An Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a great asset to have when applying to university. Medical school programmes often involve writing essays and dissertations, so it’s a great chance to show off your interest in the field. As with all things medicine-related though, you’re going to be aiming for the top marks. Here is my advice on how to get an A in your Medicine EPQ.
First things first: know your strengths, and play to them. If you are not great at essay writing, then get creative with your project. Whilst the dissertation option is the classic choice, productions and artefacts can work just as well in your favour if you score highly on them, and may even make you stand out more. These can be things like short educational videos, putting on health-related fundraising events or combining medicine and art into a creative piece.
A general tip for your Medicine EPQ is to make sure you’re really clear on what your supervisor or teacher is looking for. Supervisors have seen many students do EPQs before, and they know what works well and what doesn’t. They’ll also be able to point you towards resources you can use. If your college has a library, it’s worth asking the library staff where you can find books and journals relating to your topic. If it doesn’t, try the local public library!
You will also need to understand how the EPQ is graded, so ask your teachers about this. The exact grading will depend on whether you’re doing the project under AQA, Edexcel, or another exam board. You should be able to find the specification by searching for it online, and I suggest familiarising yourself with it as much as possible.
This is crucial – make sure you pick an area of medicine you’re genuinely interested in. Staying motivated and wanting to know more about the topic is a great way to score a high mark, and you might as well use this as an opportunity to study something you really want to. Passion will show, so take some time to think about which areas of healthcare are really important to you and why.
For instance, I find the concepts of ethics and healthcare violations incredibly interesting, so my dissertation was on the driving social factors behind institutional patient abuse. For you, it might be a particular disease/condition, a current public health issue, or a specific field of medicine that you’ve always wanted to know more about. Document how and why you’ve chosen your title.
I’d strongly recommend creating a diary (physical or with online blog services such as WordPress or Tumblr) and tracking what you’re doing as you go along. Make sure you’re putting in entries each week detailing what you’re doing on your Medicine EPQ. The key is little and often, rather than rushing it at the last minute. Creating a Google calendar planning your time shows effective management, so this may be a good way to organise your project.
The advantage of keeping a blog or diary as you go along is that it will allow you to highlight where things trip you up, and this is key for the evaluation and review stage of your piece. You need to be aware of which things you found difficult and how you overcame these, so document this as you go.
With research, try to use both primary (collecting yourself) and secondary (using someone else’s) research. Always think about how credible the websites, journals and books you are using are. Who wrote them, when, and with what intent? Make sure you document every resource you use in a bibliography, even if you don’t end up using it. Referencing properly is a difficult skill, and software such as RefMe can help, although don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor or library staff for help if you get stuck.
The presentation of your EPQ is a great opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned. You could use software such as Prezi or SlideShare to present your findings and research – and remember that practice is crucial, so prepare by rehearsing your presentation to friends or family before the day. Good luck!
Words: Riley Botelle
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