The Extended Project Qualification is quickly becoming a popular alternative to AS levels in many schools. However, they have hidden limitations which aren’t obvious at first glance, preventing some students from being able to take full advantage of the system through no fault of their own.


How has the EPQ become so popular? Many schools, such as Parmiter’s School in Garston, promote heavily the EPQ, particularly in the more recent years. Firstly, it offers higher UCAS points than an AS level, allowing students to achieve up to a grade A*, whereas AS levels have the top grade as an A.  With the wide range of subjects on offer, an EPQ can strengthen a student’s application into competitive subjects, such as medicine, showing a student’s particular interest and passion for the area they are looking to study. Furthermore, you can do a project on a subject that interests you, either going more in depth into a particular area or looking at a subject that isn’t offered at your school.


However, the EPQ isn’t a foolproof programme. Whilst the idea seems to be that you can look into any topic you like, there are many restrictions placed by the mark scheme which prevent certain ideas from being explored. More specifically, there is a requirement to have a variety of types of sources for the higher marks. This can be difficult for various subjects; personally, I wanted to undertake a project on Ancient History, yet this would limit me in terms of sources, to primarily academic articles and books, rather than a range: newspaper and magazine articles; podcasts; documentaries; and questionnaires and surveys. To overcome this issue, I turned my question into a comparison to the modern day, to provide the required range. While this doesn’t stop me from looking into this area of history, I was prevented from looking at it in the manner I wanted: focusing exclusively on the topic versus also looking at modern times. This is a specific restriction, yet it serves to highlight the lack of freedom that the EPQ truly offers, when students are forced to jump through hoops to form a project that has a hope of obtaining the desired marks, rather than a project based off passion and interest.


Overall, the Extended Project Qualification is by no means a bad programme to take part in, and can be invaluable for many, aiding with university and job applications. However, the restrictions of the scheme need to be made known, and fixed, to allow students to take as much away from it as they possibly could.


Annabel Thomas