Extended Project Qualification

Initially developed for gifted students, we encourage all our students to undertake the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

Course specification: AQA: 7993, UCAS points awarded: 70 (half an A Level)

An opportunity for all

At St Mary's, we believe that the EPQ allows students across the ability range to develop valuable skills, in a way that suits their particular interests and learning style.

What is an EPQ?

Course specification: AQA: 7993

The EPQ is a recognised qualification, awarded on completion of a research project on any topic. Students research a topic and then produce one of the following:

  • Research based written report
  • Production (e.g. a charity event, fashion show or sports event)
  • An artefact (e.g. a piece of art, computer game or realised design)

Completing the EPQ requires self-discipline, creative and critical thinking, resilience and independent research, skills that are highly-valued by universities and employers.

Freedom to stand out

The EPQ is a chance to be original and individual, free from the limited syllabus structure of A Levels. We support our students to pursue topics that reflect their individuality and talents.

Why St Mary's

We offer exceptional support to ensure you get the most out of the EPQ qualification. 30 hours of guided learning hours enable you to develop key skills such as: research, identifying suitable sources of information, project management and referencing techniques.

Some of our students benefit from support from Cambridge University departments, with recent examples including support from the Autism Research Centre, access to key manuscripts and music, as well as personal support for a project on medieval art work.

Former EPQ topics

  • Technology as a tool to combat human trafficking
  • How English is the music of Henry Purcell, 'England's greatest composer?
  • An analysis of possible explanations of psychopathy, with particular reference to violent offences
  • What have physics and biology contributed to the psychological research behind language acquistion?
  • Anorexia: the hidden enemy from within
  • Should gifted children be accelerated?
  • Child marriage in Nigeria
  • Obesity: nature or nurture?
  • Factors leading to the breakdown of apartheid in South Africa
  • Can I make an outfit out of food, like Lady Gaga's 'meat dress'?

More examples of EPQ projects

How it works

The EPQ is undertaken during the Lower Sixth, continuing until the following Autumn Term of Upper Sixth.

30 guided learning hours

There are 30 guided learning hours for taught skills (approximately a quarter of the overall time for the EPQ), covering:

  • Research skills including the ability to search for and identify suitable sources of information.
  • Skills or techniques required for safe and effective execution of the project that not part of a student's course of study. For example safe laboratory or workshop techniques, professional codes of practice, ethical guidelines and research methodology.
  • ICT skills to enhance report production and/or the development of the project.
  • Project management skills including time, resource and task management.
  • Format and structure of accepted academic forms of research report.
  • Referencing, the evaluation of sources and the prevention of plagiarism.
  • Presentation skills.

Autumn Term (Year 12)

  • Autumn Term (Year 12), students kick off their project, supported by our EPQ Co-ordinator. Two lessons per fortnight explore ethical and practical considerations of research projects. Critical thinking skills such as planning and Gantt charts; critical analysis; credibility criteria; research methods; interviewing techniques; surveying tactics; interpreting statistics; report writing, and much more are considered.
  • By February, most students have selected their topic and begin four one-to-one meetings with our EPQ Co-ordinator allows time to discuss, finalise and review their research project.
  • In June, another one-to-one meeting takes place, once the initial research has been completed.
  • Over summer, girls will undertake primary research – for instance through surveys and questionnaires or site visits – analysing the information they have found, and beginning to construct their projects.
  • In November (Year 13), a third one-to-one meeting, in which students can discuss their summer progress and iron out any issues.
  • In December, after a final one-to-one meeting, students finalise their project ready for submission before the Christmas break.


EPQ at St Mary's Sixth Form


University admissions officers hold the EPQ qualification in extremely high regard.The primary, and enduring, benefit of the project, however, is the key skills the girls develop simply by working through the project process. For university admissions officers, future employers and colleagues, and even for the girls themselves, these skills are invaluable.”

St Mary's Sixth Form EPQ Co-ordinator

“Students could use their project at interview stage and/or in their UCAS personal statement. Certain courses at the University will count ‘A’ grades achieved in the extended project towards their entry criteria.” University of Southampton

"The skills that students develop through the [EPQ] are excellent preparation for university-level study.” University of Manchester

"The EPQ is a definite strength in an application. It can create the heartland of a personal statement and give it depth and substance.” Sheila Cosgrove, University of York, Admissions Administrator