Ultimate Guide to the EPQ – Skills & Qualities Required

In part one of this eight-part series on the Extended Project Qualification, I shared my advice on how students can pick the best-possible topic to pursue, and why they must take the time to get a title that works.

In the second part, I’ll be looking closely at the many personal and academic skills that are prerequisites for success in the EPQ. Students should remember that this project is not compulsory, and therefore if they find themselves falling short of any requirements may be the best steering clear so as not to impact their regular subjects.

Organization

The EPQ comes with several different stages, all with different requirements, different types of tasks and different people to consult with. You need to be a supremely organized person who is going to be able to keep all their notes, drafts, statistics, data and more material in check. You’ll also need to stay on top of your production log, making sure you, your supervisor and the coordinator see it when they need to.

Don’t forget that all of this comes on top of your regular A-Level work, so being able to maintain order is probably the most fundamental and critical element in success, hence its headline placement at the top of our list.

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Time Management

Tied to your dynamite organizational skills need to be atomically accurate time management abilities. Research and preparation generally begin during the summer break in between years 12 and 13, and you’ll need to manage your time to get everything done before your exam time closes in too close in the spring. That’s a lot of work in not much time.

As I mentioned above, the EPQ happens on top of your regular coursework, and outside of all your scheduled classes. There are no regular classes to keep you in line on this. You have to allocate some of your free time to this project and is often the hardest of all to manage. In the face of temptations and distractions, can you dedicate enough of your free time to stay on top of the work?

A Passion for the Subject

As we discussed in part one of the series, the EPQ is a fantastic opportunity for students to demonstrate their interest and aptitude in a particular subject area. A genuine interest and passion guide you to more exciting and purposeful topics, which in turn makes for more robust results. Those going through the motions can’t expect to receive the academic reward, nor the personal and professional benefit that comes with the project.

Furthermore, pursuing a passion can help you find a possible career path you want to follow, and in the short-term will also draw the admissions tutors of universities to you as a candidate willing to go that extra mile to achieve something really great.

Creativity

The final item you produce, whether it be an essay, artefact, musical composition, dramatic performance or something else, will always require of you steady degrees of creativity and originality. This is a project designed to help set you apart from other students, and eventually from other university applicants. You can’t just plump for any old thing!

Even before that, you need to demonstrate some flair in choosing your topic, what questions you want to answer and thinking through the educational value of your chosen topic area. There will also be seemingly endless challenges and difficulties in your arduous project journey, too. Each problem needs creative solutions and effective management mentioned in the qualities above.

Perseverance

The EPQ is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s not something that you can cram for in the last few days and expect to finish in a burst of robust performance. Some students enjoy operating in that fashion, but the EPQ is not suited to this model of learning.

You complete your EPQ successfully by painstakingly placing one foot in front of the other over and over until you reach your final destination. This kind of “endurance” activity isn’t for the faint-hearted or the lifelong procrastinator. Remember that.

Confidence

After you’ve completed your research, essay/product and much of your production log, the final stage awaits you — the presentation. Now, your submission may, ultimately, only have the minimum-required audience, which is your supervisor plus one. Whether it has just those two in attendance or a whole room of people watching, confidence is your ally.

Confidence here is the quality that helps you stand before the audience in this high-stakes matter; to deliver your speech smoothly, articulately and in a way that is pleasing to hear from the audience perspective. Some are terrified of public speaking, whatever the audience size. Be ready for this element by bringing all your confidence with you on the journey to the presentation.

Remember: You can also use the EPQ to build yourself up

Perhaps you’ve read out the list above and are already thinking yourself not good enough for the task at hand. Don’t forget that you use this opportunity to improve yourself in these areas, too. All of the learning is a journey, and if you are keen to boost your organizational, time management or public speaking skills, then the EPQ might be the perfect arena in which to do it.

Don’t miss Part 3 of our series, which will explore the EPQ’s final essay or product.