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Should you take an EPQ to study medicine?

Should you take an EPQ to study medicine?

7 min Read|February 07 2024
|Written by:

Megan Isaac

Contents

As the graph below shows, the number of medicine graduates is increasing in the UK, but medicine nevertheless remains one of the most competitive degree courses for students to get onto. As a student, the thought of taking on an additional qualification like an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) can be daunting. However, if you're considering applying for medicine at university, it's worth considering whether an EPQ would be beneficial for your application.

In this article, we discuss whether you can gain a competitive edge by taking an EPQ. We outline what an EPQ is, the pros and cons of taking one if you want to study medicine, and finally provide some inspiration for EPQ titles that could be relevant in this field.

Number of medical graduates

Source

What is an EPQ?

Around 30,000 students take an EPQ each year in the UK, it is an additional qualification to your A-levels or other Level 3 qualifications which allows you to undertake independent research and produce a written dissertation or practical project on a topic of your choosing.

Many students produce a written essay, which can be particularly useful to prepare for university level study as you will learn to reference and write a full academic essay, however, students may also undertake a practical project such as an experiment or a creative piece of work. The EPQ is designed to develop important skills such as critical thinking, data analysis, and time management. It can also provide you with a unique topic to write about in your university applications, demonstrating your passion and dedication to your field of study. The EPQ is typically worth up to 28 UCAS points and is accepted by many universities as part of the admissions process.

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Pros

Ok, let’s start with some of the pros of taking an EPQ. An EPQ is not just useful for the qualification you get, but also the experience and transferable skills which you gain whilst researching and writing it. It definitely gives you a taste of what university study may be like given its independent and self-directed workload.

Demonstrating Initiative and Self-Motivation

By choosing to undertake an EPQ, you are showing that you are willing to go above and beyond what is expected of you and that you are self-motivated to learn. This is a highly valuable trait for universities to see in potential medical students, as it suggests that you will be proactive and dedicated throughout your studies.

Developing Research and Analytical Skills

The EPQ requires students to conduct independent research, which can help develop important skills such as critical thinking, data analysis, and time management. These skills are essential for any student pursuing a career in medicine, as they will be required throughout your studies and in your future career as a doctor.

Improving Your Personal Statement (or Interviews)

The EPQ can provide you with a unique topic to write about in your personal statement, which can make it stand out from other applicants. By discussing the research you have conducted and the insights you have gained, you can showcase your passion and dedication to the field of medicine. Do not underestimate the strength of being able to demonstrate to admissions tutor an area you are interested in, the independent research you have conducted into it, and why it has inspired you to study the subject further.

It may also be useful for interviews, in which you may be asked about your main areas of interest in the field, or may be able to use your more specialised knowledge to demonstrate your suitability for the subject.

The figure below shows the most popular subjects taken by EPQ students from 2008-2015, as you can see, the top two are Maths and Biology, which suggests that many students who may be looking to take science-oriented degrees decide to take EPQs. This may be because of how much the EPQ can add to your personal statement.

 Most popular subjects taken by EPQ students

Source

Gaining an Additional Qualification

The EPQ is an additional qualification that can be beneficial to have on your university application. It demonstrates that you are willing to take on extra responsibilities and that you are serious about your studies and your future career.

An EPQ can also add to your UCAS points, and whilst this may be less relevant for medical degrees, it could be useful for other degrees which are more focused on how many UCAS points you have.

Cons

So far, it looks like taking an EPQ is a great idea, there are many benefits and it certainly shows your passion for the subject. However, it is important to not put the EPQ ahead of your A Levels or other compulsory qualifications. It is much better to focus on getting good grades in those rather than spending too much time on an EPQ and getting lower grades as a result.

In this section, we discuss some of the downsides of taking an EPQ, so that you can make an informed decision about your future.

Time-consuming and additional workload

The EPQ is very time-consuming to complete and it can be particularly difficult to balance the EPQ with other academic or extracurricular commitments. Work experience is very important for a medical application, so you need to consider which other commitments you have to give up to study an EPQ.

It also requires a significant amount of independent research and writing which can be particularly demanding, especially if you are undertaking research into a subject which you have not covered at school. Academic articles pose a new challenge compared to using A Level textbooks and this is something which you may need to take time to adapt to.

How much do universities value the EPQ?

It is unclear how much importance universities place on the EPQ and whether they take it into consideration during the admissions process. This is likely to vary between universities and admission staff, and it may be possible to check with the university you are applying to whether they accept the EPQ or not.

It depends on the topic

Whilst an EPQ can be undertaken for your own interest, it is best to choose a topic that is relevant to your course of study and future career. If you are set on studying medicine, then you should invest some time into researching potential titles and your area of interest. You may have an area of medicine which you love, but given the time, resource and ethical constraints you cannot conduct you are actually quite limited in what you can undertake. For instance, you may be interested in oncology but you are unable to undertake any trials or experiments in this department and may instead have to focus on desk-based research. This will involve reading and critically engaging with the studies of other medical scientists or biologists to produce a report.

Below are some ideas for EPQs which you could look into if you are considering studying medicine:

  • The Impact of Social Determinants of Health on Cardiovascular Disease"
  • An Investigation into the Effectiveness of Alternative Therapies for the Treatment of Chronic Pain
  • The Role of Nutrition in the Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes
  • An Exploration of the Ethics of Genetic Testing and Counseling
  • The Advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on the Practice of Medicine
  • The Relationship between Mental Health and Physical Illness
  • An Analysis of the Current Strategies for the Control of Antibiotic Resistance
  • The Progress and Challenges of Telemedicine
  • The Impact of Environmental Pollution on Human Health
  • The Future of Personalized Medicine: Opportunities and Challenges

Final thoughts

We can’t deny that taking an EPQ is a lot of work and may add to the stress of taking A Levels or other qualifications. However, it does have many benefits for medicine students and can really demonstrate your passion and make you stand out from other applicants.

Our best advice is to fully research your topic before you decide whether to take an EPQ. If you find something which you are sufficiently interested in, that is relevant and you think you could balance with your other commitments then go for it. But it is better to focus on your other qualifications than forcing an EPQ if you are not convinced.

If you need help with any stage of your EPQ process, whether that is inspiration for topics, or how to develop an initial idea further or the writing process, get in touch with TutorChase. Our expert tutors have experience in writing and supporting with EPQs across a range of subjects and you can find a hand-selected university-level tutor in the subject you are interested in to really get some direction and add depth of knowledge and understanding to your project. Have a look at our top tutors today to see how we can help you achieve your medicine goals.

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Megan Isaac

Written by: Megan Isaac

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Oxford University - BA Politics, Philosophy, and Economics

Megan recently graduated from Oxford University, achieving a first class degree in PPE. She has has six years of tutoring experience, teaching a range of subjects at GCSE and A-Level, as well as helping students with their applications to university including Oxbridge.

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