Everything you need to know about EPQs

Teachers regularly enquire about the Extended Project Qualification (EPQs) so on this page Professor Becky Parker shares her experience and some top tips. In the 2015/16 school year twenty five of her pupils at Simon Langton Grammar were submitted for EPQs.

A student taking part in any of the IRIS projects can use it as an EPQ. This applies even if they are working as part of a group. Each person will be completing their own background reading and should take ownership of their own experiment/data set within the project. The final write-up will be done individually and submitted.

Framing a question can often be an issue for students. Encourage them to consider the project they are working on and start with the phrase: “To what extent” and then go on to describe the project aims. For example: “To what extent does the Higgs Hunters data give evidence for new particles” or “To what extent does experimentation with the CERN@school detector give us information about background radiation.”

It is important to emphasise that the answer to the question posed can be a negative or null result. This happens regularly in the scientific world. The student has still carried out a piece of original research and through the scientific process has ruled a result out.

Once the student has set a question, they should base their research on this and find out what, if any, work has previously been done. Background reading really benefits the student in terms of participation in the projects. E.g. reading and summarising will only enhance what they get out of the experience of working on these projects. To get started with background reading a list of further sources of information is provided as part of each IRIS project. This can be found in the accompanying project guides.

Students should keep a diary of all work done. Whether that’s reading background information, contacting a teacher or IRIS, this should all be recorded to show what has been done.

The write-up should be based around the experimental work or investigation. Results should be presented in whatever format is most appropriate. This could be maps using data, examples of code, tables or charts of data.

In terms of the presentation, this should be an overview of the project with the focus on results and what the student got out of completing it rather than a list of what they did. In general, it's about telling a story in an engaging way. For a ten minute presentation I would recommend a maximum of 10 slides and where possible including some kind of demonstration or multimedia relevant to the topic as this really adds to it.

When it comes to the role of teachers, it’s about pointing students in the right direction and remember that you don’t have to know all the answers! Encourage them to approach experts in the field with any questions they have.


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