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A project-based qualification designed to give students the skills to succeed at university

General  Higher education  

A new standalone qualification from Cambridge Assessment International Education gives students the opportunity to develop the types of study skills they will need at university – boosting their chances of success.

The recently-launched Cambridge International Project Qualification (Cambridge IPQ) is a research-based qualification designed for students aged 16 to 19. It is a stand-alone qualification that students can take alongside their Cambridge International AS and A Levels.

Students do independent research on a topic of their choice, usually in the second year of their Cambridge International AS and A Levels. They are encouraged to research an issue of great interest to them, and are supported by trained teachers as they analyse, evaluate and synthesise their findings into a 5000-word report.

Undertaking this kind of project is designed to encourage students’ intellectual curiosity and develop their practical and analytical investigation techniques, in preparation for university study.

It also demonstrates to university admissions officers the student’s interest in a particular topic, which could support their university application process, for instance in their ‘personal statement’.

Some of the research topics that students chose to research in our two-year pilot study included: ‘How far should governments control access to the internet?’; ‘How successful was Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal in helping the US recover from the Great Depression?’; ‘Has traditional marketing become obsolete in an age of social media?; and: ‘Is a vegetarian diet good for human health?’

“Higher probability of achieving a good degree”.

At Cambridge International, our research shows that this type of extended project can help students succeed once at university.

Recent research by Cambridge Assessment researcher Tim Gill has found a link between undertaking extended project-type qualifications and potential for degree success.

In his investigation, Tim looked at different qualifications, and sought  to discover which, if any, better prepares students for university study. To do so, he analysed the degree outcomes of students and the type of qualification they undertook before entering university. The research was conducted with students in England taking UK A Levels.

Gill wrote that his results “suggest that the skills learnt in undertaking a significant project over a long period of time (e.g. planning, research, analysis) may prepare students better for university than subject-based courses only.”

These findings back up earlier research with Carmen Vidal Rodeiro, where the pair found a statistically significant positive correlation between extended project qualification grades and later university achievement. They wrote that “for two students with the same A Level performance the one with the extended project qualification had a higher probability of achieving a good degree”.

An investment in the future:

Schools can begin teaching the Cambridge IPQ in June 2019, and full training will be on offer for teachers to prepare for this new subject.

The Cambridge IPQ will, moreover, be unique in its market. It will be the only extended project-type qualification that will be fully marked, rather than moderated. This means that every project students complete will be marked by a trained examiner in Cambridge – ensuring consistency of results.

It is clear to me that undertaking the Cambridge IPQ will support learners to become independent and capable of making a successful transition into university-style learning.

Meanwhile, university admissions teams will have additional evidence that will help them to identify applicants likely to adapt well to their studies.

You can read more about the Cambridge IPQ here or in the syllabus document.

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