The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) has been running successfully at Farnborough Hill for a number of years and the range of topics written by the Year 13 students continues to impress. The EPQ is an A level Qualification which our students begin towards the end of Year 12 and complete in Year 13, submitting their work either in November or March. It is worth half an A level in terms of UCAS points and is highly valued by top universities. For example, Southampton University makes all applicants for Humanities courses undertaking an EPQ a reduced offer in exchange for an A in the EPQ. To illustrate this, History, whose traditional offer is AAB, will make an alternative offer of ABBa.
Universities value the EPQ because of what it involves: students choosing a topic of personal interest that is not on any of their A level specifications, setting a title, researching it independently and presenting it either as a 5,000 word extended piece of writing or an artefact (such as drama piece) with an accompanying write up. At Farnborough Hill, we give the girls a head start by subscribing to JSTOR, an online database of academic articles that is frequently used by undergraduates, and this has proved an invaluable tool for our students. We also offer a programme of taught skills, where the girls learn how to research, reference and write an extended essay, and each girl is allocated a supervisor who guides her through each stage of the project. At the end of the course, the girls give a 20 minute presentation to peers and staff where they share their findings from their research and reflect upon the EPQ process as a whole. These are always proud moments and it is great to see the confidence that being the ‘expert in the room’ on their chosen topic gives our girls and how much they have learned from the experience.
In summary, the EPQ is outstanding preparation for university and particularly for Oxbridge and Higher Level university applications, which will involve a competitive interview. We recommend that all girls give it serious consideration as it will not only enhance their Sixth Form experience but also help their university application stand out from the crowd.
Examples of Past Projects
Our EPQ results have been excellent over the years and the 2015-16 cohort were no exception. Bound copies of their essays as well as those from previous years can be read in the school library but here are some examples of projects from this year to give you a flavour of what the girls have been writing about:
Laura, now studying Medicine at Birmingham achieved an A grade for her EPQ on whether the procedures NICE undertake to approve life extending drugs should be reviewed, while Sangeeta, now studying Dentistry at the University of Valencia, gained an A* for her EPQ on whether it should be mandatory for dentists to give smoking cessation advice. Both projects helped these candidates to show universities that they had a genuine academic interest in the vocational courses that they were applying for.
Lucy, now studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, gained an A* for her project on the influences on colour perception in humans, while Lily was able to show her knowledge of English Literature with substance at university interviews, having achieved an A* for her project on the Romantic Poets.
Holly, now studying History at Cambridge wrote on Imperialism in the Middle East, while Hannah, now studying History at York, wrote about the causes of the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984 and conducted an interview with a serving police officer from the time to strengthen her argument. Both Holly and Hannah achieved A* for her EPQ.