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to EPQ or not to EPQ?

(61 Posts)
BrendaBlackhead Tue 03-Feb-15 12:29:05

ds is in year 12

He is doing three humanities A Levels and Maths

Should he continue with four A Levels (he is good at all of them) or drop one for an EPQ?

He has no idea of his future plans, and nothing jumps out at him regarding what to do a project on. Being rather a chip off the old block, he likes knowing a little about a lot rather than a lot about a little...

If he applies to university he will probably be aiming high, so does the EPQ make any kind of difference? But, as I said, he hasn't the faintest clue what he might like to study so at this stage wouldn't be able to tailor an EPQ to suit a university application.

TalkinPeace Tue 03-Feb-15 13:18:08

We had this exact discussion over supper last night.
DD is planning to drop down to 3 A2 subjects and then do a thesis style EPQ

and she's still aiming high on Unis smile

Molio Tue 03-Feb-15 13:26:08

Brenda a couple of days ago Bristol wrote to DS saying that the EP (and presumably his prediction for it) contributed to his early offer from them - the earliness of it I mean, not just the fact of an offer. So clearly they rate it. That was for History. Another poster had said it played no part in offers for her area (mathsy stuff), but for this subject and this uni it was completely specific.

Hakluyt Tue 03-Feb-15 13:30:05

My dd says that the EPQ has been more use to her than her A levels at University- she learned so much about research and note taking and extended independent writing. And the viva was useful and challenging experince too. I think EPQs are great.

uilen Tue 03-Feb-15 13:56:25

EPQ is not particularly helpful for maths/physical sciences and engineering. In my understanding it also does not play a role for other sciences (biology, chemistry etc). Note that it is considered desirable to have four A2 sciences when applying for sciences at top universities see e.g.

under Admissions. EPQ would not usually be considered a good substitute for a fourth A2 science.

For humanities and languages EPQ are much more valued.

TooHasty Tue 03-Feb-15 14:18:22

UILEN she says her Dc is doing 3 humanities plus maths.What earthly relevance does your link to natural sciences at Clare college, Cambridge have ?grin

uilen Tue 03-Feb-15 14:19:10

It was aimed at one of the people replying (whose child is doing sciences and looking to apply to university for biological sciences).

Poisonwoodlife Tue 03-Feb-15 14:22:06

If your DS is aiming high for university, and presumably it will be for a humanity or humanity related vocational course then an EPQ will give him a chance to develop the skills in research and developing in depth evidenced argument, and presentation skills that he will need at university. It is all very well preferring to know a little about a lot but that is not what will be required at university. Either university is not for him or he had better develop the motivation to know a lot about one thing hmm.

My DD found it very valuable, not just for the above reasons but that it gave her a chance to pursue an interest to see whether it was really something that she wanted to study in joint honours with a subject she was already studying. It also gave her a chance to understand that the humanities have a great deal of overlap, literature and art have a historical, political and philosophical context and in turn can shed light on the historical, political and philosophical perspective. So your son could get a chance to not just know a lot about a little but to know a little about a lot not confined by three narrow disciplinary boundaries wink

Personally as a Historian I think it is a no brainer.

And actually my Scientist daughter was really frustrated, and still regrets, she was not had been allowed to do an EPQ (they were trialling it and in the first year for some reason only allowed the projects proposed by Humanities students ) alongside her 4 Science A2 subjects, for the same reasons, the uni relevant skills gained and the chance to explore an interest in depth. She is now doing a Masters and the research team she is part of are focused on the area she proposed for her EPQ.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 03-Feb-15 15:14:41


For History, then, it would seem to have some value. How on earth do you come up with a subject? I have spied on the Student Room and other sites and it seems some pupils are, er, directed by their schools and other pupils are on their own. I saw one school had a list of titles for students to choose from hmm .

Who marks these EPQs? It seems like a return to the bad old days of coursework done by parents/teachers if there are no firm rules in place.

TalkinPeace Tue 03-Feb-15 15:21:12

Yes, I can see your link. DD has no intention of doing 4 science A levels, no matter what. But her targets fit with what the College is asking for, and the kind of stuff that she would do for her EPQ, if they do not like it, that is tough on them, not her.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 03-Feb-15 16:02:10

It seems a bit sad not to be able to think of a subject, how about setting aside half a day to sit in a library meandering through the shelves dipping in to different books. If you can't find something that inspires interest then perhaps university is not for you........

By A level the schools are very used to spotting parental input, very common for personal statements lovingly crafted by parents to be sent back in favour of something a bit more raw but genuine from a 17 year old. The whole point is to be studying something that neither parent or teacher would know much about in the depth required. What point would there be in parents / teachers doing it anyway, is the pupil going to take their parents / teachers along to university to write their essays there too?

Poisonwoodlife Tue 03-Feb-15 16:03:28

Incidentally at university too it is very common for students to pick their own subject for essays, they are not always given titles, so it would be another useful experience.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 03-Feb-15 16:28:27

I'm not daft - of course there's no point in a parent/teacher doing it, but in the arms race I'm sure that a fair few students do not play by the rules.

Yes, in an ideal world ds has had a burning desire to study, say, Rebellion in the Ming Dynasty since he was three years old, but in the real world he says he would be casting round for an interesting - and hitherto unmined - subject.

PeaStalks Tue 03-Feb-15 16:33:45

DS1 rejected an EPQ in favour of completing four subjects to A2, maths and sciences. However he knew that he wanted to do a Maths degree.
DS2 in Year 12 is completely at sea about what to do next. He is doing 3 sciences and maths at AS. He loved History at GCSE but was steered away from mixing science and humanities by the sixth form. I think an EPQ would be very good for him.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 03-Feb-15 16:39:52

Ds did have an idea, googled it, and someone has written a thesis on it already. Whaddaya do?

TalkinPeace Tue 03-Feb-15 16:50:38

This link is interesting

and for DD the PSC link to Soton Uni will make her options more amusing ...

Hakluyt Tue 03-Feb-15 17:39:34

Does it matter if someone's already written a thesis on it? I don't think they are expecting 17 year olds to come up with original research ideas! Dd's was on the problem of imposing western feminist values on Islamic cultures. Loads of stuff written about that already.

Poisonwoodlife Tue 03-Feb-15 18:14:10

I would say he has already found a source, just because someone has studied it before it doesn't stop your son coming up with his own research and ideas, that is exactly what academic study at university is about.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 03-Feb-15 18:21:02

Dd has enjoyed doing her EPq, though I'm not sure how much use it will be to her.

GirlsTimesThree Tue 03-Feb-15 18:48:16

DD2 did it and found it really useful (and enjoyable). It formed part of her offer from Bristol where she is now.
I can't believe there isn't something he finds interesting enough to study in more depth - it's limitless! If he's found something that someone else has written a thesis on, he could perhaps just take one aspect to look at more closely? Not that it matters. My DD looked at research a friend of ours is involved with and decided to do something along the same lines (along with work by other researchers involved in the same field).
The subjects studied within her peer group were wide ranging which made it interesting for the examiner!

Molio Tue 03-Feb-15 19:11:41

It really isn't in the same league as a PhD - just encourage him to wend his way to an idea that triggers interest and follow the spec.

TalkinPeace Tue 03-Feb-15 20:07:11

Surely its more like the fact that all of our third year Undergrad dissertations were linked to research areas of the department and later incorporated into mega projects

You take a topic that interests you and run with it - the fact that it crosslinks with other people's areas of interest, all the better .....

Molio Tue 03-Feb-15 22:11:11

My undergrad dissertation wasn't linked in any way at all, but it's an embarrassing read years later, especially in the context of my own DCs' undergrad dissertations which are far superior.

Haffdonga Tue 03-Feb-15 22:26:24

DS did his in Yr 12. He's now in Yr 13. It was a lot of work and he's going for Science courses at uni so they dont take into account his (very good) grade.

DS has said on a few occasions it's not worth the effort but it has been a massive help for him in writing his UCAS personal statement, uni interviews and helped him get relevant work experience too. He is now advising his younger brother to do one s can't be that bad.

They really need to be interested in the subject matter though becuase their life is going to become a bit immersed in it for a while!

BrendaBlackhead Wed 04-Feb-15 07:59:27

Well, had a chat with ds and in the light of opinions here and elsewhere on the net ds has decided he will do one instead of continuing with all four A Levels. And, what is more, he has decided on a subject, albeit one that a fair few people seem to have written about. But, as has been said, he's 16 (not even 17 yet) so I'm sure no one's expecting a doctoral thesis.

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