EPQ - good idea?

(28 Posts)
3boys1cat Thu 29-Mar-12 20:06:09

Did anyone's DC do an Extended Project Qualification before applying to uni? If so, was it worth it?

DS1 (Year 12) has been talking about doing an EPQ, and I need more info!

Many thanks

gelatinous Fri 30-Mar-12 08:44:12

some of my dc's friends did one - I think it's a great idea for a child who wants to explore a topic in some depth and often makes a good talking point if they have any interviews.

alreadytaken Fri 30-Mar-12 09:25:08

it counts as an AS if applying to universities that work on points. It can be a talking point at interview but usually isn't. It may help them settle in to university by teaching them some independent learning skills, or perhaps how to wing it at the last minute and do the minimum to get by.

Bearcat Fri 30-Mar-12 22:39:46

DS2 (now 20) did an EPQ when he was 17.
He was at a 6th form college, and all the Oxbridge candidates were expected to do one.
He was applying for Economics courses at university, and also applied to Oxford for E&M, but didn't get in, and was asked nothing about his project at interview.
I would say that his summer between 6:1 and 6:2 was wrecked by the work he put into this EPQ and it is not for the faint hearted. It certainly taught him independent learning skills as Alreadytaken says, but not sure what she means by winging it, last minute and minimum to get by means in this context as the EPQ was anything but those things.
DS2 got an A* for his economics EPQ, and I'm sure it helped him get a place on a very competitive course at university, but he did put many, many hours into it.

thirdhill Sat 31-Mar-12 08:10:50

I've told mine to do it if they think it'll add anything to their learning skills. They didn't/won't, and it's irrelevant for Oxbridge or medical school interviews.

I can see that some children would get something out of it, in which case, why not? Like all extra-curricular, go for it for yourself, because it won't impress anyone else.

Yellowtip Sat 31-Mar-12 08:44:53

Three of mine have done the EPQ. They've got a great deal out of it because each was incredibly interested in the subject they chose to study. DS was asked about his in detail at one of his med school interviews in October (Birmingham) though not at Oxford. I think the tendency there is to not want to use questions about a candidate's EP as a factor because it unevens the playing field.

Mine were surprised that the marks are awarded more for the process of completing the project than the substance of it. Its purpose it to encourage the development of independent learning skills rather than to create a work of brilliance (of course the finished product can be brilliant too, but that won't get an A* on its own).

goinggetstough Sat 31-Mar-12 09:23:20

My DS completed his EPQ last summer. As Bearcat says it is not for the faint hearted. IMO it is a good idea if you decide to do it, to do as much as possible in the summer holidays along with their PS. The Upper Sixth is busy enough without additional work. You can submit in October/results in January or submit in March and get results in August.

My DS was not interviewed but unlike the DC above has applied to universities who ask for UCAS points. He learnt extra skills and now it forms part of his university offer. It can be done by students across the ability range but they do need to be organised and motivated, without these skills it could have been a disaster! We are very pleased he completed it and so is he.

The student room website usually has a thread on EPQ for extra information.

ellisbell Sun 01-Apr-12 08:04:04

schools like the EPQ because it adds extra points for the league tables. I don't know if it also adds to their funding, possibly.

Yellowtip I remember your son got a place at Oxford, did he get one at Birmingham?

DD1 did it, mainly to be able to put it in her PS as part of the "look how much I love my subject" stuff. So she picked a topic which tied in with the main thrust of her PS - thereby learning quite a lot about playing the system to get it working best for you, but also about how to make a difficult topic into a fun and intelligible talk to non-specialists.

Yellowtip Sun 01-Apr-12 09:12:05

He did ellisbell yes, finally - it came the same day as Imperial's (though the interviews were nearly five months apart!). Bristol rejected him in early Jan, without interview.

How did your DD get on? I hope her offer(s) are for the med schools she wants.

3boys1cat Sun 01-Apr-12 12:48:21

Thanks everyone for your responses - certainly food for thought. My DS is intending to study Maths at uni so I'm guessing he should choose something Maths related, that he in really interested in and get it done over the summer holidays. Am not sure that his motivation levels are high enough, but we'll see!

ellisbell Sun 01-Apr-12 18:57:00

perhaps the EP is more use then I thought, then. I think you're getting confused, yellowtip, I've never mentioned a DD applying to med school.

3boys - for Maths they want to know the applicant loves maths, more maths and then some extra maths for fun. So yes, an EPQ in something mathsey ticks that box. Even try and find out what research is being done at his two top choices, and tie something into that? But be aware that not only do they have to do a presentation to non-specialists, they need to have a display, and be able to answer questions afterwards (DD's presentation was to the other EPQ students, parents and assorted staff) - and they are assessed on that part of it too. So you do need to really know your topic insides out, winging it will be found out.

Yellowtip Sun 01-Apr-12 22:23:18

There's also an argument for doing an EP on quite a different area to the one a student intends to study, to show breadth. So a music one say, for a mathsy type.

I just inferred it from all you've said ellis. Anyhow, I hope she's got where she wants.

Hollyfoot Sun 01-Apr-12 22:31:43

My DD did an EPQ and Newcastle lowered the grades she needed as a result. She picked a topic that really interested her and ended up changing her choice of degree subject as a result. So yes, definitely worth it for her.

ellisbell Mon 02-Apr-12 21:40:30

he didn't do chemistry to do medicine, yellowtip. You don't apply to American universities for undergraduate medicine. He doesn't like me to discuss his plans but he's a lot happier than I am about them.

Yellowtip Mon 02-Apr-12 22:09:58

ellis I assumed your DD/ DS applied in tandem to the US and UK. Because of the December interviews. But apart from that of course you've been very discreet and it's none of anyone else's business. As I've said, I'm glad it turned out well.

I thought the US news came only yesterday though? I know far less about Harvard and Yale, bar the general liberal arts stuff and the way they interview and the date they let everyone know.

I guess for those able to apply across both sides of the pond it gives extra opportunities, chances and choices, which helps.

Sorry OP!

3boys1cat Tue 03-Apr-12 14:11:12

That's quite OK Yellowtip - you hijack away! Actually I am interested in any and all aspects for applying to uni as I feel I really don't know enough about it yet.

I didn't realise that a presentation on the EPQ was required? The info DS1 was given only mentions the written work. Hmmm, more thought needed...

Yellowtip Tue 03-Apr-12 15:08:04

If your DS is applying for Maths there are a clutch of incredibly knowlegeable MNers on the FE threads to give guidance. It was noticeable on this year's UCAS thread how there were more DC's studying or applying for Maths than for any other subject but none of us could figure why.

Time flies 3boys, especially if he wants to get an application in before the Oxbridge deadline. Tbh even if he doesn't intend to try for one of those two then Maths is a subject where the most competitive non-Oxbridge universities seem to hand out early offers so it's a very wise tactic to get the form in absolutely as early as possible after UCAS opens and schools go back, in early Sept.

FWIW none of mine did anything over the summer, EP wise, but the upshot was that completing it got a bit oppressive later on in the year. Not impossible but they had to get their heads down for two or three weeks. The presentations aren't too long though; don't let that put him off.

gelatinous Tue 03-Apr-12 15:41:34

For maths, the offers seem to be higher than for other subjects - not sure why, it may be that maths and f. maths are easier to get the very highest grades in statistically at least (I'm sure there's a very large element of self selection here too), so it would definitely not be worth doing an EPQ if it was going to jeopardise his grades.

Unless he really wanted to do a maths EPQ for his own enjoyment I doubt it would be worth it - the best way to get offers for maths is to be really good at maths and to show it on your application form by way of very high module scores and high achievement in maths challenges & olympiads (& other maths competitions). Time spent on EPQ would be better spent working to get those high results and if he's already getting the high results he will get the offers anyway. Maths is unlike medicine in that you don't really need to show anything extra on your application - it's competitive yes, but selection is mostly by results as far as I can tell. Warwick, for example, widely held to be one of the top 4 maths universities nationally, will make an offer to everyone who applies who stands a remote chance of making the offer. The catch is that the offer is rather tough and involves STEP, so meeting it is the challenge and that is how they whittle down their applicants to the right number.

webwiz Tue 03-Apr-12 16:17:30

As has been said before the main criteria for entry to a competitive maths course is high grades in Maths and Further Maths and more usually now STEP papers. The universities don't want breath just a love of maths.

DD2 is studying Maths at university and didn't do an EPQ (I don't think anyone did one in her year at school) but she did do other Mathsy things that she put on her Personal Statement. If he is keen to do it for himself then I'm sure it would be a valuable thing to have completed but if he isn't committed then I wouldn't push it.

3boys1cat Wed 04-Apr-12 13:37:23

That's very interesting - thanks very much. We are going to Maths open days at both Oxford and Cambridge in a few weeks with a fairly open mind, and knowing that we may just be ruling Oxbridge out completely.

Gelatinous, I don't now anything about maths challenges or olympiads, and I don't think his school have mentioned them. Will Google and see if it's something we can organise.

webwiz Wed 04-Apr-12 14:07:22

The maths challenge stuff is here:
www.mathcomp.leeds.ac.uk/individual-competitions/

I think you'd need to get through to the further competition rounds to make it Personal Statement worthy though.

gelatinous Wed 04-Apr-12 14:32:42

Since the senior challenge is in November it's too late to enter ahead of UCAS unfortunately, but as not all schools do them it won't count against him (as webwiz says it's only really worth mentioning if you do very well anyway). Attending some maths masterclasses or lectures might be something to talk about, or could he get involved in helping in maths classes with some younger students or tutoring?

thirdhill Fri 06-Apr-12 10:54:28

Agree with gelatinous that most aspiring Oxbridge/Impey etc Year 12 mathematicians will already have BMO 1/2 track records now, but STEP is another chance to prove yourself. I'm surprised that schools with a reasonable Maths department don't enter, any reasonable comp does, but you learn something all the time.

thinking about it some more, and chatting to DD1, it might be better to spend the time doing STEP work rather than the EPQ. DD didn't do nearly enough STEP preparation (school basically said, here are loads of past papers, get on with it, come and speak to us if you get stuck with anything), but STEP is a totally different approach than A levels, which can take some getting used to.

3boys1cat Thu 10-May-12 19:42:04

Just a quick update... I had the opportunity to ask questions at the Oxford Maths Open Day at the weekend and the tutor basically told me exactly what someone said further up the thread. For Maths it would be better to spend the time practising the Oxford/Cambridge admissions tests rather than doing an EPQ. If the student has an area of Maths that they are absolutely fascinated by and want to write 5,000 words on, then it wouldn't do any harm, but it's not really going to do them much good either!

Based on this, DS has spoken to his school and told them he won't be doing the EPQ.

Thanks all for your contributions smile

puffap1 Wed 30-Jul-14 12:24:49

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