The Level 3 Extended Project, more familiarly known as the Extended Project Qualification or EPQ is an exciting opportunity for Sixth Formers not only to become something of an expert on a particular topic, but also to develop a range of learning and study skills that will be invaluable, both during their Sixth Form and beyond.

The qualification is highly regarded by all universities, as it shows evidence of a pupil’s independent study skills, as well as of their academic interests; indeed, some universities have a policy of lowering offers by a grade if an applicant has an A or A* in the EPQ. The EPQ is not simply another piece of coursework; it is, rather, an opportunity to extend one’s knowledge and skills in ways that are new and challenging to pupils.

The EPQ at Downside is entirely optional and is generally completed during the Lower Sixth year. Pupils identify their topic area and, under the guidance of a supervisor from the teaching staff, finalise the scope of their research and title. There are weekly group lessons to ensure that pupils understand the requirements of the qualification and to help them develop the skills necessary to complete it successfully; there are sessions, for example, on referencing, plagiarism, research skills, presentation skills and time management. Supervisors are chosen by the pupils themselves, and the supervisor/pupil relationship is one of the great strengths of the EPQ programme at Downside.

The EPQ dissertation is completed by the Lent Half Term, and the culmination of the project is in the form of a presentation in front of an audience. The quality of these presentations, which include a Q&A session, never fails to impress, with our pupils demonstrating poise and confidence, as well as a mastery of their chosen topic that would be the envy of many an undergraduate.

Examples of recent EPQ titles at Downside include:
‘Why do we mistake grey rhinos for black swans?’
‘What is the true environmental cost of electric cars?’
‘Are humans who lucid dream at the forefront of human evolution?’
‘To what extent was Belgian colonialism responsible for the Rwandan genocide?’
‘How do socio-cultural practices affect the human rights of Nigerian women and limit their ability to reach their full potential?’
‘Do CRISPR gene-editing’s merits outweigh its complications?’