How valuable is an EPQ?

(17 Posts)
ReadingRiot Wed 04-Jul-18 17:37:32

And is it important to pick a "good" topic?

DS1 is Yr 12 and DS2 Yr 10,both have been offered the opportunity to do an EPQ at school. DS1 is keen because he's been told its worth half an A level and he thinks he might need the points, although he has no real interest in the project he's picked, he just thinks it will be "easy!

DS2 is genuinely excited by the project he wants to do, but it involves me buying lots of components and will probably cost c £200.

I'm concerned that whilst the EPQ may carry ucas points it won't be recognised as such and DS1 should really concentrate on his a level grades.

I'm inclined to support DS 2 simply because of his genuine interest and the fact that the project is worth doing for it's own sake.

OP’s posts: |
glitterbiscuits Wed 04-Jul-18 17:56:07

MY understanding is that biggger name Universities look for high A level grades first and 'lower tier' universities count points. So it may depend more on your DCs preferred destination.
If the project is interesting and relevant to a degree they would like to take then it's very useful to put that in the UCAS statement. But again, not every Uni reads them. In some cases it's more 'bums on seats'

ReadingRiot Wed 04-Jul-18 17:59:40

Thanks glitter, if DS1 goes to uni it will be very much a bums on seats institution, but mainly through lack of effort (which is a whole other thread). Ds2 should be able to aim higher.

OP’s posts: |
flissfloss65 Wed 04-Jul-18 18:04:00

My ds was offered one A level grade lower for his course if he got an A in EPQ. Worth it and he did a project connected to one of his A level subjects. It really didn’t take up too much time.

MaisyPops Wed 04-Jul-18 18:06:47

We tell our students that it gets them UCAS points but we only advise students take it if they are securely A/B students.

It'll depend how school/college run it but we place a lot of emphasis on independence, students arranging to see their tutor. We don't chase them for it. If they don't engage then tough. Having a good topic is important for getting a distinction, as is the willingness to engage with the process.
I've supervised students through and most were high achievers looking for something extra to help them stand out for competitive courses at top unis.

I've supervised a bums on seat type of student and it was hellish. They expected their hand holding, would come and see me 2 days before a deadline and ask for a meeting, usually i couldn't fit it in last minute, then they'd blame me for them not doing well, be full of excuses and lacked the resilience to do well.

If they are motivated, hard working and pick a good topic then it's really good to do. If they tend to want hand holding through courses then don't.

glitterbiscuits Wed 04-Jul-18 18:07:10

In lots of schools they have to do something extra to the 3 A-levels and it's not optional. Is there anything else on offer that may inspire him more? Core maths is one that about a lot or 'Pre U'?
If he is looking for total points there is a chart on the UCAS website with things like music exam grades being worth x number of points, Duke Of Edinburgh awards etc.

Marmelised Wed 04-Jul-18 18:08:44

My daughter did one and got a*. She also did an ASDAN which was worth another half a level.
For her it was worth it as the topic chosen was highly relevant to her chosen degree and showed her passion for the subject.
She went to a Russell Group uni and just about got the grades needed without the 2 additional qualifications but they helped (from memory i think her main a levels had the points needed but not all the required grades - some higher some lower).


NotARegularPenguin Wed 04-Jul-18 18:09:51

Dd is in yr 12 and has finished her EPQ so don’t think it’s impacted on her a levels much as she won’t be doing it next year which is the mean A level year I guess. She managed her year 12 work ok. She got an A* but don’t think this is finalised yet. But did the project on something connected to what she wants to do her degree in.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Wed 04-Jul-18 18:16:17

Couldn’t agree more with what MaisyPops says. They are only worth doing if the students is a high achiever with a real independent work ethic. The hoops to jump through to get the top grades in EPQ are very prescriptive and require a tremendous amount of self-supported study on the part of the student. They need to be prepared to do primary research in their topic which may involve conducting surveys, gathering data and interviewing people. They also need to keep a detailed journal documenting every step of the process and justifying every decision made, as well as being able to reflect on and evaluate their own progress. They need to document and evaluate what went wrong in their research and how they took steps to correct it.

If your DS1 isn’t highly motivated to do it and excited by his topic, it’s not worth it, tbh. It’s definitely not easy.

Dancingdreamer Wed 04-Jul-18 20:49:31

My DD thought it was a waste of time and wishes she had focused on her Alevels instead. She found it very process driven and there was little real interest in the intellectual outcomes of the project.

MaisyPops Wed 04-Jul-18 21:08:34

Because the process is a major part of the learning.

The whole point of EPQ is the development of ideas. It's not (nor has it ever been in my experience) about throwing an outstanding essay or artefact together. We've seen able students get Cs on EPQ because they were of the view that they decided what they wanted to do and didn't engage with the process at all. All that demonstrated was that they were students who weren't reflective, weren't resilient, felt they had all the answers, weren't open to guidance and had a tendency to think they knew better than staff.

EPQs should be supervised by non-specialist staff who guide the candidates through the process, enabling them to reflect and develop their project. A student who has little interest in critical reflection and pushing themselves is unlikely to enjoy EPQ.

The process matters because (certainly in the 2 centres I've done it) the best candidates with the best projects, the most academic and intellectual outcomes, and the highest grades were the ones who bought in and developed themselves.

Dancingdreamer Mon 16-Jul-18 08:49:30

MaisyPops - that’s my point. They weren’t interested in the development of her ideas or her research (which was extensive and had predated the EPQ period) but only the process of writing down spurious notes to prove what she had done. It may be more use for an arts student but for a scientist my DD honestly thought it was a useless distraction. In the end she got a good grade but was of no help for her Oxbridge or other Uni applications - no one was interested or even mentioned it.

evenstrangerthings Mon 16-Jul-18 15:51:59

My DD did an EPQ. It offered no benefit in terms of entrance requirements and took up quite a bit of time, although she did enjoy the topic she chose.

Interestingly, this Position Paper from the MEI OCR exam board and the Further Maths Support Project criticized the EPQ for deterring students from taking AS Maths or FM, as students saw the EPQ as an easier option. They concluded that;

"For schools and colleges it (the EPQ) is a means of increasing the number of qualifications that a student achieves without the need for nearly as much teacher contact time as an AS qualification."

As others have said, check the admissions criteria/call or email the admissions officers and see if there would be any allowances made for dropped grades if an EPQ is taken.

AnnDerry Mon 16-Jul-18 16:05:37

DD did one on an area related to her degree.

It was one of the written pieces of work she sent to Cambridge as part of the application process, and it was discussed at length at interview -she was invited to justify her research strategy and make suggestions on expanding the research to encompass comparative work ( in terms of either era or geography.) She thinks it was invaluable in demonstrating that she has the independent study skills and could do primary research - she spent 2 days in the archives of the museum which holds the collections for the organisation she was researching. This she arranged herself.

She got an A*. It didn't lower her Cambridge offer or get taken into consideration for grades, but it was a very good thing to do.

AnnDerry Mon 16-Jul-18 16:07:09

Meant to add, her degree is history. (She just finished her first year at Cambridge and her idea of heaven is a day in the Seeley and the UL.)

impostersyndrome Mon 16-Jul-18 17:15:40

My DS did it. It was an enormous amount of work, but he learned a Lot about doing research, it gave him experience in writing (a boon as his A levels weren’t essay topics) and, as he was interviewed for his subject (at a research intensive university), it gave him lots to discuss there - and in his statement. He’s since commented that the skills have been useful at uni too. He got a discounted offer. I would counsel against doing it unless your DC is self motivated as he didn’t get that much pushing from the school, as someone said above.

whiteroseredrose Mon 16-Jul-18 19:20:57

DS also thought it to be a waste of time. The actual research and write up were interesting but he found the 'journal' that they have to do alongside it tedious.

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