Sasha Arridge studied Cambridge Pre-U Global Perspectives & Independent Research (GPR), together with four A Levels, at Shrewsbury School in the UK, before reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University. We spoke to him in April 2018.
'At Shrewsbury School, all sixth-form students have the option to study either Cambridge Pre-U GPR, for one year or two, or take the one-year Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). The two-year Cambridge Pre-U GPR course was perceived as being more demanding, which is why I decided to take it. The course gave me the same freedom as the EPQ to explore and research a topic in depth, but also – in the first year – taught me the skills I needed to research effectively. I studied Maths, Further Maths, English and Philosophy & Theology at A Level. Alongside English, Cambridge Pre-U GPR proved to be my favourite sixth-form course.
'Cambridge Pre-U GPR prepared me for university. It taught me many useful research and critical thinking skills, especially how to read critically a ‘proper’ academic paper. The course also improved the clarity and concision of my writing, the importance of which only really became apparent at university. The assessment format is also very relevant – the final exam asks you to critique material presented to you, and the independent research report (IRR) and presentation are useful introductions to the world of academic research, an area I want to go into after my degree.
'Cambridge Pre-U also helps prepare you for university interviews by teaching you how to approach new material analytically – an indispensable interview skill – and gives you the ability to get to grips with new information very quickly. Above all, however, Cambridge Pre-U GPR gives you the independent study skills that universities want – it’s evidence of your aptitude for the type of learning demanded by universities, and can really set your application apart.
'Now that I’m an undergraduate, I know that university study involves a lot of independent learning, especially in the humanities. Cambridge Pre-U GPR teaches you how to find the most relevant research sources and how to digest information. Much of my university work follows a similar process to researching and writing the IRR, so having a ‘taster’ of this process at school definitely made the transition to university much smoother, and I’m still using these skills as I work on my undergraduate dissertation.
Independent Research Report
'For me, the Independent Research Report (IRR) was when the fun really started – a chance to use all the skills I had developed so far, and my first real opportunity to study a subject I really enjoyed, in depth and in an academic context. The subject of my IRR was:‘Will the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provisions in the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) agreement undermine democracy in EU member states?' TTIP was being negotiated at the time I was deciding on my IRR topic, and the ISDS (whereby a company could sue a government if its policies had reduced the company’s profits) was not widely publicised, despite its potentially profound impact in the EU and USA. I’m very interested in democratic theory and practice, which made the implications of ISDS fascinating and important, and the lack of publicity around this issue motivated me to find out more.
'Although my IRR turned out very well, I did waste time at the start of the process and should have made a better plan – this proved quite stressful but made me understand the value of proper time management, something I’m still working on today. However, I was very proud of my IRR when it was finished, and I’m still proud of it today.'