Stand Out from the Crowd

How the IPQ offers students an alternative route to A Levels

On 7 October, Dr Emma Thompson visited Dubai, presenting her research on the value of project-based qualifications. From the University of Southampton, Dr Thompson shared her research on the value of extended project qualifications to students and universities. She drew on her collaborative research undertaken with AQA, as well as her own extensive experience and expertise gained as a moderator for the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), the UK equivalent of the IPQ.

Dr Emma Thompson said that by completing an EPQ, students have an opportunity to demonstrate and prove the following skills: “time management, team work, presenting, self-awareness, leadership, networking, attention to detail, critical thinking and independence. The EPQ is for every student, not just the academically gifted. Students are forced to think on their feet and in this way, they show that they are able to hack the rigour of university.”

Universities are coming around to the IPQ/EPQ and some are now including it in their admissions offers as it “allows universities to make alternative offers alongside traditional offers,” she continued.

Head of Secondary at GEMS Founders School (GFS) Ian Plant gave a presentation about how project-based learning and the EPQ could be implemented in the UAE with the aim of challenging students to grow, flourish and succeed under three pillars of mindfulness, languages and cultural awareness and character. Plant shared his recent experience of implementing the OxfordAQA International IPQ with A-level students at GFS. He plans to also explore how the IPQ can be used as a vehicle to deliver the Ministry of Educations new Moral Education framework at sixth form level.

Ian Plant said that while research-based learning promised many benefits, he was open about challenges faced by teachers when it came to introducing this unique style of learning at GFS in the 2018-2019 academic year. While the IPQ can “add significant value to students moving forward”, Ian Plant said it was difficult to keep students engaged because they were not used to that style of teaching or learning. The IPQ takes 120 hours (30 hours of guided teaching and 90 hours of independent project work). Students are given alternative options to complete the IPQ, while at GFS, students are allowed two academic years. It is an A level standard qualification that is worth half an A level. Students can use it to demonstrate independent learning skills when they apply to universities.

What is the IPQ?

The OxfordAQA International Independent Project Qualification (International IPQ) is a project-based qualification that students can take alongside their A levels. The qualification helps students to develop independent learning skills that prepare them for university and beyond – including research, creative problem-solving and report writing. The International IPQ gives students the opportunity to stand out from the crowd in their university applications. Both British and American universities encourage students who have taken project qualifications to reference these in their applications.

How does the IPQ work?

When students embark on an International IPQ they follow a process that resembles the development of a university dissertation. First they choose a topic and develop a title to outline the scope of their project. They then conduct independent research, tracking their progress in a production log. At the end of the course, students submit a 5,000-word report and deliver an oral presentation to a non-specialist audience.

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