Is the EPQ for you?

27/03/20238 minute read
Is the EPQ for you?

Are you self-motivated, intellectually curious and academically ambitious? Then you might be just the sort of student that might thrive on CGA’s EPQ programme.

What is an EPQ?

An EPQ is an Extended Project Qualification (an AS Level qualification). At CGA we offer the Pearson Edexcel dissertation option, which requires students to formulate their own project question, conduct their own research and to write a 6,000 word essay on a topic of their choice.

This is perhaps your first and only opportunity, as high school students, for genuinely independent, in-depth, research-based learning. Why not look beyond and across the examined subjects that interest and excite you? Why not explore potential avenues for higher education or possible future careers? You bring the initial ideas, the enthusiasm and the ambition; and we will provide the study skills, critical thinking skills and the personalised supervision required for a challenging and rewarding journey of discovery. Learn more benefits of the EPQ here.

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The learning journey is organised into four phases:

Phase 1 = Plan and propose
Phase 2 = Research
Phase 3 = Produce
Phase 4 = Review

Study skills are delivered in weekly taught skills lessons and supported through weekly clinics and supervisions. Subject-specialist supervisors are allocated after successful submission of formal project proposals to inform and promote rigorous engagement with academic research and academic writing.

The programme runs from April to April (for Aoraki students) or from November to November (for Greenwich students). Students are required to invest a minimum of 80 hours of independent study in their project. However, many students find that they want and need to spend more time than this to deliver a project that accurately reflects their level of interest, motivation and ability. Want to stand out as a star applicant? CGA also offers an A Level Law pathway in combination with the EPQ.

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Should I do an EPQ?

If you have read this far then maybe you are sufficiently self-motivated, intellectually curious and academically ambitious to consider an EPQ. You will also need to be aged 15+ and have a Grade 6+ at IG English (or equivalent). A high degree of intellectual maturity and English language proficiency is essential for successful student outcomes with the EPQ. Learn more here.

Are you interested in applying to study Medicine, Law, Architecture or some other subject that might not be available to study as an examined IAS Level qualification? If so, then an EPQ is a fantastic way to demonstrate genuine interest and to support an informed decision about your aptitude and enthusiasm for these highly competitive and demanding courses.

Not all high schools are able to offer the EPQ, but university admissions tutors clearly recognise and value the skills that can be evidenced by an EPQ. See below for a flavour of what the admissions tutors are including in their prospectuses:

University of Cambridge "We would encourage you to undertake one as it will help you develop independent study and research skills and ease the transition from school/college to higher education."University of Oxford "Candidates are encouraged to draw upon their experience of undertaking the project when writing their personal statement, particularly if the topic is allied to their chosen degree course."
UCL/Medicine “We would encourage students to consider taking the EPQ if it is offered at their school.”LSE/Law “ . . . the Law Department recognises the value of these additional subjects for providing useful skills and breadth of learning, and would encourage students to take up these opportunities where available.”

Grade inflation over a number of years, means that admissions tutors are faced with so many students offering A* grades across a range of examined subjects at A Level. By undertaking and completing an EPQ on a topic related to your chosen course, you are giving yourself the best opportunity possible to stand out, both on paper and at any interview.

Furthermore, anecdotal evidence from university staff and tutors also suggests that the EPQ provides students with the study skills required to adapt quickly and successfully to the demands of undergraduate study.

In my opinion, an EPQ is the best way for able and ambitious students to stretch and challenge themselves in preparation for university. As a student that has read this far, perhaps the next question you should be asking is not ‘why should I do an EPQ?’. The question you should be asking is ‘why would I not do an EPQ?’.

Meet the teacher

My name is Sam Yates and I am a History and Law Teacher as well as UCAS and Academic Enrichment Coordinator here at CGA. Before joining CGA, I spent 12 years teaching in a large and successful independent school in the North of England as well as 5 years working as a commercial solicitor in private practice.

I have enjoyed a variety of roles including deputy head of department, sixth form tutor, head of academic extension and Oxbridge Coordinator. I have particularly enjoyed supervising students for their Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ). The EPQ is a fantastic opportunity for rigorous engagement with super-curricular learning that adds real value to students' academic profiles for university applications. Over the last three years we have successfully introduced and developed an online EPQ programme for CGA students. Successful completion of a strong EPQ is very much the pinnacle of the academic enrichment programme for CGA students.

As well as being recognised by Pearson as Centre Lead for the EPQ, I have recently completed the THE Counsellor Accreditation Programme and the British Council training for UK education counsellors. My approach to supervision and coordination of the EPQ is to provide CGA's most able and academically ambitious students with the independent study skills and inter-disciplinary critical thinking skills to equip them to thrive as they transition to the demands of Higher Education. 

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What next?

Any students wanting to express an interest in joining the 2023 Aoraki EPQ programme should complete an expression of interest form.

Students thinking that they might want to get involved with the 2023 Greenwich programme are encouraged to plan ahead and get in touch with Mr Yates to discuss possible ideas and questions for projects.

CGA students not yet old enough to sign up for the EPQ should get involved with the CGA Scholars’ Society. Updates on topics and timings for Scholars’ Society workshops and other links to resources that might be of interest are shared regularly on the #academic-extension channel in Slack.

Questions can be emailed to me at I look forward to hearing from you and vicariously sharing the excitement of the learning journey on which you might be about to embark.