Note: This guidance is in line with the new rules that came in force on 1st August 2018. These rules apply to all candidates regardless of when they enrolled.
If you are reading this post, you have probably received the dreaded news that you were unsuccessful at your APC. This is probably quite a low time in your career but remember that all successful people have suffered failure at some point in their lives. Think about the spectacular failures of Virgin America and Virgin Cola! Richard Branson is not doing too badly nowadays, is he?
We have helped dozens of referred candidates pass their APC at their next attempt and here are a few words of wisdom that we have learnt from them.
Be upset but take it on the chin
First, you should take the time to be upset about it. You put a lot of efforts into your APC preparation and it is normal to be disappointed, disheartened or even angry. Do not hold back talking about it. 35% to 45% of candidates get referred every session so there will people in your network who will have shared the same experience and will be happy to compare notes with you.
Once you have passed this initial stage of upset, you need to take it on the chin and move on. Let’s show these assessors what you are truly made of!
I know of many brilliant surveyors who got referred at their first attempt. Being referred does not mean that you are not good at your job, it just means that there was something that you could not demonstrate at the interview.
The panel has only met you for one hour, so it is true that they do not have much time to get to know you, however the APC is quite a robust and impartial process. While you may feel that you have been unfairly referred, you have to accept it, identify your weaknesses and work on them.
Should I appeal?
The RICS allow you to appeal if you feel that the interview was not managed correctly. There is a £100 appeal fee and if successful, you will be invited to another interview free of charge, but you will not automatically become chartered.
If you were referred in a number of competencies, there is little hope of your appeal being successful. However if you were solely referred on your case study and it was obvious that you were being questioned on another candidate’s case study, this would be a valid ground (although quite an unlikely scenario!).
Remember that writing a referral report takes hours and assessors do not get paid for it, so believe me when I say that they want nothing more than to pass you! If they referred you, they had strong grounds even if you may not grasp them yet.
Personally, I would not bother and focus my energy on working on my next attempt.
Identify your weaknesses
You should receive your referral report within 21 days. Some panels will provide more details than others and you may not agree with all its contents, but regardless of this, your starting point for your next attempt must be your referral report.
There are several reasons why you may have been referred and each will require a different response.
1- Lack of level 1 knowledge
Most graduate candidates will be still in study mode after university and will have read all the books and memorised their contents. If you have not, well, it is a good time to re-open your books! If there was something that you did not know last time, make sure that you have studied it this time!
The more mature candidates may have found the revision stage more challenging. You may be good at what you are doing but the assessors expect you to understand why your company asks you to do things in a certain way. There will always be a guidance or a regulation that justifies the way you approach a task. Exploring the ‘Knowledge’ tab in the RICS website would be a good starting point.
Keep your rules of conduct and ethics up-to-date too. The ‘News’ tab on the RICS website will provide you with all the industry’s current topics and latest RICS publications.
We also offer an on-demand online library of revision webinars if you need a more structured approach to your revisions.
2- Did not follow industry best practice
Cutting corners or doing things your own way and ignoring the RICS professional guidance is not acceptable from an aspiring chartered surveyor. If it is the way you work, you will need to change your approach if you want to become chartered.
If your employer puts you under pressure to cut corners, you must be an ambassador to the RICS and promote best practice. You cannot passively follow bad orders. It does not matter too much if they ignored your advice as long as you used your best endeavour to correct procedures.
If you are not even aware that you are cutting corners, I would recommend you to read all the RICS professional guidance available on the RICS website and start applying it.
Many candidates think that they deserve to be chartered because they have 9 or 10 year experience but if you have been doing everything wrong all this time and you are not addressing this now, you will get referred again.
3- Did not demonstrate level 3
This is probably the biggest cause of referral. There are two possible reasons.
First, have you truly provided reasoned advice to a client on the topics listed in your pathway guide at level 3 or were just doing as you were told?
Sitting in a meeting room listening to your manager giving advice to a client is not the same than leading discussions yourself while your manager is only attending the meeting to support you if you get into difficulties.
If you are not getting enough client’s exposure to gain the level 3 experience, you must have an honest conversation with your employer. Why are they not trusting you with their clients?
Sometimes they may have simply not realised that they are not giving you the opportunity to grow in your role and this conversation can help open new doors for you.
But sometimes, you may not be ready and you need to carefully listen to your manager’s feedback and agree a plan of action for you to progress.
In some very rare situations, your employer will not be interested in your professional development and looking for opportunities elsewhere may be your only option. But do be critical of yourself before blaming others!
The second potential reason is that you may have not expressed yourself correctly at the interview. Did you answer many questions with ‘we advised’ rather than ‘I advised’? When challenged on the advice that you gave, were you unable to stand by your choices and justify them? Were you rushing to your solution without taking the assessors through your logical thought process?
If this is your case, this can be easily addressed. You need to read your submission documents in details (or ask an assessor to help you if you know one) and challenge yourself on all the advice that you gave at level 3. Why was it the best solution against the project’s objectives? Was there any risks in this option that you should have mitigated? Was there other potential solutions that you did not think of at the time? Which advice did you give to the client on other related topics? How does this fit in the bigger picture?
If you amend your submission documents accordingly and practice answering this kind of questions, your next attempt will be a much better interview.
We offer mini-mocks with one assessor which can be a way to practise answering level 3 questions if you cannot find a colleague who could help. We can also review your revised documents if you wish.
4- Does not have the relevant experience
If the assessors repeatedly asked you to give examples that were not in your summary of experience or asked you to provide advice on a fictional scenario, it is likely that they felt that you had not covered some key aspects of your pathway in your documents. If you could not give them an example at the interview or you desperately waffled some vaguely related answer, this will confirm that you have not yet achieved all the relevant levels. Your counsellor should have probably not signed you off but this is a different matter…
You need to pick up your pathway guide and list off all the activities that you have not achieved to establish a competency gap that you can take to your line manager. Assisting your colleague to do something once does not count as meeting a competency requirement! Discuss with your employer a plan of action to close these competency gaps and monitor your progress every couple of months. If your employer is unable to give you the relevant experience, you could accept to delay your APC or apply for a job elsewhere. Please be aware that you are unlikely to be advising clients for months if you change employer as they will want to test your abilities first, so think carefully!
The re-submission process
There used to be a referral section where candidates had to explain how they had addressed the deficiencies identified in their referral report but since 01st August 2018, this section has been omitted.
As a result, you can simply re-write part or all of your submission documents as you feel fit. As a minimum, make sure that you address all the deficiencies identified in your referral report as (most) assessors will have spent a lot of time writing it to put you in the right direction.
If your referral report recommends that you should write a new case study or if it is now out-of-date, do not just ignore it: write a new case study. It will take you more time but starting afresh can help boosting your confidence. Do trust the assessors; Going back to the interview with a weak case study is not going to help you.
Please be aware that since 01st August 2018, assessors will no longer be informed whether a candidate was previously referred or not. Therefore, you no longer need to upload your referral report on ARC and you will be assessed in exactly the same conditions than your first attempt. The idea with this change is to remove any conscious or unconscious bias from the assessors.
As the number of assessors is limited, your new panel may include one – and no more than one – of your previous assessors but the chances are that he or she will not remember much about your first interview so do not be put off if you recognise a face.
Need further help?
Hopefully, this post will have put you in the right direction but if you need further help preparing for your next attempt, we offer a number of support services for referred candidates as well as a complete preparation programme.
Best of luck!