A* EPQ Student is One Step Ahead

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Ns Epq Photo 2 UseAn Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) can benefit in many ways, especially with regards to your UCAS application. It earnt me 28 UCAS points having achieved a grade A*, it will give my application for university a positive boost and it also taught me a wide range of skills covering research, academic writing and time management to name but a few. The EPQ comprises three components. It involves writing a dissertation of about 5000 words on a subject of interest which ideally links to what you would like to study at university.  However, a key focus is on how you approach the project which you detail by completing a candidate proposal about your research. The final component is the presentation where you talk through the dissertation and candidate proposal.

The EPQ has been an invaluable experience for me where I have gained a range of skills in terms of research and time management. Prior to starting the actual EPQ, MPW incorporate a 12-week programme of Study and Research Skills lessons into Lower Sixth students’ timetables which is led by a tutor with strong experience in this area. The tutor then becomes the student’s EPQ supervisor following this 12-week period, advising via weekly, one-to-one supervisions until the point the dissertation is submitted in May. The Study and Research Skills lessons were integral to the success of my project and I learnt so much about academic writing that I already feel ‘one step ahead’ as I embark on my Upper Sixth studies and prepare for university life.

Knowing that I want to pursue a career in Medicine, I was keen to research a topic within the realm of health and medicine. To this end, I carried out in-depth research with the guidance of my supervisor. This allowed me to pin-point a topic for my project which I was really interested in and wanted to pursue. Having a real interest in your intended topic, I believe gives you the extra drive needed to complete a high- quality project, a very important factor for consideration as completing an EPQ can be really challenging at times. When I chose Autism as the theme for my project, I was worried as it is a large subject with many other separate detailed areas. However, as I continued to research, I became more fascinated by the subject while at the same time being cautious of time and work load. Nevertheless, I persevered as I wanted to create a project within such an under-researched area. I wanted my project to stand out.

My academic skills have been enhanced greatly, particularly through my research into the effects music can have on the behaviour and attentiveness of a person living with autism. I have learnt a great deal about the condition and the science behind a fairly common illness affecting a fair proportion of the UK population. My understanding of technical terms and advanced ideas about certain mechanisms within the brain have been greatly improved due to my use of several secondary sources ranging from research papers, medical journals and specialist books. I have been given a solid insight into the overall behavioural patterns and inner workings into autistic people, especially within children and how different factors like music are able to have such a positive effect, especially from a mental perspective. Learning about autism and the brain will be especially useful for my future career in Medicine as this nicely links the mental and physical effects on the body with health overall.

In terms of research, my style of writing has significantly improved throughout this project. The experience has encouraged me to write in a succinct manner, engaging the reader through my investigation and statistical research while effectively expressing my own opinions.

This project involved a personally challenging uncertainty about my initial plans and how I would cope with large volumes of literature. However, by continuously researching into my area of interest on a regular basis, I was able to cover the literature effectively and efficiently. This allowed me to break down the amount of work I had into separate sessions throughout a certain number of weeks, distributed evenly, rendering the work load more manageable.   After some time, from the extensive research that I carried out, I came to find that I had become more familiar with the style being used within such secondary sources, in particular research papers and medical journals. This not only positively affected the way in which I wrote my project, but by having a good overview of the topic, also helped me write a piece of greater quality.

On many occasions, I was able to refer to the Research and Study Skills lessons where I was given the opportunity to experiment with various texts to enhance these skills before starting my actual project. As I became more familiar with styles and areas of work, I was able to use large pieces of text or areas within these sources effectively, enabling me to select the key pieces of information that I needed more efficiently and quickly overtime, making the process quicker. I have also developed my organisational skills. Producing this project alongside balancing other academic commitments such as A level revision and preparation for weekly exams was a challenge at times. However, I turned this challenge into a learning experience, prioritising certain tasks and taking a systematic approach to time management. Another valuable skill and strength I have gained is the ability to adhere to original plans and persevere in the most stressful of times. Being able to monitor my progress through project reviews with my supervisor allowed me to stay focused, which ultimately positively impacted upon my time management skills.

The EPQ has been incredibly useful in giving me an insight into the researching process and a greater understanding of the effects music can have on the behaviour and attentiveness of a person living with autism.  To any student embarking on their EPQ journey, I would advise that time management is crucial, and it is incredibly important to organise your time effectively. Although it may be hard at the beginning, if you are persistent it becomes easier. It is also extremely important to use this time effectively, particularly at the start of your journey, beginning to do large amounts of research to build strong foundations from which to increase your knowledge. The sooner you start the better. Personally, I believe that I have developed a thorough understanding of autism and music while learning in depth how best to carry out a research project. I now feel even more enthused by the prospect of pursuing a career in Medicine.

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