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EPQ - pros and cons

(27 Posts)
AChickenCalledKorma Wed 01-Nov-17 22:01:30

DD1 is in year 11 so we are looking at sixth form options. There are two realistic options and one of the differences between them is that the first encourages more able students to do an EPQ and the other doesn't.

School 1 says the EPQ is a good way to demonstrate passion for your subject, gives you something to talk about at university interviews and is a great chance to explore your interests outside the curriculum. This seemed entirely plausible until we went to school 2, where the teacher in charge of Oxbridge preparation who said they don't offer it because universities aren't that interested and students are better to focus on A level results.

DD1 is extremely able and contemplating applying to Oxbridge - probably in the sciences. I like the idea of her being able to do something that doesn't have a set curriculum. She's pretty self motivated and I think it would be good for her to have the opportunity to go a bit off piste. I'm interested in others' experience.

mumsneedwine Wed 01-Nov-17 22:10:34

Some Unis give lower offers with an EPQ. And def gives them something to talk about at interview as well as improving their research skills

EllenJanethickerknickers Wed 01-Nov-17 22:16:44

DS1 was encouraged to do one by his 6th form. He was doing Maths, FM and Physics so it was a good exercise in writing an extended essay, a skill he wasn't practising with his A level choices. He was advised that the subject matter shouldn't reflect the subject syllabuses too closely but could be related. They started them in second half of Y12 and finished them by Oct half term in Y13 so they were out of the way.

DS was only doing 3 A levels, many in his sixth form were doing 4 (or even 5!) and they may have been too much work for little gain for those DC. They were encouraged to do them but they were not compulsory.

DS surprised me by getting an A when essay type subjects were not his strong point.

Only one of his university offers included the EPQ. So if it has taken too much time from his A level subjects it would have been a mistake. As it was he enjoyed the research if not the write up and I think it was a good skill to practise.

If your DD is doing all essay type subjects, it may not be much benefit. Check to see if likely universities include them in their offers. DS's one offer would let him drop one grade on his 3rd subject (physics) if he got an A or A* in his EPQ. The other universities weren't interested, but he was applying for maths.

shaaan1329 Wed 01-Nov-17 22:36:35

I did EPQ in year 12 and found it extremely useful and it was a topic of conversation in my interviews for university but only because I wrote about something relating to my degree (Law).

As a science degree isn’t essay based I’d say if she’s doing other essay based subjects then leave EPQ unless she has a good topic/hypothesis and she is going to relate it to something scientific.

NorthernLurker Wed 01-Nov-17 22:53:25

I think it's a good extra for a bright child who can cope With the work. Dd1 did it, she was applying for medicine and got interested in hip fractures as she was volunteering on the hip fracture ward. She got an A* which is nice to have and it definitely came in handy for med school interviews and actually also for preparing her for the degree. It wasn't included in her offers but I don't think it hurt to have it iyswim.

flissfloss65 Wed 01-Nov-17 22:58:23

My ds has done his EPQ on a history topic and it has really helped to improve his independent research skills.

An added bonus is quite a few universities drop a grade if you gain a B or A for your EPQ.

NorthernLurker Wed 01-Nov-17 23:00:12

That's a good point about the dropped grade. Dd made hers but her friend dropped one this year and still got in to medicine. She did an EPQ too.

Lemoncurd Wed 01-Nov-17 23:04:47

My DD's school also sold them as a huge boost for those considering Oxbridge (the word 'essential' may even have been used). Also for enhancing their research, project work report writing and presentation skills which can be applied across all areas. She did one in yr 8 (subject of her choice), one in yr 9 (RE/philosophy) and will be expected to do another in the 6th form.

GHGN Thu 02-Nov-17 06:52:39

You should do some research about it. In my very limited experience, none of the students that I taught/coached/did mock interview for and went on to get offers from Oxbridge in Maths, Physics or CS never did the EPQ. What they all had in common was very good problem solving skill honed by doing a lot of extra Maths like the Maths challenges, Olympiad Maths, be part of school Maths team that train and compete or taking part in extra regular Maths classes outside normal lessons.

Fifthtimelucky Thu 02-Nov-17 07:46:26

They are absolutely not essential for Oxbridge. My children’s school, which usually gets around 20 students a year to Oxbridge, doesn’t offer the EPQ. It takes the view that no universities require them and that students are better devoting their study time to their A levels.

WhatHaveIFound Thu 02-Nov-17 08:05:36

All the sixth form options that we've visited have mentioned EPQ but one of them recommended doing it on a completely different subject to those being studied at A level. Is this advisable?

cathyandclare Thu 02-Nov-17 08:16:13

DD and a few of her friends dropped them to focus on getting the grades. Cambridge didn't seem in the slightest bit interested in it (although they were asked before application, so not after getting an offer with an EPQ on UCAS) and a number of other Russell Group Unis weren't bothered when friends dropped them, even after getting offers.

The school sold them as 'essential'. Which, really does not appear to be the case. I do, however, think they can be useful for PS material, particularly for students with less super-curricular stuff.

ReinettePompadour Thu 02-Nov-17 12:33:08

Our school sells them as essential too but none of the universities we have visited this term consider them essential and a few commented that dd would be better off ensuring she got the firm grades required instead.

I think if your child is expected to gain a definite A/B grade at A Level and they dont struggle with their time management then why not do EPQ. However if your dc struggles then adding extra work for them is not a good idea as they wont gain anything from doing it.

Malbecfan Thu 02-Nov-17 13:17:06

They are indeed not essential for Oxbridge but they can be very useful. DD (18 & first year at Oxbridge) did an EP. She was asked about it in all her interviews. 2 institutions stated that they would drop a grade from their offer if she achieved above a certain mark (not Oxbridge).

A few years ago, a young man I taught in the same school did a brilliant EP. He had a nightmare time at home during his 6th form and dropped 3 grades in one subject he needed for uni. His EP got him the place at the original institution. It can and does happen.

Southampton University are very keen on the EPQ and we use some of their materials at school. EPs can add an extra dimension to a 6th form programme and done well, demonstrate the ability to research, sift and evaluate information, all of which are desirable skills that many university courses demand.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Thu 02-Nov-17 13:30:37

All the sixth form options that we've visited have mentioned EPQ but one of them recommended doing it on a completely different subject to those being studied at A level. Is this advisable?

It does not have to be on a completely different subject but they have to show that there is no danger of dual accreditation - so if they were to do a History EPQ and were also doing History A Level, they couldn’t choose a topic that was on the History curriculum to also research for their EPQ.

YellowPrimula Thu 02-Nov-17 14:50:54

We are in a similar situation , our sixth form's view is that it's totally up to the pupils there is no hard sell but that education is about more than just grades and as a skills based qualification it is good prep for university work. I was also interested to see that a large part of the mark(40%) is for planing , evidencing of research and keeping to a timetable etc and reading the comments from Academics on here it seems to me that these are skills that many 18 year olds lack .

I was looking at some university websites yesterday and was interested to see that some eg Sheffield for economics actually state a reduced offer for a relevant EPQ (AAB to ABB +B).Also Manchester offer an online skills course for year 12s doing the EPQ , so it is definitely gaining popularity.

Dc is very able and is keen , our sixth form doesn't do General studies etc and no AS levels as they try to keep exams to a minimum unlike the alternative sixth form which still insists on 4 AS plus General studies, so I think he will give it a go.

Mrskeats Thu 02-Nov-17 14:54:09

My eldest missed one of her grades by one level but did an epq in the subject she wanted to study at degree level. She got into her course. I think they are useful and good practice for uni work as they involve independent research and study (i’m a teacher too so have knowledge in a professional sense too)
Russell group unis like them

AChickenCalledKorma Thu 02-Nov-17 17:44:59

This is all very interesting stuff.

My tentative take on the two schools' positions is that School 2 is extremely focussed on performance tables and possibly feels that the EPQ is a bit "unmeasurable" and might detract from a student's performance on the exams that are counted. School 1 prides itself on providing a rounded education and lots of opportunities, but potentially results can suffer because students are doing loads of other stuff.

At the moment, DD1 is at School 1 and doing extremely well. So I'm somewhat predisposed to listen to their take on the EPQ. But only if DD1 is genuinely interested in doing something different, and not with a view to it counting for anything in terms of university offers.

Mrskeats Thu 02-Nov-17 17:47:52

The epq needs to be passed and it’s graded so not sure how that is ‘unmeasurable’?

BertrandRussell Thu 02-Nov-17 17:53:05

My dd says that her EPQ was one of the most useful things she did in 6th form- she's doing an essay heavy degree and it really helped having done a long bit of writing and a proper bibliography and stuff.

littlewhitething Thu 02-Nov-17 17:58:21

Dare I ask what an EPQ is, without seeming really stupid ?

EllenJanethickerknickers Thu 02-Nov-17 18:08:59

An extended project qualification, so like a mini dissertation. Worth about the same as an AS in UCAS points.

lljkk Thu 02-Nov-17 18:16:29

I have a similar DD (although mine thinking of medicine & definitely doesn't like Oxbridge med. programmes). DD is now doing Ext. Proj. at GCSE but not considering it for A-level.

I can see how EPQ could be helpful for kids very certain of what courses they want to aim for.

YellowPrimula Fri 03-Nov-17 11:13:50

This is what Oxford have on their admissions website, actually its more positive than I thought it would be . Definitely not compulsory though .

Extended Projects

Where applicants have undertaken the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), this will not be a condition of any offer but the University recognises that the EPQ will provide an applicant with the opportunity to develop research and academic skills relevant for study at Oxford. Candidates are encouraged to draw upon relevant EPQ experience when writing their personal statement.

Rose0 Fri 03-Nov-17 12:31:37

I think that while EPQs aren’t technically useful for applying to a lot of universities (they’re unlikely to feature in many offers, though on results day it the offer was AAA and the student got AAB + A or A* at EPQ it might save them) top competitive unis (especially Oxbridge) definitely like and respect them from what I’ve heard. DD did one and talked about it in her Oxford interview (although this was English) and it just shows an ability to work in that sort of university style. It’s unlikely to hugely impact the application, but it is often extra evidence of motivation and enthusiasm for the chosen subject (which for Oxbridge, and unis like UCL etc, is huge).

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