a short presentation on their project to a non-specialist audience.

Producing such a significant piece of work involves a great deal of effort and commitment; deciding ona topic, researching, writing it up, etc. The usual estimate is around 120 hours’ work in total. How you fit this is around your other studies is something your school might be able to help with. Some schools will encourage you to complete the EPQ in year 12, while other students will complete it over the summer between years 12 and 13.

How is an EPQ taught?

Your school or college will provide support and supervision for your EPQ. While the EPQ is a largely independent piece of work, they will advise how to develop the project title and provide guidance for the skills required to successfully complete the project; then supervise throughout, offering advice and guidance to you when you need it. However, they won’t tell you what to do, as it is intended to be an independent project.

How is an EPQ assessed?

Assessment is undertaken by your supervisor and externally moderated by the exam board. Grades are awarded in the range A*-E.



Why do an EPQ?
Study support for tutors
Guide to academic writing
Guide to research and evaluation
Study support for tutors