AQA Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) at Boston Grammar School

An EPQ can help students stand out when applying for competitive university places and carries a weighting of up to 28 UCAS points for the A* grade.

The idea is for students to show that they can identify and pursue a manageable independent research theme by doing the following things:

  • Identify clear title, aims and objectives for their research
  • Carry out extensive and detailed wider research
  • Reference research sources in an appropriate recognised manner
  • Manage and complete a project including a high quality written report
  • Show detailed project planning with time management evidence
  • Reflect on progress and outcomes and show evidence of reasoned decision making to achieve goals
  • Be able to present their findings confidently and effectively to a non-specialist audience
  • Show evidence of monitoring progressing work throughout the project

The theme of the EPQ project must be selected by the student however students will have regular meetings with a supervising staff member to offer guidance. Students must complete a written report of up to 5000 words or a shorter 1500 research report and an artefact / product they have made based on their research. Examples of artefacts have included stage production, edited video recording, functional computer software, 3D design work, performance or creative writing. It is important to remember that if you choose to make an item, the artefact must be based on the research findings.

Students must not use content of their A level courses for the EPQ but themes can extend from A level subject areas and align with career interests. This is one thing your supervisor will check. Alternatively, students may choose a project out of personal interest which has no connection to their A level routes or career ambitions.
All projects must be discussed with staff and approved before they go ahead which is the purpose of the first two meetings with a supervisor.

Staff are not allowed to give formative marking and feedback on how to improve the work. Nor are staff allowed to direct the project and tell students what to include, where to research or how to answer their self-identified research question. The course hinges on TERMINAL HOLISTIC ASSESSMENT – this means the work can only be marked once at the point of submission. Staff can however offer general guidance for example on the layout of work, or raise questions to encourage students to reflect on their own work. Responsibility for the completion of work falls on the student – the course is voluntary and work is independently completed, not teacher lead.

The EPQ is undertaken in private study or independent learning time in addition to students’ standard A-level timetable. With this in mind it is important to consider workload before embarking on an EPQ and prospective students must be committed to spending time each week developing their project while also managing the A-level study commitment.

Students must also engage with 30 hours or equivalent of taught skills sessions delivered by staff (usually on a Tuesday after school) to provide them with the understanding of the course and a range of skills required to ensure that the submitted report reaches an acceptable standard of writing similar to the format of a university level academic essay.

The content of these sessions may include aspects such as:

  • What is research?
  • Harvard Referencing
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Managing your time well
  • Evidencing time management with GAANT Charts and planning
  • Structure, Format and layout of academic written reports
  • Introduction to the Candidate Record Form
  • Understanding the marking structure of the EPQ
  • Presentation skills
  • Using your voice well when presenting
  • How to approach professional people to support your research
  • Academic writing and research

The student’s progress throughout the project is tracked using the candidate record form and production log which contains multiple important sections for both student and staff to complete. This form carries a significant amount of marks and is an important part of the marking evidence.

Students must submit:
A written report of up to 5000 words or 1500 words with artefact where appropriate. (Photographs or electronic recordings of artefacts as appropriate are submitted)
A fully completed candidate record form.
Evidence of their presentation usually in the form of slides used.

How does this work in practice?
Typically, a student will attend skills lessons from October in year 12 once per week.
They will meet with supervisor at lunchtimes or during study periods to identify their theme from October to December.
Projects are approved from October to December
Students spend the rest of year 12 completing reading, research and referencing of sources as they gather in relevant information to use in the report. Where an artefact is being made this process can run in parallel to the reading and research.

Students continue to attend skills sessions as arranged by the coordinating member of staff.
Students meet several times with the supervisor to check on progress and update the candidate record form.
Essays are drafted between August and December.
Presentation slides and practices with further skills coaching happens from January to March and presentations happen in early April in front of a small audience of students and staff.
Once submissions are made, staff assess the work to award a mark out of 50 and this is cross checked by another staff member (internal standardisation).
Marks are shared with the student in score form (not a grade). If the student objects to the grade, the work is checked by a senior staff member.
Marks are submitted by mid-May in year 13 and all submissions are posted to an exam board moderator who will check the accuracy of marking and if necessary amend scores for the centre.
Grade results published on a-level results day.

If you are interested in the EPQ course please let Mr Lyon and Mr Morris know and once the autumn term is underway, arrangements will be made for the start of skills sessions and allocation of a supervisor.