I thought I’d do a post on the EPQ qualification that many students in sixth form or college do since I’ve recently completed mine and thought I’d give my own opinions and talk through my whole process. 🙂
The Extended Project Qualification is a qualification aimed at sixth form students to develop and extend an area of interest, either an academic topic or an activity not covered at school.
The project involves:
- choosing an area of interest
- deciding on a title and aims
- planning, researching and carrying out the project – the project can be an essay, an artefact, a presentation or even an event or performance!
- delivering a presentation to an audience
- providing evidence of the process for assessment
This qualification is the equivalent of an AS level and you are expected to complete roughly 120 hours on the entire thing. Sound scary? It really isn’t. Sound like a lot of work? It is. Is it worth it? Yes and No.*
I was offered the opportunity to complete the AQA qualification last June after my AS exams. I had thought about this qualification and knew that lots of other students took it so I thought ‘why not?’
Choosing a topic
I knew I wanted to combine Classics and Science (Physics/Chemistry) as these are two subjects that I want to pursue at university and I’d never studied anything which allowed these subjects to overlap. I emailed academic professors at different universities who specialised in ancient science and I was given reading lists and lots of suggestions. A frequent one which sounded interesting was the development of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar (I had briefly touched upon this whilst studying Cicero in Classical Civilisation) so I considered doing that as I knew the dates were determined by the stars and planets. However this topic didn’t really interest me as much as other topics and suggestions did so I decided to focus on the planets, stars and the universe along with ancient religion. I came up with the question:
How much did the Greeks and Romans know about the cosmos and to what extent is it reflected in their religious beliefs?
I would definitely recommend thinking carefully about the topic you want to do your project on because it is the most important aspect. Make sure that it is an area you are truly interested in because it will mean that you’ll find yourself wanting to research it and you won’t end up putting it off! Also make sure that your question is really specific and not too broad or vague otherwise you won’t be able to answer it in enough depth.
The first steps after deciding on a title were to fill in the production log pages. These included the ‘Initial Planning’ and the ‘Project Proposal A’. I outlined what I planned to do next and what sort of product I was aiming for. I was going to break down my research into four sections: Greek knowledge on the cosmos, Greek religion, Roman knowledge of the cosmos and Roman religion. These were discussed with my supervisor and then the pages were filled out accordingly. The log pages are really long and sometimes annoying and tedious to fill out but make sure they are in as much detail as possible because there is a big weighting on the pages – lots of marks can be lost here!
The research is another important element of the project as it is the basis for your final product. I chose to write a 5000 word essay answering my question but I could have created a model, made a video/documentary or even planned an event. I used the relevant books on my suggested reading lists from academics and I also used Google Scholar (a fab search engine which provides articles and citations!) to ensure I had a variety of different sources. When using websites I was also careful and chose ones which seemed the most reliable. However, when I was researching Greek knowledge of the cosmos, I soon came to realise that actually, there was only one available source which was relevant: a Greek poem by a guy called Hesiod. This was a Greek creation myth that the Greeks supposedly believed and it didn’t even contain any factual scientific knowledge. I then had to adapt my title to ensure that I had enough material to write my essay:
How much did the Greeks and Romans know about astronomy and to what extent is it reflected in their religious beliefs?
By changing the word ‘cosmos’ to ‘astronomy’, I was able to focus on not just the origin of the universe, but also the planets and stars. This also allowed me to use a much wider variety of sources with much more information to work with.
A piece of advice I would give is to keep a note of all the resources you use as you go along so that when it comes to the Bibilography, you are sorted.
Ugh, this is probably the hardest part. Once you have collected your research and gathered your notes, you’ll have to sit down and start writing your essay to answer the question. I began to form my own conclusions about the Greeks before I had finished researching their knowledge of astronomy so I knew which direction my essay was heading (unless I found some drastic research which proved me wrong). I wrote about individual astronomers and what they had discovered and then expanded on whether there were any religious links. I continued to write my essay and didn’t realise that I wouldn’t actually have enough space to write about the Romans and their views. This meant that I either had to cut down the information I had written on the Greeks by an enormous amount (and thus making it far less detailed and in-depth), or I had to change my title yet again. I changed my title.
How much did the Greeks know about astronomy and to what extent is it reflected in their religious beliefs?
By changing my title, I was being much more specific and the title now allowed me to give a much more detailed answer in the depth that I wanted. Had I kept the Romans in, my essay wouldn’t have been as good and my knowledge would not have been as thorough. Whilst writing the essay I developed more skills and I learnt how to reference using footnotes – it looks so professional now!
Take your time on the essay and don’t be afraid to alter your title to improve your overall project! So long as you have justifications for your changes, you won’t be penalised. Also make sure that you are referencing your sources with footnotes at the end of each page as well as having a bibliography at the end.
Another important aspect. My presentation was to an audience of twenty non-specialist students, my supervisor, my form tutor and the EPQ co-ordinator. I did a Prezi presentation found here. I basically summarised my entire project, including my final product (the essay), and described the process to the audience.
I would definitely recommend using Prezi as it’s different to PowerPoint and can be made to look quite cool and fancy, but if you’re not into all that then that’s absolutely fine! Prepare for the presentation by doing rehearsals and making sure you don’t go over the time limit (if you have one!) and make sure you’re prepared to answer questions from the audience based on your presentation.
My EPQ journey was certainly a challenge, but one which I thoroughly enjoyed. I developed a range of skills and feel knowledgeable on my chosen topic. I’ve been exposed to complete independent learning and understand the importance of self-motivation now. It’s a tough project but one which anyone who puts their mind to can do! I genuinely thought I was going to have to drop out of the qualification because I was really behind with my research over the summer holidays (my school was given from June until October to finish it) and ended up spending two weeks dedicated to the EPQ and managed to complete it – wouldn’t recommend this. Now I’ve finished my EPQ and I’m about to hand it in for submission next week.
Good luck and don’t hesitate to ask any questions!