This year’s Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) cohort is celebrating an outstanding set of results, with all boys achieving A*-A grades. Given much of their research was carried out over the summer, the nine boys who submitted projects in November 2020 had to fully utilise their creativity and problem-solving capabilities, drawing upon the school’s excellent online library provision to support them.

The EPQ, a Level Three qualification equivalent to half an A-Level, is open to boys who wish to build on skills developed when completing their Bedford School Independent Project (BSIP) in the Lower Sixth and attracts candidates from across all subject ranges.

Boys select, adjust and refine their research question as their reading develops and make great strides in learning how to organise their research and, ultimately, structure and present work equivalent to undergraduate standard. Max Sogan, one of our top young scientists, reflected on his progress in his production log: “This is the first time I have written an academic essay, which has taught me how research findings should be structured regarding referencing, abstracts and glossaries.” While most candidates produce an Extended Essay, it is also possible to submit an Artefact. Computer scientist Hasnain Zaidi chose the latter option and worked hard to produce and trial a language learning app designed to optimise second language acquisition, inspired by his own attempts to learn Japanese. 

Excellent scientific reports were produced by George Winder, who investigated the importance of reactive oxygen species in causing disease and ageing via apoptosis and DNA damage, and Hugh Halsey who, having wondered why fish and chips taste better by the sea, asked whether taste is more important than smell in shaping our perceptions of food and drink (answer: it isn’t!). Several boys extended their learning within the field of economics and business, producing detailed multidisciplinary studies. Max Faller assessed the fashion industry’s global economic and environmental impact, taking the opportunity in his presentation to share clips of the online shows held in lieu of the blockbuster events usually held in the world’s fashion capitals. Alex Gates organised interviews with industry insiders and included insights from history and psychology in his review of changes in marketing. Thomas Raut was commended for his meticulous survey of business reporting and its impact on how companies define, shape and project their values, comparing corporate regulation and auditing in the UK and America. William Garner marshalled a raft of evidence in his evaluation of the socioeconomic impact of recent Olympic Games held in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio, and Ben Parrish reflected on the contemporary role of mercurial entrepreneurs in his study of the Uber business model, asking how far its ‘creative disruption’ aligns with good ethical standards. Special mention should go to Max Sogan, who achieved the rare distinction of full marks (50/50) for his project entitled: Could Flying Wings replace Conventional Aircraft? An investigation into how the opportunity for the early adoption of flying wing aircraft was missed, its implications for aviation today, and the economic, logistical and psychological implications of its potential reintroduction.

Boys thinking about undertaking the EPQ should be encouraged by these outcomes and would also benefit from listening to the advice of some of this year’s most successful candidates. Max recommends choosing a topic that you are passionate about, given how important it is to maintain motivation throughout the research process and when writing up the work. Of course, motivation also requires resilience, and this is the subject of Hasnain’s comment to prospective candidates: If I were to give advice to anyone undertaking any project, it would be to not be afraid to fail. It is inevitable that some of your work will not go the way you had originally planned, but your ability to adapt to the changes is where you will improve the most at whatever your project is working towards.”

Wise words, and many congratulations to all.

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