Many students are starting now to try and beef up their CVs/university applications, in the hopes of standing out from the crowd. EPQs are the way to do that, but is it actually worth it?
In this article we’ll be taking a look at the reasons behind EPQs, and why you should\shouldn’t be doing them. Read on for more info on the best addition to your A-Levels.
EPQs are not easy, unless you’ve got extensive experience in writing and project management. There’s an intense amount of work, and so you should only consider taking on an EPQ if your college work will fit alongside it.
An EPQ can be worth anywhere up to 28 UCAS points, so half an A-Level. This will not only show your ability to take on high workloads, but also your initiative and ability to work independently. Both universities and employers look for these qualities, so taking an EPQ is a good idea.
What Actually Is An EPQ (To Make Sure That We’re On The Same Page)?
An EPQ (or ‘Extended Project Qualification’) is basically a huge writing project that takes a long time, but you come out of it with half an A-Level. There are 2 types of EPQs, and you need to make sure you pick the right one for you.
The first type of EPQ involves a very long essay of about 5000 words. It needs to be based on a project you’ve done, about how you did the research and what your project is actually about.
At the end of it all you have to present it too, and talk about what you’ve done. This bit’s pretty easy, you just have to walk your examiner through your essay.
The other type of EPQ is more creative, and involves you creating an ‘artefact’. What this basically means is that you need to physically create something, like artwork or maybe a product.
Once you’ve made your artefact, you’ll have to write an essay about it. Don’t worry, this essay isn’t as long as the last one – just a few pages explaining what it actually is you’ve made and how you did it.
Both of these approaches to an EPQ are worth the same amount of UCAS points, a maximum of 28. The reason I say maximum is because an A* at A-Level is worth 56 UCAS points, and an EPQ is worth half of that (so 28).
The minimum that you can get, therefore, is 8 (if you get an E). Hopefully you won’t get an E in your EPQ if you choose to do one, because at that point it’s hardly worth having done it at all.
For more information on EPQs and their UCAS point equivalents, see the UCAS EPQ page.
If you decide to take an EPQ, you’ll do it alongside whatever A-Levels you’re currently studying. Students with 4 A-Levels are highly advised not to do an EPQ, as the workload they have is already very high.
All you have to do is make sure you can handle it, and you’re ready to take an EPQ.
Do Universities Give Special Consideration To Students Who Have Done EPQs?
EPQs are great and all, but do universities really care if you’ve got one?
The answer is yes, most definitely. Universities want to see differences in student’s applications, because they need the best and brightest to provide them with the best results.
An EPQ can be that difference for you. An EPQ will show any university that you have what it takes, and that you’re prepared to go the extra mile to ensure success.
Universities want their students to succeed, because it makes them look good. The better results a university gets, the more popular they’ll be, the more students will apply and so on and so forth.
Therefore, universities are only going to accept the best of the students that apply. That’s why you’ll want to stand out, because otherwise you might not get in.
Universities usually give more consideration towards the EPQ that doesn’t have an artefact in. Universities are for academically gifted students, and so that’s why universities want more writing from you as opposed to creative talent.
Even though either form of EPQ is worth the same amount of UCAS points, universities will still prefer you to have written a 5000 word essay. They’ll still appreciate an EPQ no matter what it’s about, but they’ll like it even more the more you write about it.
Universities will be more willing to let you on to related courses for an EPQ, such as English or written communication subjects.
If you’d prefer taking a subject that’s more numerical at university, you might want to consider taking something else – like A-Level Further Maths.
A-Level Further Maths is the better option for those of you interested in going into a maths related degree at university.
An EPQ just won’t cut it when it comes to degrees like this I’m afraid. It will help a little, but you’ll need something more if you want maths as a part of your university life.
When Will Having An EPQ On Your CV Help You?
EPQs are beginning to come into their own after college, and more and more opportunities are arising for those that have an EPQ. What exactly are those opportunities, and how can you make the most of them?
Perhaps the most obvious opportunity is university. EPQs will make you university application much easier, and you’re more likely to be accepted with an EPQ under your belt.
This is because universities get so many applications from a lot of students, and they look for distinguishing factors. A distinguishing factor for you could be an EPQ, and it could set you a level above other students without one.
An EPQ will also show universities that you can take on more than the average student. An EPQ shows initiative, something that many students lack (and something you can capitalise on).
If you’re not considering university however, there are still places where an EPQ will come into play. Employment is made significantly easier for students with EPQs, as I’m sure any post-college student will tell you.
Employers are on the lookout for people with EPQs on their CV, as they need workers who are prepared to go the distance. Employers need committed workers, and that’s what an EPQ is there for.
No matter what area of life you apply an EPQ to, it will usually help in some way. It’s something that you’ve done yourself (unlike A-Levels, where you have a teacher) and independence is highly important after college.
Even more so, an EPQ is great for qualitative applications. Things where you need written communication benefit from an EPQ, as it’s mostly essays and extended writing.
This includes loads of jobs like receptionists, journalists, and even event managers. There are many professions that require good written communication, and many university courses too.
If you’re thinking about going into a more quantitative profession such as accounting, you might want to consider A-Level Further Maths instead of an EPQ.
I won’t say much about it here, because there’s a whole article dedicated to whether you should take A-Level Further Maths or an EPQ here.
What Do Employers Think Of EPQs?
We know universities like to see EPQs, but do employers respect them as much?
An EPQ will show initiative in any field, be it university, employment, or anything else. An EPQ will always help you achieve your goal, even if that goal happens to be employment.
EPQs will work better if you tailor them to what job you want. For example, write about a controversial topic in business if you aspire to be an accountant or manager.
You’ll want to do this because then you can show your employer your EPQ and what it’s all about. Your employer will appreciate your aptitude for the job if they can see you’ve created a whole EPQ about it.
They’ll still appreciate the extra half an A-Level if it’s not about the profession you’re entering. It just helps if you’ve got a pre-conceived insight into a working environment.
You can also take the different types of EPQ according to what job you want to do. As you can probably guess, you should take the creative EPQ for creative jobs, and the extended essay EPQ for less creative jobs.
Employers will also appreciate the grade you get in your EPQ. Make sure you don’t get complacent with your EPQ – it’s still essential to get a good grade in it, as with any of your A-Levels.
Even though employers do like to see an EPQ, it’s not worth as much to them as it is to university. You’ll need other things on your CV alongside an EPQ if you want to an easier road to employment.
Employers nowadays are asking for experience, not qualifications. Of course, an EPQ is good to have and it will make employment easier, but experience is valued above it when it comes to getting a job.
For more insight into how important A-Levels are to employers, there’s a whole article dedicated to it. The most important thing to remember – EPQs will help you get employed, but don’t rely solely on them. Make sure you’ve got some experience under your belt too.
Is Taking 4 A-Levels Better Than Taking 3 A-Levels With An EPQ?
Lots of students decide to take an EPQ with their three A-Levels, but a few students decide to take a fourth instead. Which decision works the best, and what should you do?
I’d suggest taking an EPQ if you’re planning on going into a written communication or creative area. If you want to study something creative or at university, then an EPQ is probably your best shot.
An EPQ will help your applicability to a few specific areas. Universities can look at your EPQ and then give you special consideration for certain courses, depending on what your EPQ is about.
An EPQ is perfect if you already know what you want to go on to do. You can write about your chosen profession/passion, and then make it easier for yourself to proceed onto it after college.
Taking 4 A-Levels, on the other hand, is perfect for if you’re not quite sure what you want to do yet. A fourth A-Level can be anything you like, and it can keep your options open.
Unlike an EPQ, a fourth A-Level will make your application to university stand out no matter what you’re applying for. A fourth A-Level impresses universities, and shows them the same things an EPQ would – but without restricting your options.
The only problem is, taking a fourth A-Level is a lot harder than taking an EPQ with three A-Levels. The workload is significantly higher, and many more students struggle with four A-Levels than they do with an EPQ.
You’ll have to decide what’s best for you. Taking an EPQ that’s easier, but worth half the UCAS points – or taking that fourth A-Level to keep your options open.
What Are The Requirements To Take An EPQ?
An EPQ is no easy undertaking, and you have to be confident you can handle the workload if you want to take one. What exactly is required of you to take an EPQ, and what qualities do you need?
To take an EPQ, there’s not really any specific grade requirements. You can take an EPQ alongside A-Levels, a BTEC, an extended diploma, or pretty much anything else you can do at college.
What usually happens is your college assesses your capabilities, and then decides whether or not an EPQ is right for you. You can always argue for your case, but usually the college will just let you do an EPQ no matter what your situation is.
The only exception would be if you’re really struggling with what you’re already doing at college. One of my friends takes three A-Levels, but is really struggling with them – so she’s been advised not to take an EPQ.
Students that take 4 A-Levels are also advised not to take an EPQ. The workload they have already is too intense for half an A-Level to be put on top.
On the rare occasion, some students are allowed to take 4 A-Levels with an EPQ. I advise against this, as the only real benefit to this is higher UCAS points. It’s not worth risking your A-Levels for a few extra points on your record.
There are also a few qualities you’ll need if you want to not only take, but succeed in, an EPQ.
You’ll need to be hardworking and resilient if you want to keep up with both your regular college work and your EPQ. An EPQ will take up a lot of your time, but you need to be willing to devote the rest of it to your other commitments.
How Hard Is It To Get A Good Grade On An EPQ?
An EPQ will take up a lot of your time at college, and is by no means easy. How hard can an EPQ actually be, and how can you fit it around your other commitments?
Both versions of the EPQ require immense amounts of hard work and commitment. The creative one might be a bit easier however, as the work varies.
You can switch between creating your ‘artefact’ and writing about it with that type of EPQ. This allows your brain a break and makes it easier for you to stay focused and committed to the task at hand.
The extended writing EPQ (5000 word essay) is a little bit more difficult. The whole project is to write, and that’s it. You’ll lose motivation the longer you spend on the EPQ, and that will lead to difficulties down the line.
EPQs take different lengths of time to complete, depending on your work ethic. Some students can get the basics down in a couple of days, and then spend a few weeks revising and redrafting.
Other students will take longer, as their work ethic isn’t as good. EPQs can take months to complete if you’re not motivated enough to work hard on them.
The longer you take to complete your EPQ, the harder you’ll find it. This is because your motivation decreases the longer you spend on something – a common concept called the ‘pomodoro technique’.
If you do manage to work hard on the EPQ, however, it actually ends up not being that hard. All you need to do is research a project and write an essay about it – simple, right?
Many students underestimate how hard an EPQ is, because they forget they study courses at college too. Don’t fall into this trap – make sure you consider your other courses when judging whether or not you can take an EPQ.
How Many Students Get A Pass Grade On Their EPQ?
You might want to take an EPQ, but how likely is it that you’ll pass?
As of June 2017, 97.7% of people taking EPQs achieve an E grade or better. This sounds good, but there are a few hidden factors that you might not be aware of.
For one, only 17.7 % of students achieved an A* for their EPQ. That means only 17.7% of students earned the maximum of 28 UCAS points for all their hard work.
The majority of students earn an A for their EPQ, meaning 24 UCAS points. It’s not that much of a difference, but it can still mean the difference between getting into university and not.
You can see where I’ve taken these results from on the AQA website.
The other factor that’s not taken into account is that many students give up with their EPQ before they get a chance to submit their work.
Because their work never gets marked, they’re never taken into account when calculating pass rates. That means there’s a whole bunch of failed students that you just don’t see on the pass rate calculations.
So, even though pass rates look good (and are improving all the time) there’s still a chance that you won’t pass.
What you need to decide is whether or not you have the capability to get a pass in your EPQ. If you think you can handle it, go for it – there’s still a high chance you’ll pass if you put in the hours.
Just make sure that you can handle your other courses too. Spending too much time on an EPQ and neglecting your other courses can lead to you getting bad grades in all of them, and you might even end up with less UCAS points than you’d have if you didn’t take the EPQ.
What Type Of EPQ Should You Consider?
There are two types of EPQ – one with an ‘artefact’ and an accompanying short essay, and one that’s just a longer essay of 5000 words.
The decision of which one to do is a hard one, and many students get it wrong. You need to make sure you choose the right one for you before you get stuck in something that’s doomed to fail.
There are many reasons to go for the more creative EPQ, where you create something of your choice (be it artwork, a product, a program, a website, or anything of your choosing) and write a small essay about it.
This form of EPQ is great for those of you looking to go into creative jobs. The EPQ you do must be about what you aspire to be, or at least a controversial topic surrounding the profession area.
A good example of this is to make a computer program or game, and then write an essay about it. This, when you show it to employers, will give you an advantage over those without an EPQ.
It only really works well if you’re applying to a related job. A job in game design would work well with the above example.
I can only fit one example into this article, but if you’d like some help for what to base your EPQ on then take a look at this list of 600+ EPQ ideas.
I’d suggest taking this form of EPQ if you’re more of a creative person, or take creative courses at college. The EPQ will fit your personality (making it easier to complete) and will also go nicely with whatever qualifications you get at the end of college.
There are also many reasons you should take the other form of EPQ, where you complete a huge research project and write an essay of around 5000 words on it.
This form of EPQ is good for those of you looking to get into university or academic jobs. The EPQ will basically be a long piece of extended writing, and it will show that you can apply yourself to anything you want to.
Universities love to see this in students, especially those who take A-Levels. Having a successful EPQ on your university application will make it a lot easier for you to get in.
Ultimately, you just need to find what’s right for you – are you more of a creative person, or are you more academic? Do you want to go into a creative or academic job?
Figure this out, and you’re well on your way to a successful EPQ.
So, Should You Do An EPQ Or Not (The Long Answer)?
An EPQ is no easy feat, and it can sometimes be hard to decide whether or not it’s right for you. Should you take an EPQ, or should you stick with the course that you’re already doing?
Firstly, if you’re juggling around whether to-do either A-Level Further Maths or an EPQ, we have an entire article dedicated towards answering that question – you can check it out here.
Anyway, an EPQ will help you in any aspect after college, but most importantly, university and employment. An EPQ is a great accompanying qualification for your college subjects, and is worth half an A-Level (28 UCAS points).
Universities will appreciate an EPQ more if you’re going on to study a language and written communication course. Employers will appreciate an EPQ if it’s directly related to the profession you’re applying to.
You need to find the balance between how much work you can handle, and the number of UCAS points you want. The more UCAS points you have, the easier it will be to get into university.
Unfortunately, if you take on too much work at once, you’ll find yourself overworked and exhausted. This can lead to loss of marks in crucial exams, and consequently lower overall grades.
An EPQ can additionally lower university offers. If you get an A in an EPQ, you might not need to get such high grades in your other courses to be accepted into university.
This is great for those who can pull it off, but many students can’t. The extra workload of an EPQ pushes many students to their limit, and they find that grades in other subjects take a turn for the worst.
So in answer to the question, you should take an EPQ if you think you can handle it. There’s no question if it will be worth it, because EPQs are appreciated both at university and in employment.
You just need to figure out if you personally can take the extra work. Will it fit with your courses (A-Levels, BTECs, extended diplomas or other) and does it work for you long-term?
If you have decided to do an EPQ, your next stop on the “web” should definitely be to check out our list of over 600 EPQ project ideas for you to get your teeth into!
So, are you going to do an EPQ or not? Let us know by dropping a comment below!