Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Grand Extended Project

One thing that, in my experience, advisers like to tell you to do when applying to university is to 'pad your application.' Like I said in my last post, these days just having good grades at A level isn't enough in lots of cases - you have to mark yourself out as an interesting and different applicant by doing something more.

I've talked loads about the way this can be done in terms of a personal statement - work experience, extra reading, research, all that. What I haven't gone into in so much detail is the extra qualifications you can take. At my school, we were offered the chance to take three different extra qualifications - the AQA Baccalaureate, the Extended Project, and the Young Applicants in Schools Scheme that allow pre-university students the chance to do modules with the Open University. I don't know much about YASS, although there's lots of relevant information about it here! However, I did decide to take the AQA Baccalaureate and the Extended Project, so I can share my experiences about each of those here.

The Extended Project Qualification is actually a piece of the AQA Baccalaureate, but it can be done separately, so I'll look at each in turn. The AQA Baccalaureate is designed to be a qualification that makes A Level study a little similar to the International Baccalaureate by adding elements like the Extended Essay in with the Extended Project. It is officially comprised of 3 main A levels, at least 100 hours of personal development through Enrichment activities, an AS level in General Studies, Critical Thinking or Citizenship Studies, and the aforementioned Extended Project. Depending on your A level grades and grades in the Extended Project/AS level, you can achieve a Pass, Merit or Distinction.

I personally think that if you're going to do the Extended Project it's definitely worth it to do the full AQA Baccalaureate as it's not much more work, to be honest. To go with your Enrichment activities you need to write an Enrichment diary detailing all your work under the three categories - work, community, and personal - and depending on your personal situation it's not that difficult to rack up over 100 hours of enrichment during the year. For example, included in my count is some of the work experience I've done already for my personal statement, my part-time job, helping out at a school Higher Education evening, running a club, performing in a play, being on the school magazine committee - the sort of things I would have done anyway, and all you need to do to clock up the 100 hours is write about it and the skills you gained from it. As for the AS level, I guess it depends on whether your school offers any one of these as a subject, but if you give yourself plenty of time I'd imagine you could self-teach Critical Thinking potentially.

The largest part of the AQA Bacc is therefore the Extended Project. This can be done either as a 5000 word research report, or as a 1000 word supplementary research report. I went for the 5000 word one, and I've loved doing it. I combined my interests in politics and philosophy into an essay on political philosophy, particularly the political philosophy of Thomas More and Niccolo Machiavelli. The fact that it's 5000 words long means it's nearer to the kind of essay that you might be asked to write for university, and it encourages you to do deep research - which I can say, as someone who is taking History A level, is very useful! You are allocated a supervisor from amongst your teachers and they help guide you through the process and check you're keeping on schedule, which I can say, as someone who can often be quite last-minute, has been very helpful. The freedom of being able to pick your own topic, as long as it's not something on the syllabus of a subject you're studying, is very nice as well.

So, I hope that has been interesting and informative! If anyone has any further questions about the AQA Bacc or the EPQ, hit the comments. Plus, if you've enjoyed this post or any of the other ones on my blog, I'd be very grateful if you could let UCAS know here!

Have a great week,


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