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 Ltd
Completing your Summary of Experience
Your summary of experience will form the basis of the assessors’ questioning so it is really worth spending time to get it right. If you are following the Preliminary Review route, a poor summary of experience is also likely to receive a ‘Not suitable for you to proceed’ response and delay your interview.
So what do assessors expect to see in your summary of experience?
- A demonstration that you have achieved the required levels
- Statements relevant to your declared competencies
- Precise and concise real project examples
- A broad range of experience
- Professional vocabulary and grammar
Writing your summary of experience correctly is a time consuming exercise. It is not unusual for candidates to spend over an hour on each competency – it is really not as easy as it seems! – and it is a smart idea to start working on it about 6 months before your interview.
The word limit for the Mandatory Competencies is 1,500 words maximum. This represents approximately 100 words per ‘box’.
The word limit for Technical and Optional Competencies is between 3,000 to 4,000 words.
As different pathways have different numbers of competencies this adds up to approximately;
- Circa 160 words per box for Building Surveyors and Quantity Surveyors
- Circa 125 words per box for Project Managers
- Circa 185 words per box for Built Infrastructure
Assessors aim to focus on your levels 3 so the rule of thumb is to be succinct at level 1 and provide more details in level 3.
A demonstration that you have achieved the required levels
Level 1: learning
At level 1 you will be tested on the theoretical knowledge deemed required to carry out your job diligently.
You should (very briefly) explain how you achieved this level: university degree, self-study, employer’s structured training, CPD, etc. and mention the topics that you have studied. Assessors will use your statements as a starting point for their questioning but be aware that you are expected to be familiar with all the topics listed within your pathway guide. Assessors may also use your CPD records and case study to test your levels 1 and they may bounce back on your answers during your interview to assess some areas of knowledge in more details.
Level 2: doing
In level 2, you should describe how you have put the theoretical knowledge acquired in level 1 into practice. Depending on your professional experience, you may not have been exposed to all the activities listed in your pathway guide. This is why it is important that you provide the assessors with precise information for their questioning.
You should pick between 1 and 3 activities listed under the relevant competency in your pathway guide and explain in details the process you followed to carry out these activities in one or several of your projects. You do not have to name the project if you do not wish to, but you should let the assessors know what type of project it was: an office refurbishment, a new industrial warehouse, a university teaching unit, etc.
Level 3: advising
At this level, you need to demonstrate that you have provided reasoned advice to a client. If you work for a contractor, this may be an internal client such as a director or another department in your company and if you work for a sub-contractor, this may be the main contractor in the project. Explaining to a trainee how to carry out a task can count towards your CPD hours but it does not constitute reasoned advice as per the APC requirements.
To overcome this hurdle, think of your levels 3 like mini case studies:
First, on which topic did you have to provide advice? Present the assessors with some brief background if necessary.
Secondly, what factors did you have to consider to ensure that you would provide suitable advice? This may be some specific site conditions, some budget constraints, some technical issues, some programme considerations, etc.
Then, what course of action did you recommend and why? It is critical that you answer the question ‘why?’ to achieve level 3. The more you can demonstrate that you applied logical thinking, the better.
And finally, try to give sufficient details to demonstrate level 3 but leave some areas open for assessors’ questioning.
Statements relevant to your declared competencies
The APC requirements are very strict and you must be watchful that the statements and examples given in your Summary of Experience reflect your selected competencies. For example, you may have gained experience in planning and programming but if it is not one of your technical or optional competencies, there is really no benefit in expanding on the topic for your APC.
Your starting point should always be your pathway guide. You should constantly refer to the examples of activities listed under each competency as you write your Summary of Experience.
Precise and concise real project examples & A broad range of experience
The APC is evidence based. At levels 2 and 3, it is therefore essential that you enhance your statements with examples from specific projects.
Assessors do not need to know the full project details nor the exhaustive description of what other people have done. They are only interested in the process that YOU followed.
Some unsatisfactory examples would be:
Project Financial Control and Reporting, Level 2;
‘I am responsible for producing reports in most of my projects, which I do with professionalism and high standards of work.’
Here, the candidate does not provide any evidence to support his generic statement.
Construction Technology, Level 3;
‘I always advise to use steel frame in all my projects because it is cheaper and faster.’
The advice provided should be tailored to the specificities of the project and client. While steel frame may be generally cheaper and faster, it is not the best technical solution for all projects and the candidate is not demonstrating any logical reasoning in this statement.
Procurement and Tendering, Level 3;
‘In the office refurbishment project in Manchester, I was asked to advise my client on the most appropriate procurement route. I organised a meeting with my client and several stakeholders to understand their key priorities. In this case, it was critical that the planned completion date was achieved and they were willing to transfer a large proportion of risks onto the contractor. I explained that the contractor would be charging a risk premium which my client acknowledged. Retaining control over the design was not critical in this simple refurbishment project. Basing my advice on my experience and the use of a procurement scoring matrix, I recommended a design and build procurement route. This route would enable my client to start the project on site earlier thus providing a greater float towards the end of the project. It would also provide my client with a single point of responsibility. My client accepted my advice and the project was completed within the required timescales.’
As this example is based on a fictional project, it is still rather generic and you may add more or less details as relevant to your project.
Selection of project examples
I have only presented one project example in this blog as an illustration, but you may state 2 or 3 examples in each level 2 and each level 3 to demonstrate a broader range of experience if a single example is too narrow.
Obviously you will find yourself limited with the word count which is why being concise but precise is crucial. In the other extreme, do not try to squeeze in as many examples as possible as you would have to be so brief that the quality of your submission would suffer.
Be also mindful that some areas of your competencies will be more important than others. For example, under Contract Practice, you are expected to have provided advice on the most appropriate form of contract to achieve level 3, or at least be able to convince your assessors that you would know exactly how to proceed if you had to.
If you do not mention a key topic in your Summary of Experience, you should still expect to be questioned about it during your interview.
Some questions will probably still take you by surprise but if you can answer most of the assessors’ questions precisely and with confidence, you will be on the right track to becoming chartered.
As you read once again your final draft before sending it to the RICS, it is worth focusing on a few last points;
- Check your grammar and spelling – Get a couple of people to proofread your submission.
- Use the first person – Assessors are only interested in what YOU did.
- Use active phrases rather than passive.
- Use the appropriate terminology in particular in contract practice and rules of conduct – If you are unsure, check in a textbook or google it!
- Give some breathing space to your summary of experience by jumping to the line between topics.
- And once again, make sure that your levels 3 demonstrate logical reasoning like mini-case studies.
If you require a detailed review of your APC submission documents, we offer this service for APC candidates in most pathways both in the UK and outside the UK. Please visit our website for more information: http://www.apcsupport-ltd.co.uk/pre-submission-support
If you need to enhance your understanding of the competencies, APC Support Ltd offer on-demand revision webinars covering all the technical and mandatory competencies in Quantity Surveying, Built Infrastructure, Building Surveying, Building Control, Project Management and Facilities Management.
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.
All the modules are recorded and will provide you with over 30 hours of formal CPD. You can attend them on a pay-as-you-go basis or subscribe to our unlimited revision package.