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3 big benefits of an Extended Project Qualification

At the University of East Anglia’s Teachers’ and Advisers’ Conference this summer, education lecturer, Dr Westrup, talked about the Extended Project Qualification and the advantages it brings. Here she provides teachers with three encouraging benefits to share with their students.

Every year thousands of A Level students are choosing to undertake the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) alongside their subjects. The project, an extended piece of research, gives learners an opportunity to specialise in a particular area of interest and create a dissertation-style write-up. If you are aware of students who haven’t signed up for an EPQ yet, or students who are not quite sure if it’s for them, here’s some points that you can, as their teacher or adviser, encourage them to consider:

Students at computers

Reason 1

It gives academic confidence and provides a head-start for university

Because the EPQ is an independent research project, you can learn about and begin to develop the higher level skills that are essential for university study. As part of the EPQ process you will learn about, and demonstrate your ability to search for, various information and check the authenticity of sources, plan a project, construct and support arguments, write academically and disseminate research while all the time building on your critical thinking skills.

One first year university student, who previously completed an EPQ, said:

“The practice of research and independent learning was great preparation for the university experience”

Similarly, a Head of Sixth Form described EPQs to me as:

“A superb vehicle for delivering students’ independent study skills”.

Reading and gathering information is a central part of the project and gives you the opportunity to utilise local resources. You can visit university libraries to gain an insight into the size and scale of them and to experience studying in that environment. At the University of East Anglia (UEA) students from local sixth forms can use the library and gain support from academics and mentors who are university students themselves.

Students working

Reason 2

It helps students **”STAND OUT!”**

Writing about your EPQ in your UCAS personal statement shows university admissions that you have the passion, skills and determination to carry out research and it distinguishes you from other students. It also helps develop skills that employers value in the workplace. You can write your work up as a dissertation-style report or you can choose to present it in a range of different mediums, such as a performance or game. This helps to demonstrate transferable skills in addition to academic ones.

Students in study group

Reason 3

It allows students to satisfy their curiosity and improve their knowledge

In the words of a Head of Sixth Form, speaking about the EPQ:

“This is a qualification that liberates a student from the confines of an often narrow curriculum and allows them to pursue an area which they are really passionate about. Indeed, you become the ‘expert’ in your chosen field and from this comes academic confidence.”

Rather than just studying the syllabus for assessments, the EPQ allows you to explore in great detail a particular subject interest. With the support and guidance of teachers you can investigate something that you are really curious about – something that you have always had questions about – in depth and share your findings with your friends, school and others who share such interests.

If you have any questions about this article, please share them in the comments below, or email us:

Posted by Dr Rebecca Westrup on Wed, 8 Feb 2017

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Rebecca Westrup is a Lecturer in Education and joined the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong learning in 2011. In addition to researching academic writing and the construction of identities, Rebecca is interested in learning, teaching and research methodologies which explore the construction of identities across cultures. She has developed, co-taught and delivered short English Language, Literacy and Learning programmes in South Africa, India and Malawi.

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