How To Write An EPQ Essay

How To Write An EPQ Essay (Step-by-Step Guide)

In A-Level by Think Student Editor8 Comments

Whatever the reasons were for you choosing to write an EPQ, the grade you get is most definitely important to you. That is why I have written this (hopefully) detailed guide on how to write an EPQ.

1. Think Of An EPQ Topic That Genuinely Interests You 

EPQ Topic Idea
The most important thing to do before you even start your EPQ is to find a topic that actually interests you. Think about what you like, and focus your EPQ essay on that.

It’s important to choose an EPQ you’re interested in, or you may run into some problems. Many students take EPQs each year, and many students fail because they make this mistake.

If you don’t take an EPQ you’re interested in, you’ll have no motivation to work on it. This will be because you start to want to do other things, anything instead of your EPQ.

Think about revision, for example. Is it interesting? Nope. Would you rather be playing videogames, watching Netflix, or literally anything else? Yeah, me too.

If you’re not motivated to write your EPQ essay, then you’ll either not do it or do it badly. If you don’t work hard for it, you won’t get good marks – and therefore there’s less point in even taking it in the first place.

If you find an EPQ topic to write your essay on that genuinely peaks your interest, you’ll find it much easier to get better grades in it.

A more interesting EPQ essay topic will mean that your focus is better. This will result in a better EPQ, meaning more marks when you hand it in.

You’ll also enjoy the EPQ a lot more if you find it interesting. You’ll find the whole experience a lot more fun, and therefore a lot easier too.

To find an EPQ topic that genuinely interests you, you just have to think about what you like. There are lots of different things you can do, but you only get to choose once – so choose carefully.

And if you’re really stuck on ideas, take a look at this list of 600+ EPQ ideas that guarantee an A*. Any of these ideas will be great for your EPQ, so just choose one that interests you and that you’ll actually enjoy.

2. Create A Mind Map Surrounding Your EPQ Topic

How To Use Mind Maps Effectively For GCSE And A-Level Revision
You may have found an EPQ topic that interests you, but it might still be hard to write 5000 words on it. Luckily for you, a mind map could be just the thing you need.

A mind map is where you write down everything you know about a topic. In this case, you’d be writing down all the ideas and concepts surrounding your EPQ topic.

That way you can see everything you need to write about in your EPQ essay. You’re essentially making a mood board for whatever EPQ idea you’ve chosen, and it will help you get in the right mindset for the task ahead.

Mind maps are most commonly used to identify gaps in your knowledge. Students tend to use them when revising to work out what they don’t know, whilst also helping them consolidate what they do know.

In terms of your EPQ essay, a mind map will provide a loose structure for you to follow. You’ll come up with lots of different things you can write about, and that will make the essay a lot easier.

In addition to this, whilst creating your mind map you may even decide to change your topic entirely. You might find that the topic you’ve chosen isn’t giving you any idea inspiration, and so you move on to a different topic. 

To make sure you get your mind maps right, you might want to follow this helpful guideline. It’s mainly about studying, but the same things can be said for planning your EPQ essay.

Don’t try rushing in to your EPQ essay without first creating a mind map. Mind maps are more useful than most students think…

Mind maps will help you avoid getting lost in what you’ve written, what you’ve missed, and what you’re planning on doing. You can use your EPQ topic mind maps as a sort of checklist as you write your EPQ essay.

3. Use Your Mind Map To Think Of A Question Related To Your Main EPQ Topic

EPQ Topic Idea Question
Whether your chosen EPQ topic is Maths, English, Science, or anything else – you’ll need a question to write about. Without a question, you won’t have anything to write about, and 5000 words will be a lot harder to reach…

Many students forget to think about this, but it’s probably the most important part of your EPQ. If you get this bit wrong, you can say goodbye to a good grade in your EPQ.

The question relating to your EPQ topic of choice is what you’ll spend your time working on. The 5000 words you write will be about this question, and so it really needs to be a good one.

If you don’t make it a question that interests you, then you’ll find it harder to write as much about it. Find a question that genuinely peaks your interest (relating to your EPQ of course) and the rest will come naturally.

It’s also important, however, that you choose a question where there’s a lot to write about. If you choose a question with lots to write about, you can use that to your advantage when trying to reach those 5000 words.

However, if you don’t choose a question where there’s a lot to write about, you’ll find that your EPQ is slow and drains you. Not only that, but it’ll probably be worse in terms of grade too.

I’d suggest doing a little background research into your question before you start writing your EPQ essay. Just check that there’s lots to write about and then you can avoid starting something you can’t finish.

As a general rule, you’ll want questions that don’t have definitive answers. If you can find a question that is inconclusive, you’re onto a winner.

If you can’t be bothered to look up EPQ questions, then there’s an alternative. Take a look at this list of 600+ EPQ ideas that guarantee an A*.

4. Write Down Subtitles That Relate To Your Main EPQ Question

EPQ Structure
The next stage of this long process is to write down subtitles for your EPQ question. It may seem boring, but it can actually make the whole thing go by a lot faster.

Writing down subtitles for your EPQ question means that you’ll have a better idea of what’s actually going into your EPQ essay.

When you create your subtitles for your EPQ essay, you’re essentially writing down all the mini-topics you’ll write about. You split up the massive 5000 word count into smaller, more manageable parts.

I’d suggest making as many subtitles as you can that relate to your main EPQ question. Just go for a massive brainstorm (potentially using your mind map) to try and come up with lots of subtitles.

That way you maximize the chances of you making some actually good subtitles. You’ll have lots of options to choose from, and your EPQ will benefit from having such a varied range of points.

You also put yourself in the right mindset for your EPQ essay. You’ll be much more open to different ideas and approaches whilst actually writing the EPQ, and examiners will see this and give you extra credit.

However, you need to make sure that the subtitles you’re writing actually relate to your EPQ question. If they don’t, you could run into some serious problems.

If you choose to work on a subtitle that doesn’t wholly relate to your EPQ question, you risk filling up your word count with irrelevant information. That means less room for the important stuff, and less marks for you.

Make sure you check all your subtitles before you start writing. Work out what the plan is before you start writing, so that you don’t have to rewrite a large portion of your EPQ essay.

So grab a pen and paper, sit down, put on some nice music, and get to writing those subtitles.

5. Triple Check That Every Subtitle Question Actually Relates To The Main EPQ Topic

Check Your EPQ
You may have written and chosen the subtitles you want for your EPQ essay, but what do you actually do with them?

By this point, you should have around 16 subtitles that you want to include in your EPQ essay. 16 subtitles will give you a nice 300 word per subtitle guide, give or take a few.

Any more subtitles, and you run the risk of overcomplicating your EPQ. Any fewer, and you’ll struggle to reach that gargantuan 5000 word count.

It’s essential that you break down your EPQ essay into smaller modules like this, to make it easier for you in the long term. 16 subtitles will mean the best productivity for you when you actually come to write your EPQ essay.

The next step is to order your subtitles, for easier reading. You’ll want to make the layout of your subtitles as sensible and as easy to follow as possible for your examiner.

If you please your examiner like this, they’ll be more inclined to give you more marks. They mark you on your written communication, and therefore you’ll want to make sure you’re communicating the most effective way.

Try ordering your subtitles by the order of most important to least important. Laying out your subtitles this way will show your examiner that you’ve really thought about your EPQ and understand what they want to see.

Alternatively, you could lay out your subtitles chronologically. What I mean by this is that you start with your question, move onto research, then explanations, and finally a conclusion.

This is probably the best way to lay out your EPQ essay subtitles. It’s the easiest way to follow the process you went through, and examiners like to see EPQ essays that are laid out like this.

It’s how I laid my EPQ essay subtitles out, and I got an A* – so I’d suggest doing the same.

6. Allocate A Word Count To Each Element Of Your EPQ Structure

EPQ Word Count
That 5000 word count is quite daunting, and it’s hard to reach, believe me. Allocating word counts can make your life a whole lot easier when writing that EPQ essay.

You’ll want an introductory paragraph to start with, and that should only take about 200-300 words. Don’t go overboard with your introduction, as you should aim to make the bulk of your essay about your EPQ question.

I’ve already mentioned it, but you want to write about 300 words per subtitle. This is the perfect amount of words to write if you want the EPQ essay to go as smoothly as possible.

16 subtitles at 300 words each will put you at just under 5000 words – 4800, to be exact. That will leave you just enough room to add a short introduction too.

You can go for less subtitles, but that means a higher word count for each individual subtitle. If you make your word count per subtitle too high, then you’ll struggle when it comes to actually writing your EPQ essay.

You could also try more subtitles if you want, but that then means you’d write less per subtitle. That means there’s less room for all your explanation, and less marks when you hand it in.

I’d recommend keeping your subtitle count between 14 and 18. That way you give yourself the best chances of your EPQ being easier to write.

You also make it easier for you to enjoy, too. Making your EPQ essay subtitles this long means you’ll find it easier and less monotonous, and therefore you’ll enjoy it more.

The word count of each element in your EPQ essay has an impact on your productivity and focus, too. Generally, the shorter the piece of writing you have to do, the more productive you’ll be.

Setting yourself short-term goals like this will help you stay focused and make your EPQ that little bit better. It’s worth setting effective word counts for your EPQ essay elements for those extra marks.

7. Research, Research (And A Little Bit More Research)

Using YouTube For Revision
One of the most important aspects of an EPQ is the research. How much you do and the quality of it will affect your final grade, so it’s good to spend a lot of time researching.

Research should make up about 40%-50% of your total EPQ essay. That’s a lot of research, and you can see from this figure that quality research is crucial to your success.

The reason research takes up so much space is because you need to explore all opportunities within your question. Research will help you develop ideas and improve your knowledge of the subject, helping you to better answer your EPQ essay question.

And besides, who doesn’t want help reaching the massive 5000 word count?

There are many ways to research, with the most common being the internet, and books. Both ways of researching are valid and useful, but you still need to be careful.

Especially with the internet, you may come across facts and information that isn’t entirely accurate. This is because anybody can access anything, and usually the information you see online is edited by people who aren’t professionals.

Try to stay away from websites like Wikipedia, where anybody can change the information you see. There are much better alternatives out there, like Google Scholar for example.

Whereas with books, they have to go through a long-winded process to ensure they’re accurate. Books tend to be slightly more reliable than the internet, especially if they have an ‘exam-board approved’ label on them.

I’d also recommend keeping track of all the sources of your information, as you’ll have to write a bibliography at the end of your EPQ.

What that basically means is that you have to reference each individual source of information after you’ve written your EPQ essay. That’s just so examiners can check to see if you’re plagiarising any content, in case you were wondering.

8. Check That Your EPQ Structure Still Makes Sense

EPQ Structure
With all these steps and with all these words you have to write, it can be very easy to get lost in your work. By this point, you should be ready to start writing your EPQ essay, so you’ll need to go through and check it’s all okay.

You should have around 16 subtitles ready to go, in chronological order or order of importance. I’d suggest chronological order, but that’s up to you.

You should also have space to add an introduction and conclusion paragraphs. They shouldn’t take up too much space, but still leave some room for you to add them in.

You’ll actually want to wait until the end of your EPQ essay to write either of these paragraphs, so it might help to add placeholders until you get to writing them.

Around 7 of your subtitles should be based on research. You’ll want to leave yourself a nice amount of in-depth research, whilst also allowing room for all that explanation.

If you don’t give the right proportions for your research and explanation subtitles, your EPQ can become lopsided. Examiners will easily spot this and take away precious marks.

You’ll want your conclusion to be longer than your introduction, as you’re essentially summing up all that you’ve written. Your conclusion should be about the same size as your subtitles, but maybe just a little bit bigger.

If all else fails, just read through your structure and think about it from an examiners’ point of view. Does it all make sense? Are the subtitles in a sensible order? Have you left space for your introduction and conclusion paragraphs?

If you reckon you’ve got all these elements in the right order and the right sizes, you should be good to go. Just keep a clear focus on your EPQ essay question, and you can’t go wrong.

9. Write Down The Answers To Each Of Your Subtitles

Writing An EPQ
The time has come to actually start writing your EPQ essay, and you’ll want to start with your subtitles. It may seem odd not to start with the introduction, but everything happens for a reason…

Start with your subtitles to get the main bulk of your EPQ essay underway. The quicker you get your subtitles done, the sooner you can finish your EPQ.

Starting your subtitles first is a good idea, as they make up most of your EPQ. You’ll want to get them done first, and then you have time after that to work on the finer details.

As I’ve said, your subtitles should be around 300 words long. This will allow you just enough space to answer the subtitle, without repeating yourself or going overboard.

If you go too far over 300 words, you risk either repeating yourself or just extending your points so much that your words become empty. Empty words = no marks, which is what you definitely don’t want.

If you don’t write 300 words, the points you make are likely to be underdeveloped. This means you can’t get into the top band of marks no matter how good what you’re saying is – there’s just simply not enough of it.

Of course, if you think you can express yourself in more or less than 300 words, go for it. Everybody’s different, and some people have better writing skills than others.

The amount of words you write per subtitle can also depend on how many subtitles you have. If you have less subtitles, you write more words per subtitle, and vice versa – simple maths.

Try to explore every possibility within your subtitle. The more routes you go down and the further the detail you go into, the more marks you’ll get from the examiner.

10. Write The Introduction And Conclusion Paragraphs

Intro And Conclusion Paragraphs EPQ
After you’ve written your subtitles, you’ll want to move on to your introduction and conclusion paragraphs. Unlike the previous step, there’s no order in which to complete these – do whichever one you want to first.

Your introduction paragraph needs to be slightly shorter than your average subtitle paragraph. Usually about 200-300 words, the introduction will basically talk about what’s to come in your EPQ essay.

If you make your introduction too long, you waste space that you might need for your research/explanations. You also take up space that could be used for your conclusion, which is very important.

It’s a good idea to write your introduction paragraph after you’ve written all of your subtitles. It may sound odd, but there’s method to the madness.

If you write your introductory paragraph last, it’ll be a lot more accurate than if you’d have done it at the start. You’ll know exactly what’s in your EPQ, and therefore your introduction can accurately ‘introduce’ your essay.

Your conclusion paragraph should be slightly longer than your average subtitle, and definitely longer than your introduction. I’d say about 400 words, your conclusion should sum up everything you’ve talked about in your EPQ essay.

Your conclusion should essentially answer the question you asked at the start of your EPQ essay. You should aim to include everything you talked about in your other subtitles (that’s why it’s a little bit longer).

You’ll obviously want to write your conclusion paragraph after everything else, or you’ll have nothing to conclude. Once you get on to your conclusion, you’re on the home stretch.

11. Get Someone To Proof Read It To Make Sure There Are No Errors

Get Someone To Proof Read Your EPQ
The final step in this long process is to proof read your work. Better still, get someone else to do it.

Proof reading your EPQ essay is so, so, SO important to your success. If you don’t proof read your EPQ essay, you may miss some pretty crucial mistakes…

I’m not just talking about the spelling mistakes you may have made (although you might want to fix those too). I mean the mistakes where you contradict yourself, go off topic, or even just get your facts wrong.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain it, but these mistakes will cost you dearly when your EPQ gets examined. Sometimes just a few marks can be the difference between an A and an A*, so you need to maximize your chances of success.

A good way to ensure your EPQ essay is perfect is to get someone else to look through it. Having a second opinion ensures that everything you’ve written is accurate and concise, and it’s better than just checking through it yourself.

If you rely on your own methods of checking through your work, you’re more likely to miss mistakes. Having a fresh perspective on your work broadens the chances of catching every mistake you make.

It doesn’t matter who you get to check your work. You can ask friends, family, or even your teachers/tutor – just get it proof read before you send it off to be marked.

If you need to check through it for spelling mistakes or wording issues, there’s a handy little trick I used for my EPQ essay. Paste your entire essay into google translate, and have it read out to you.

That way you can listen and check for anything that’s not quite right, and sort it out in time for your EPQ essay to be examined.

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3 years ago

Thanks so much for the help !

Alec Jones
Alec Jones
3 years ago

This is so, so helpful, thanks so much!

Tom Bell
Tom Bell
2 years ago


2 years ago

How many resources should I have for my EPQ?

Reply to  phoenix
2 years ago

20-25 should be the right number

1 year ago

Hi, thanks for the cool tips! I will definitely keep it for myself

1 year ago

Hello, thanks for the cool advice, but the most difficult thing for me is 1 point – to think through the topic itself. Therefore, already at the first stage, I give up and turn to the college essay writing service. This service helped me more than once or twice. My friends also use it. Also, it is difficult for me to create a mental map, which is in point 2. Therefore, I would rather spend my writing time on purposes that are useful to me.

Last edited 1 year ago by John
1 year ago

This is so useful! I have been working on my EPQ over the past few weeks and have had a few big quandries about how I should go about forming an answer to my question and this has made it much clearer. Thank you!