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 2016 which I have enhanced through many discussions with fellow APC Mentors and APC Assessors.
Sonia Desloges MRICS
Director, APC Support Limited
Case Study: Writing to the requisite format.
As I explained in the first part of this series of three articles, writing your Case Study should advance in three stages:
- 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 second post focuses – quite logically – on the second stage and will examine each section of the Case Study step by step.
Front Cover and Contents
The current RICS template for the Case Study is set out on ARC and also contained within the ‘APC Submission Template’ available for download on the RICS website:
http://www.rics.org/uk/apc/pathway-guides (select your relevant pathway and make sure that you select ‘chartered’ if you are applying for full MRICS status rather than Associate)
The Assessors will expect your Case Study to be presented to the highest professional standards, exactly like a formal report to a client.
Whilst this is not currently included in the RICS template, I would therefore strongly recommend that you add a front cover and a page of content.
You can download the amended template that I have produced here: case-study-template-august-2016
If you feel that this is a little adventurous, you will find that most assessors and APC mentors give the same advice on the APC Forum on LinkedIn. It will make you stand out from the crowd and in a good way.
This template is an exact copy of the RICS template but includes additional sub-sections to help you with your structure and your word count. You may choose to remove the sub-headings at the time of your submission or retain them, which will help the assessors follow your case study more easily.
You may adapt the front cover to suit your personal preferences but I would suggest including a photograph of your project as it will help grabbing your reader’s interest.
I have also added a couple of optional additional pages that you may want to consider. Those do not have to be included in the word count.
The RICS have included a confidentiality statement assuming that you will obtain consent from your client and your employer. If this is not the case and you can not reveal all the names and details, I have included an alternative wording which you may amend to suit.
Glossary of Abbreviations
Using abbreviations and acronyms is generally not recommended but if you must, remember to incorporate a glossary or list of abbreviations. Remember to always use the full word with the abbreviation between brackets the first time you use an acronym in your case study, eg the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and thereafter RICS.
Page of Contents
Like all professional reports, your case study should have a page of contents. This page is automatically linked to the contents of your case study but you must remember to right-click on your mouse to update the fields.
Your case study is to be uploaded as a pdf rather than directly typed on ARC so you can really make an effort on presentation.
Section 1: Introduction (circa 500 words)
In this section you are expected to give a brief description of the project, your roles and responsibilities. You do not need to give detailed background to your key issue(s) in this section but simply put your reader into context.
As with every written work, start with an introduction sentence such as:
‘This report will critically analyse my involvement as the [your role] in project XYZ.’
You can add a brief outline of your report if you can afford the extra words (please omit if your wordcount if too tight!). For example;
‘I will present two keys issues which I encountered in this project and review the options I considered to overcome them. This report will go on to evaluate the outcome of my approach and recommended solution, and conclude by the analysis of the lessons I have learnt through this experience.’
1.1 Project Overview
Include some or all of the following as appropriate – this may be as bullet points if you are struggling with the word count;
- Brief description of project
- Brief description of client (and stakeholders but only if relevant to your key issues)
- Stage at which the project currently is
- Project key objectives (if relevant)
- Project key risks and constraints (if relevant)
- Key dates / timescales
- Project value, form of contract, procurement (as relevant to your pathway)
1.2 My involvement and responsibilities
- What was your role? (Keep it short and make a list with bullet points if you carried out many different tasks)
- What was your level of responsibility?
- At what stage did you get involved?
Section 2: My approach (circa 1,600 words)
Remember that the assessors are only interested in what YOU did. Write the whole of your Case Study using the first person and active verbs.
2.1 Key Issue One: [Give it a title] (circa 800 words)
Provide the background to your first key issue in this sub-section.
You do not need to explain all the details of the project or circumstances. Focus on the key points that impacted on your decisions to consider and reject or adopt your options.
The type of questions you need to answer here may be;
- What events or constraints led to the key issue?
- What made it a challenge for you?
- What was the stance of your client and stakeholders?
- What were the risks to the project?
Do not omit to clearly formulate what your key issue was. The Assessors have not worked with you on your project and you should not over-estimate their ability to guess what you are trying to say. Ask a friend who does not know anything about your project to read your case study to check whether you have suitably expressed yourself.
Start by explaining what your objectives were when you started tackling this key issue. What were you aiming to achieve?
This will enable you to set out a number of criteria against which you will measure the success of your solution in section 3 (My Achievements) of your Case Study. This could be just half a sentence or a couple of sentences depending on the complexity of your project.
Then briefly list the 2 to 4 options that you considered. (3 is always best)
‘As it was critical to my client that the budget was not exceeded whilst not compromising the end user’s requirements, I identified that three courses of actions were available to me for resolving this key issue:
- Option 1: XYZ
- Option 2: ABC
- Option 3: Bla bla bla’
As the headings and sub-headings must be included in your word count, you may have to choose between listing your options here or stating them under the next series of sub-headings to keep to the word limit.
Then review them one at the time remembering that you want to demonstrate your level 3 competencies (providing reasoned advice).
Option 1: [title]
- What led you to consider option 1? Why was is a realistic option?
- What methodology did you use to analyse its suitability? Why?
- What were the results of your analysis?
- Why did these results lead you to reject this option?
- How did you advise your client?
Option 2: [title]
Repeat the same structure for option 2.
Option 3: [title]
The last option is usually your solution. Same as options 1 and 2 but you may emphasise on how you established that it was the best solution and why.
You need to follow a logical reasoning and also demonstrate that you have taken into account your client’s requirements and that you have addressed the issue you were trying to resolve. Inserting a table listing the advantages and disadvantages of each option is not satisfactory. You must write full sentences and analyse the benefits or not of each option against your objectives.
Once again remember that you need to demonstrate that you provided reasoned advice.
This structure is adopted by most candidates but may not work with all key issues and some candidates prefer to briefly describe each option, why they considered them and the methodology applied under each relevant sub-heading. And they add an additional section ‘Analysis of options’ in which they compare and contrast the relative benefits and disadvantages of each option against the objectives they aim to achieve.
2.3 Key Issue Two: [Give it a title] (circa 800 words)
Proceed as per Key Issue One.
You do not need to have a second key issue if your first one was particularly complex and entailed the application of several Level 3 competencies.
I would not recommend more than two keys issues as the strict word count will not permit you to explain them in sufficient depth.
Section 3: My achievements (circa 400 words)
The official RICS Candidate’s Guide states:
‘In this section you should describe what you achieved, how you achieved this and what your involvement was. Demonstrate your ability to think logically, laterally and professionally giving examples of where you gave reasoned advice to a client for your level 3 competencies.’
To be clear, you should aim to demonstrate level 3 competencies in the whole of your Case Study, not just this section.
You do not need to explain how you achieved each competency nor how you were thinking logically, laterally and professionally. Assessors will work this out by themselves. In this section, you just need to explain what happened next.
I recommend that you tackle this section in two steps. First describe the outcome, then explain how you achieved it. Make sure that you focus on what YOU did.
Deal with your key issues one after the other to avoid confusing the assessors.
3.1 Key Issue One
- What was the result?
- What were the project’s and client’s objectives and key drivers? Did you achieve them? Did they evolve over time? (Link it back to Section 2.2)
- What happened next? How did you implement your solution?
Do not hesitate to give one or two precise figures or details if you can. This will provide the assessors with additional evidence that you have successfully resolved your key issue.
How did you achieve this?
This will be completely specific to your personal circumstances but below are some examples for consideration;
- What arguments did you put forward to convince your client / stakeholders? (relate it back to your objectives)
- How did your client react when you advised them of your solution?
- Did you have any difficulties convincing your client and / or stakeholders? Why?
- Was there a risk that your solution would fail? How did you mitigate this risk?
- What did you personally do that contributed to the successful outcome?
- In hindsight, do you think that there was a better alternative? (Maybe one option that your client rejected?)
3.2 Key Issue Two
Proceed as per Key Issue One.
Section 4: Conclusion (circa 500 words)
In accordance with the RICS Candidate’s Guide, ‘in this section you need to critically reflect on and analyse your performance and make reference to the lessons you learnt and what you would do differently next time.’
This is the most challenging section for many candidates and yet, probably the most important one. You should aim to identify three or four lessons learnt per key issue. You should also try to relate them to your pathway competencies.
- Which competencies did you develop and how? (this may include soft and professional skills as well as rules of conduct and ethics)
- Did you learn any better ways of doing your job? Did you gain a better appreciation of the reasons why the industry’s best practice is what it is?
- What were the causes of your key issue(s)? In future projects, could you do anything to prevent or mitigate it?
- Could you have tackled your key issues in a more efficient manner? (Obviously, you want to convince the panel that you dealt with it very well but you also need to be critical of your performance)
- How have you used / could you use one or several of these lessons learnt in other projects?
Finally close your Case Study with a concluding sentence such as;
‘I believe the lessons learnt during my involvement in this project have contributed to my understanding of the role required of a Chartered Surveyor and I will ensure I take all of these forward on to future projects.’
Best of luck!
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.