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23rd December 2020
An EPQ is a fantastic opportunity to undertake structured research into an area which fascinates you. Particularly for prospective Medical Students, it’s an exciting opportunity to delve into a medically relevant topic, and it has the potential to set you apart from other candidates at interview.  Whether your EPQ is scientifically or ethically orientated, your ongoing thoughts and reflections are as vital as the topic itself.

Check out these top tips from first-year Medical Student Kirsty Dickson to see how you can discuss your EPQ at interview.

Think About Your Motivation

When you discuss your EPQ in your interview, you should start by explaining why you chose to undertake the EPQ and how you have been able to approach a complex question in an analytical manner.

For example, you might say something like “I’m motivated by the prospect of research; I enjoy considering different literature and reaching an evidence-based conclusion”.

You can also discuss how you were able to choose your question and why this particular area is of interest to you. Saying something like: “I really wanted to research the Charlie Gard case to consider decision-making under disputed autonomy. I wanted to consider the case from an unbiased perspective without the scrutiny of the media and develop my understanding of ethics and law.”

Talk About Your Approach

The EPQ is a monumental task which can take a long time to complete. Explain the importance of implementing a clear, methodical strategy from day one. Consider how you planned and tracked the project, how you divided and organised the workload. Furthermore, be honest with your interviewer and be prepared to admit if there was a change in your approach.

You might want to say something like: “Initially I gave myself 1 month to complete my reading and I decided to jot my sources down on paper. However, upon beginning to read, I realised I had so much more to consider. I subsequently allotted more time to reading and systematically noted down the sources using a spreadsheet for easy referencing.”

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Reflect Upon What You’ve Learnt

Most medical applicants will never have undertaken a piece of work this advanced or extended, so it’s natural to adapt and change as you progress. Be candid and consider that appraisal is a fundamental aspect of medicine that means you can learn and never making the same mistake again.

You might find yourself saying something like “I decided to amend my question because it was far too large to consider thoroughly” or “I decided to paragraph my dissertation differently, which involved a lot of editing time but ultimately lead to better organisation of thought”

Think About Medically Relevant Skills

The skills that you have learnt are even more important than the academic knowledge you have acquired. Consider what you have personally improved upon and why this is clinically relevant.

You could say something like: “During my EPQ I became better at prioritising which tasks needed doing most urgently to reach deadlines. This imitates the triage system, ensuring everybody is treated but those who need emergency care are treated first. Additionally, I learnt to efficiently manage my time on top of my A level studies, UCAT preparation and voluntary work. Time management is important in busy clinical practice but also ensuring I maintain a health work-life balance.”

Think About Ethics Questions

If you have considered medical ethics in your EPQ then you are well qualified to bring in some specific, additional information upon answering ethical questions. This will impress the interviewer, demonstrating you have a genuine interest. However, don’t forget to concisely answer the question asked.

For example, if you’re asked to consider consent and autonomy in children, then you could also discuss the Fraser Guidelines and Gillick Competence if this is what you have researched. Or if asked about patient decision-making and autonomy you could discuss the importance of the doctor disclosing risk and the Montgomery case.

Focus On The Importance Of Learning In Medicine

The EPQ gives students the opportunity to devise a very specific question, read a range of different sources and critically analyse them. Consider how you have learned to assess bias, reliability and relevance. Additionally, consider your introduction to academic writing and potentially journal articles.

For example, I’d say: “During my EPQ, I used a variety of reliable sources to obtain evidence and ultimately draw a conclusion. This is similar to the methods used to develop evidence-based guidelines such as NICE. Overall, I have a greater understanding of how to assess evidence and a greater appreciation of the importance of research in medicine.”

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