Why do a STEM extended project?

Researching a topic in science, technology, engineering or maths can help you develop new skills

You can do an extended research project in any subject you like. But if your A levels (or equivalent) are in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) there are benefits in focusing on those for your project. Leading your own investigation is a great way to get a taste of scientific research and to develop practical problem-solving skills.

Designing your own experiment, using new equipment, collecting and analysing your own data, and testing your own hypothesis are rewarding and motivating, as well as being fun! This will challenge you too – you will often need to seek guidance from experts, which can help you improve your communication and team-working skills.

It’s a great chance to discover more than you’ve learned in class. In fact, doing original research means you might be the first person to answer your research question – some students have even had work published in scientific publications.

The range of topics that fall under the category of STEM is vast. If you’ve ever wondered whether ducks prefer rain or shine, why not research ideal weather for ducks? Or, if you’re interested in weather patterns, you could analyse Met Office data. Are you particularly good with computers? You could write a program to model the weather.

Many extended projects result in a dissertation. But they are also a fantastic chance for you to carry out a scientific investigation or to design and build something. It should take around 120 hours to complete an EPQ, similar to half an A level. This significant commitment gives you enough time to produce something really meaningful. Like an A level, an EPQ can be awarded any grade up to A*.

Until 2017, you can receive up to 70 UCAS points for doing an EPQ (for an A*) – compared with a maximum of 60 points for an AS level at grade A. From 2017, when the points system changes, you can receive up to 28 points for an EPQ (compared with 20 for an AS level or 56 for an A level).

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects’ in June 2015.

Go Further: A practical guide to extended science projects
Education levels:
16–19, Independent research projects