Skip to content ↓

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 of intellectual stretch and challenge for Sixth Form students, held in the Helikon Centre. The emphasis is on thinking outside the box, intellectual creativity and fun. Students also engage in short, group research projects.

Student reviews of the Trethowan Society:

Trethowan Society is a place for sixth form students to develop their knowledge and gain a wider understanding of their specified subjects, as well as pressing issues of the present-day. We are able to obtain a tighter grasp on further education techniques through intellectually challenging exercises, in which the cohort expresses individual ideas, stimulating further discussions.

"Weekly forty-five minute sessions are filled with numerous forms of exercises to employ our thoughts with the rest of the group. Tasks regarding interview and public speaking advancement are a central chunk of the meetings. Building confidence in the above situations is an integral feature of a well-rounded student and the conversations, with both pupils and teachers, certainly benefit all the members in this sense. Individual academic growth is likewise assured, through tasks that stretch our studying techniques and bridge the gap between knowledge and application. Fortnightly book reviews from each member encourage further reading for pleasure and provides an opportunity to discover unfamiliar texts. Our recent relocation to the new academic hub of the school, the Helikon Centre, has allowed us to interact further with the available resources in order to aid our development.

"The intellectually challenging mind-set, gained through the programme, leaves us with a thirst for knowledge, opening boundless scholastic possibilities."

Louis L

The Trethowan Society is a group which enables sixth formers to partake in intellectual conversation and discussion which is designed to stretch the mind and enhance the school curriculum. The group not only provides a forum for academic discussion but also an inclusive environment in which to discuss current affairs, general knowledge and culture. A plethora of different activities is offered: this may include a discussion of book reviews in small groups, a presentation by a teacher or perhaps a fiery debate in which the whole cohort is encouraged to contribute. All sixth formers interested in academic pursuits and conversation are welcomed to join this very enjoyable society."


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