GCE Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

What is the GCE Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)?

The EPQ is a GCE qualification graded A* to E, like A levels. It carries UCAS points equivalent to half an A level. A specific purpose of the EPQ is to offer students opportunities to 'use their learning experiences to support their personal aspirations for higher education and/or career development'. Students normally embark on their Extended Projects at the end of year 12 or the start of year 13, and complete them in year 13. Numbers taking the EPQ have grown since the qualification was introduced.

The EPQ helps students to differentiate themselves from their peers when applying for university or employment, giving them opportunities to highlight their interests and to demonstrate their communication and presentation skills (particularly useful for STEM students). The EPQ can provide students with a useful focus to discuss in their UCAS statements or at interview. Many universities are now starting to use the EPQ to help them to select students.

Why is the GCE Extended Project relevant to AS/A Level Mathematics teachers and their students?

The EPQ gives students studying AS/A Level Mathematics an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their mathematical and statistical skills. The ability to apply mathematics and statistics in context is highly valued in Higher Education and employment across a wide range of disciplines: mathematical modelling is a vital skill in engineering, the sciences, economics and business, and statistical analysis is particularly important in the biological and social sciences, medicine and humanities. Students taking AS/A Level Mathematics should be encouraged to use mathematics and statistics in their Extended Projects and AS/A Level Mathematics teachers can support this process by contributing to students' development of research skills.

What sorts of topics can students investigate for EPQs involving mathematics and/or statistics?

The potential is huge, either focused within mathematics itself, for students keen to study maths at university, or linking with other A level disciplines; examples might include the following.

  • Investigating areas of mathematics outside/beyond the curriculum (this could include the history of mathematical developments) - fractals, complex numbers, 'e', number theory, game theory, etc. See FAQs below for further advice.
  • Population dynamics
  • Social trends
  • Spread of diseases
  • Medical survival rates
  • Applications of mechanics
  • Applications of decision maths
  • Applications of statistics

Comprehensions from MEI Core 4 papers can provide a stimulus. Please select from the list below:

Students can also find ideas by reading popular mathematics books.

How important is choosing the right kind of topic?

Most of the marks for the project are awarded for the process rather than for the finished product so it is important that students choose a suitable research question. Mathematics offers a wide range of suitable areas for investigation! Alternatively, students could choose to look at the use of mathematics in an area related to one of their other subjects. The guidance provided by awarding bodies and supervising staff will help students to choose something suitable.

Can students just do a long essay about an area of mathematics which interests them?

There are some possible pitfalls with this approach. Students might produce a piece of work which is too vague or they might just copy from the sources they consult rather than producing a piece of focussed research. Remember, most of the marks are for the process of producing the project rather than for the finished product. Some approaches which students might find more helpful include the following:

  • Finding out about the way that mathematics is used in a particular area of work or another subject
  • Making a teaching resource to get a mathematical concept across.
  • Designing something which involves the use of mathematics.

For advice on supporting mathematics and statistics within EPQs, please contact Stella Dudzic.

Please use the links below to navigate to relevant pages on our website and external websites:

AQA Project Qualifications
Edexcel Project Qualifications
OCR Project Qualifications
WJEC Project Qualifications
Applications of Statistics
Applications of Decision Maths
General Interest Mathematics Books
University of Manchester Resources for Students and Teachers
University College London Support
STEM centre EPQ page