FOREWORD: Please be aware that this post is not an official RICS guidance.
All the advice given in this blog is based on my personal interpretation of the APC Candidate’s Guide which I have enhanced through many discussions with fellow APC Mentors and APC Assessors.
Sonia Desloges MRICS
Director, APC Support Limited
The Case Study for the APC
The Case Study that you are required to submit as part of your APC submission is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your technical and professional skills through a project that you know very well. But how do you get started with it?
What is a good key issue?
What are you expected to include in each section?
What techniques can you use to best demonstrate your competencies?
I will address these questions in a series of three posts taking you through the stages of writing your case study.
- Select your key issue(s)
- Write your Case Study to the requisite format
- Perfect your drafts applying concise and logical reasoning, using accurate vocabulary and demonstrating level 3 competencies.
This post will focus on the first stage: selecting your key issue(s).
Selecting a suitable key issue is critical in achieving the objectives of the Case Study, so let’s take you step by step through the identification process of your best key issues.
When do I need to start thinking about my Case Study?
As a rule of thumb, I would recommend discussing your Case Study with your Counsellor 12 months before your final interview. This will give you the time to request additional responsibilities or to get involved in a different project if you both identify that you do not have a suitable key issue yet.
I would recommend that you keep a little notebook in which you record anything interesting that occurred in your projects to jiggle up your memory when needed.
Assessors recognise that candidates will have gained a very diverse experience depending on their employment and as a result almost any of your projects is suitable for your Case Study.
Your selected project does not have to be a multi-million award winning scheme. Small low-profile projects attract the same challenges that major projects and require the same set of skills.
Some of your projects will be more suitable than others and you should start by compiling a short list of your most suitable projects.
- Which projects did I work on over the last 24 months?
The topic of your Case Study must not be older than 24 months by the time you submit your documents for final assessment (or preliminary review if applicable)
- In which of my projects was I a key member of the team?
You do not have to be running the project but you must have had a strong degree of delegated responsibility to deliver the project.
- Out of those, in which ones did I get to personally advise my client?
You must be able to demonstrate level 3 competencies in your Case Study so you need to select a project in which you have influenced your client’s decision, or at least been involved in the decision making process. This does not have to be the final client; it can be an internal client such as another department or another level in hierarchy.
- Out of those, in which ones did the team generally follow industry best practice?
If you select a project in which corners were constantly cut, it is very unlikely that you will have dealt with your key issues in the manner expected for the purpose of your APC.
What is a good key issue?
Once you have your short-list of projects, you need to consider all the challenges that you have encountered during your involvement. Hopefully you will have kept a notebook and you can easily go through your notes to refresh your memory. At this stage, write down everything that comes to your mind!
You then need to identify which among these many challenges are potential key issues.
A key issue has to be something that occurred outside the daily routine tasks. Explaining what you do as a normal course of action is not dealing with a key issue. Very often, it is the circumstances that made a relatively standard task a challenge for the candidate to overcome.
For example, demonstrating value for money is part of the day job for a quantity surveyor, but demonstrating value for money when there is only one specialist contractor in Europe who can deliver the works is far trickier and therefore a key issue.
Obviously your key issue(s) must be related to the competencies listed in the pathway guide and you must demonstrate at least two competencies at level 3.
Once you have gathered your list of potential key issues, review them asking yourselves these questions;
- What was specific to this project or client that led to this challenge?
A key issue that occurred because of your own naivety or negligence would be definitively best avoided. Equally, an over-complex issue may trip you off.
- Were there several options to overcome this challenge or only one possible course of action?
If there was only one viable option, you will not be able to demonstrate your analytic skills which is intrinsic to achieving level 3: reasoned advice.
- Were all my options tasks that I would not ordinarily carry out if it was not for this key issue?
For example checking that I have not made any arithmetical errors is not an option, it is a compulsory best practice task.
- Did I act in accordance with the RICS standards?
If for a reason or another you had to heavily deviate from best practice in your short-listed key issue, play it safe and select a different key issue. (And use your best endeavour to follow best practice in the future!)
How many key issues?
Most candidates select two keys issues because it enables them to demonstrate a broader breath of experience while being able to analyse their options and choices in details.
You may discuss a single key issue if it was particularly complex and enabled you to apply a range of level 3 competencies.
I would not recommend including a third key issue in your Case Study. If you cannot write 3,000 words on two key issues, it is probably because you have not carried out your analysis in sufficient details, or that your key issues are too weak.
Final words of advice
Whatever the key issue(s) that you will select, remember that you will be questioned on your Case Study for 10mins and you must therefore be very knowledgeable on these topics and also be able to justify the decisions that you made. You must be able to demonstrate that you have learnt lessons from your key issues and that it contributed to your attainment of the skills and behaviours required as a chartered surveyor.
Finally, remember to verify with your clients that you are authorised to use their project details for your Case Study without facing issues of confidentiality. It is always wise to obtain their written consent.
If you would like to prepare the detailed plan of your Case Study with our APC trainers and discuss with them your key issues and options, we offer one-to-one mentoring sessions either face-to-face (Manchester or London only) or via Skype.
We also offer a documentation review service once you have completed your draft. Please check our pre-submission services here.
Alternatively, we offer face-to-face training for corporate clients across the UK. Please e-mail us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk to discuss your requirements.