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Academic challenge

Sixth form students at St Benedict’s are challenged to go beyond their A level syllabuses, think for themselves and take an independent approach to their learning. This serves them well as a preparation for university study.

In the Sixth Form, all Lower 6th students are asked to carry out independent research over the summer holiday, and to present their research in the first week of their Upper 6th year. Chosen themes may be inspired by their A level study, but go beyond examination specifications. This academic research is excellent preparation for independent study at university.

The Trethowan Society is an open forum for students in the Lower 6th who want to be intellectually stretched and challenged. The emphasis is on thinking outside the box, intellectual creativity and fun. Students also engage in short, group research projects.

The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ)

You can tell a clever person by the answers they give, and a wise person by the questions they ask. This sums up the EPQ, which is worth half an A level, and explains why universities value this qualification so highly. Most Sixth Form students at St Benedict’s do the EPQ.

EPQ Student

The EPQ is unique because, unlike A levels, it is not subject specific. It develops and extends A level study or it can be research into a completely different topic of particular interest. The only stipulation is that students must not select as a project anything that they will be studying in any part of their other A level subjects.

The EPQ is completed during the Lower 6th year. It adds value to university applications not only because it is worth UCAS points (70 for an A*, 60 for an A grade and so on) but also because it is evidence of intellectual curiosity, independent thinking, research and evaluative skills - all of which are vital for university study.

There is no formal exam. EPQ students are given a supervisor and are assessed on the research process, their project, and a presentation to an audience. There are two options to choose from: a 5,000 word original and fully referenced written research project; or the creation of an artefact supported by a 2,000 word report essay.

Chosen subjects have included:

  • Woodrow Wilson as a moral figure in politics
  • The lives of women in ancient Rome: at home, in marriage and in law 
  • Care for the elderly and social funding

Student comments:

“With the EPQ you don’t just settle for the answers you are given: you read more, ask questions and challenge what you are told. Ultimately, I believe that the EPQ is a process unique to every individual.”

“I am glad that I undertook the EPQ because it has definitely increased my confidence in public speaking.”

“The EPQ has encouraged me to have confidence in my own academic voice.”

“Perhaps the overall message of the EPQ is the beauty of hard work and the incredible amount you can achieve in a year with focus and determination.”

“I have learnt a lot about myself. The EPQ has made me think about what I want to do with my life.”


St Benedict’s Sixth Form students have the option to take Massive Open Online Courses alongside their A levels, so that they can extend their knowledge and add a new dimension to their learning.

Thousands of MOOCs are offered by universities from all around the world, covering a vast range of subjects.

MOOCs are readily accessible and enable people to develop their education, knowledge and skills. The extra dimension they add to Sixth Form education is particularly beneficial; courses can enhance and extend A level study, or allow students to do something new, such as learning a language.

MOOCs can also help students to achieve a specific goal: future medics might choose to explore Medical Ethics, for example.

Courses normally last around 4 -8 weeks, and require about 1-2 hours of work per week. Students are encouraged to complete at least one MOOC. They attend two group sessions each half term to check progress and develop skills, including:

  • Choosing the best MOOC
  • How to create an effective online video
  • How to create an effective presentation
Comments about moocs from our sixth form students