The challenge of the EPQ

Posted on 11th Aug 2017 in International Students, Malaysia

The EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) involves the completion of an independent research project which gives students an opportunity to explore in depth, a subject area that they are truly passionate about. The students must produce either a 5000-word written report or an artefact of some type, plus a write-up of the process.

Throughout the process, students must also reflect by completing a production log, this sits alongside their project outcome and is just as important as the artefact/writing when it comes to the overall assessment of work. They start by completing a detailed project plan with clear aims and objectives which goes through a formal approval process. Once approved, the students start to research and develop their projects considering both primary and secondary research. At various points they have to reflect on their project, monitor their progress against their original aims and objectives, and explore how they overcome various challenges that they encounter along the way. The final assessed aspect of the project is a presentation.

Badrika Bahadur, a Sixth Form student at The Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur, shares her experience of the Extended Project Qualification...

Year 12 was an enriching year where we constantly had our noses in a book or website. After endless research, planning and redrafting, February was the time Year 13 students saw the hard work of shaping our projects pay-off.

Reflecting back on the year, EPQ may have been a struggle or burden for many of us. It was just another pile of work to add to the load. However, as we gradually got into the mood of our independent research, most of us seemed to find areas which had captured our attention.

Particularly within my tutor group, there would always be the “Did you know?” question or someone gasping in awe, making everyone else curious as to what was so interesting. We would then share the knowledge each of us had in the areas of our research. It was fascinating to see different people working on different topics such as theatre, history, feminism, space travel, mechanical engineering and so on. It gave us the opportunity to gain general knowledge on a topic that was not of our specialty. Our supervisors were really helpful as well in guiding us towards the right direction and encouraging us to continuously support each other. EPQ lessons were also a chance for us to take a break from our A level subjects whilst keeping us productive at the same time. In my opinion, the best part of the process was probably the presentations as it was incredibly rewarding to see the process of everyone’s project unfold.

Reflecting on EPQ, gaining a range of academic abilities from the process was definite. We picked up new skills such as in depth research, referencing and conducting primary research. One of the students mentioned that, “EPQ teaches you the importance of time management within the busy life of A levels and that research is imperative in understanding something to your full potential.”

It could be argued that the most valuable element learnt from the process, however, was probably learning about ourselves as an individual. EPQ gave us the opportunity to venture into a wide world of knowledge, allowing us to find our strengths and weaknesses as well as discover where our passions lie.

Besides that, an advantage with EPQ is that it plays a part in helping us with university. It gives us an idea of how to produce a piece of detailed academic writing. Although difficult in the beginning, the experience was beneficial for us. It also gave an additional spark when writing our personal statement. I was personally very lucky that my EPQ was the aspect that caught the attention of one of the universities which I applied to.

However, the EPQ came along with its challenges. The main obstacle most of us faced was coming up with a focused question or objective. Some of us, including myself had to make multiple changes to our projects. Starting the report was also a challenge as we felt uncertain of the structure and content of it. This led to multiple attempts of drafting.

As I was doing an artefact on writing and staging a play, I ended up writing three scripts and redrafting my final version two weeks beforehand due to obstacles such as having my cast members pull out and being limited in terms of mutual timings and strategies. Nevertheless, perseverance, hard work and support helped me in pulling through and successfully completing the project.

It may have taken the entire year but, in a blink of an eye, it was done and dusted. In January, we anxiously waited in the Sixth Form space to find out if we had achieved the grade we aimed for. Our tutor assured us with a smile on her face that “there were no surprises in the results achieved".

When we collected our folders to take a look at our grades, it was wonderful to see smiles around the room suggesting a sense of satisfaction, achievement and everyone being pleased with themselves. Besides all the willpower and effort, we also have our friends and teachers to thank for helping us make it all the way in each of our amazing projects. Ultimately, it is definitely safe to say that EPQ is a worthwhile experience and one can benefit so much from it.

You just need to find the passion and you’ll see what I mean. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “it always seems impossible until it is done.”

Badrika Bahadur is a Sixth Form student at The Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This article first appeared in Issue 8 of World Student magazine. You can read the full issue at