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The EPQ and your personal statement: top tips

Are you taking the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)? If so, it’s worth a mention in your personal statement. It may even help you bag some extra Ucas points.

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a fantastic opportunity to experience university-style study and expand your knowledge in an area of interest. It also teaches you some great skills that will be applicable at uni and beyond, such as self-discipline and independent research. 

Most people that do one start it in the summer between AS and A2 Levels.

Don’t just do one for the sake of it though – it should be on a subject you’re really interested in. You do need to dedicate time to it (roughly 90 hours) and if it’s not something you can imagine capturing your interest for long then there are other ways to show passion for your subject. See whether it might be the right choice for you. –

First of all, what is an EPQ?

An EPQ is an additional qualification you can choose to take alongside your A-levels. It doesn't need to be related to a subject you're studying.

As part of an EPQ, you choose a topic or research question that you research in great depth. Think of it like a mini-thesis. This assessment can either be via written report, brief oral presentation or creating a 'product' - this could be hosting an event or making a physical item such as a piece of art or a video game.

If you're applying to a course with vocational or practical elements, the 'product' you create could be something you include in a portfolio or a way to demonstrate certain skills such as team work, hosting an event or organisation. 

Sounds interesting. How do I choose an EPQ - are there any examples?

The EPQ can be anything you’re interested in researching more - there’s not really a limit on topic, although it makes sense that it relates in some way to what you want to study. 

Your teachers can help you refine your idea, but, say for example you wanted to study history  it could be on a particular historical time period, or the impact of a particular politician if you’re interested in politics

Or maybe you’re interested in something more hands-on - such as developing a mobile phone app, doing a piece of art, creating a short film, or writing a short story. 

It’s better to do a narrower topic or idea thoroughly rather than trying to tackle something too broad.

How many words does it have to be?

Your EPQ needs to be completed as either:
  • A 5,000 word written report
  • A ‘production’ or ‘artefact’ (so something such as a film or sculpture for example) and a 1,000 word report

Do I apply for one through my school?

Yes. Your school will be able to tell you whether they offer EPQs and how to go about applying. EPQs are sent off for grading in the same way an A-level exam would be. 

How many Ucas points do I get for my EPQ?

An EPQ is worth half an A-Level (28 Ucas points), so can be a great way to boost your points.

Why mention the EPQ in your personal statement?

Whether you are just starting out on your project plan or some way down the line to completion, writing in an interesting, but concise, way about your ideas, objectives, progress or initial findings can really help make your personal statement stand out from the crowd. Especially so if it's directly relevant to the course you're applying for.

It's also a great way to demonstrate that you're someone who's really up for carrying out your own independent research - which, at the end of the day, is what university study is all about.  

How do universities view the EPQ? 

The general message from universities is that they really like the EPQ - a quick flick through online prospectuses confirms this:
  • University of Southampton: 'Students could use their project at interview stage and/or in their UCAS personal statement. Certain courses at the university will count 'A' grades achieved in the extended project towards their entry criteria.' 
  • University of Manchester: 'The skills that students develop through the Extended Project are excellent preparation for university-level study.'
  • University of Liverpool: 'We encourage candidates to draw upon their experience of undertaking the project when writing their personal statement.' 
University of York’s Admissions Administrator for English, Sheila Cosgrove, put this into sharper focus when she gave us her opinion on it: 'The EPQ is a definite strength in an application. It can create the heartland of a personal statement and give it depth and substance.'

How to write about the EPQ

Remember, as we say in all our other personal statement advice, make sure you write about your EPQ experiences in a specific way.

Just writing 'I am doing the extended project and it is improving my independent research skills' is too general and hundreds of other applicants will say exactly the same thing. In order to make it much more interesting and individual, write about it reflectively with several lines or a short paragraph explaining how!

If you're writing your personal statement right now, check out our top 10 things to include, as well as these personal statement pitfalls to avoid.

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