My son did his Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in 2018, at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge, and it was really interesting to watch. For something worth just half an A-level (and in reality when it comes to university applications, worth nothing), it required an astonishing amount of work. For busy sixth-formers to find the time or the motivation requires some dedication. That said, the EPQ is a good introduction to doing a properly planned and structured research project, so I encouraged my son to take the trouble. He did so, and his project was eventually marked 100% (A*) in 2019.

My best advice is to reverse-engineer the whole exercise. Remember, the EPQ is not about your project itself, but about the process of planning and executing it. So get the detailed marking scheme from the exam board’s website, and painstakingly go through every single item, noting what needs to be done to get full marks. Keep this in mind throughout the project.

Show how you’ve developed a range of skills by creating as much supporting material around the project as you can. For example, the core product from my son’s project was always going to be a dissertation. But along the way he also created a blog (to use as the project diary), a video and a podcast. He interviewed real people for comments, created an illustration in Adobe Illustrator and found out how to use Microsoft Excel for a Gantt Chart. All of these gave him new things to learn, and more importantly to write about.

There’s no way around it: if you want to get a really top mark in your EPQ, you’re going to have to devote all the time they suggest, and possibly more. But it can be an interesting experience.

My son’s project was eventually picked up by a campaigning group which I belong to, and published on their website. However, the best place to see the project in full is at the website he created to showcase the work here.