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.
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...
What is an EPQ?The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is an additional qualification you can choose to take alongside your A-levels (or equivalent eg BTEC, International Baccalaureate). It doesn't need to be related to a subject you're studying either.
You choose a topic or 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.
The EPQ can be an excellent asset to your Ucas application and your personal statement.
Does an EPQ count as an A-level?No, the EPQ is completely separate from your A-level subjects and wouldn’t count towards your final grades in these (nor would it make up any sort of grade requirements as part of a university’s offer to you).
While a university may take an EPQ into consideration when looking at your application as a whole, you won’t find a university making an offer with an EPQ being a strict requirement. As King’s College explain, this would be unfair to students to whom the EPQ is not available.
Read more below on the EPQ, entry requirements and offers.
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. For example, if you wanted to study history, your EPQ could be on a particular historical time period; or if you wanted to study politics, it could be on the impact of a particular politician.
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. Remember, you have to fit this in alongside your other studies.
How many words does the EPQ have to be?Your EPQ needs to be completed as either:
- a 5,000 word written report;
- or a ‘production’ or ‘artefact’ (so something such as a film or sculpture for example) and a 1,000 word report.
Do I apply for the EPQ 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.
Do you get Ucas points for EPQ?Yes, an EPQ is worth half an A-level (28 Ucas points), so it can be a great way to boost your points.
Does the EPQ lower entry requirements?Some universities state that they will make two offers to those taking an EPQ: the typical offer that all students must meet, without taking the EPQ into consideration, and a second offer that is one grade lower but with the EPQ as a requirement too.
For instance, a university’s standard offer for a course might be AAA; but they might make you a second offer of AAB plus an E in your EPQ.
Universities who make this concession include Birmingham, Bath and Bristol, though it may depend on the course you’re applying to eg this wouldn’t likely apply to competitive courses like medicine.
Check with your university directly about their stance on the EPQ, or search for a course to see what their entry requirements are.
What skills do you get from the EPQ? Why mention it in your personal statement?The Extended Project Qualification allows you to demonstrate many skills, which can pay off when applying to university. These include:
- initiative to go that extra mile;
- a deeper interest in your subject (if it's related to what you're applying to study);
- the ability to manage your time to complete the EPQ on top of your other commitments;
- and core analytical, written, presentation and research skills.
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.
An EPQ might make for an excellent talking point in an interview too.
Overall, the Extended Project Qualification is 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.
Check out our full personal statement advice, including statement examples to pick up tips from.
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.'
Do Oxford and Cambridge like the EPQ?Applying to Oxbridge is highly competitive, so anything you can do to separate yourself from the pack will only help you.
Oxford in particular state that they look for applicants to ‘demonstrate breadth of reading and independent research into your chosen subject; if you have pursued study beyond that required by your school syllabus.’
This is where an EPQ can clearly help (although Oxford are clear to state that completion of an EPQ would never make up for missing the grades or terms of your offer).
However, you can expect many fellow Oxbridge applicants to have done an EPQ too (or other similar, extra activities). Therefore it’s really important that you use this experience in the right way.
How to write about the EPQRemember, 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.
Need helping writing your personal statement? Our free builder tool helps you tailor your draft to your subject, talk about your experience and skills the right way, and more.