Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)


Study a topic of your choice, in a way that suits your preferred learning style. An EPQ will develop and demonstrate your self-discipline, creative and critical thinking, resilience and independent research skills to universities and employers in the future.

What is an EPQ?

We encourage all our students to complete the Extended Project Qualification. This formal qualification is awarded for an independent research project on a topic of your choosing and the completion of 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)

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

The EPQ at St Mary's

We offer exceptional support to ensure you get the most out of the EPQ qualification, including 30 hours of guided learning to enable you to develop key skills such as:

  • Independent research
  • Identifying suitable sources of information
  • Project management skills 
  • Referencing techniques

Our students also benefit from support from Cambridge University departments, with recent examples including:

  • Support from the Autism Research Centre
  • Access to key manuscripts and music
  • Personal support for a project on medieval art work

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.

What our students say ...

About our breadth of creative subjects and completing an EPQ

Key points
  • Syllabus
  • Study alongside your A Levels
  • Boost your CV
  • Increase your UCAS points
  • Approx. 120 hours to complete

EPQ topics at St Mary's are diverse, innovative and challenging

Technology as a tool to combat human trafficking

An analysis of possible explanations of psychopathy, with particular reference to violent offences

To what extent do the illustrations in the Book of Kells reflect accurately the teachings of Irish Monasticism?

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'?

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 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

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Catherine Z. Student

“I learnt how to find valuable and valid sources and combine them together to form a coherent argument. It also helped me to organise my time well, as I had to set time aside for myself to work on the project in my free time. ”

University of Manchester

“The skills that students develop through the EPQ are excellent preparation for university-level study.”