Experience

RICS APC – Business Planning

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Introduction.

Business Planning is a mandatory competency that APC candidates from all pathways need to achieve at Level 1.

Candidates from the Art & Antiques pathway may elect to take this competency to Level 2 or 3 as part of their optional selection.

Business Planning is a Core Competency at Level 3 for the Management Consultancy pathway.

Please note that the requirements at Level 1 when taken as a Technical Competency within the aforementioned pathways are slightly different from the requirements as a Mandatory Competency. You should refer to your specific Pathway Guide for more details.

What is it about?

The official RICS definition is:

Level 1 = ‘Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how business planning activities contribute to the achievement of corporate objectives’.

It includes several topics:

  • Legislation and principles of law – See Pg. 33 of the RICS Practice Management Guidelines
  • Types and essential elements of Business Plans
  • Short term / long term strategies
  • Market analysis (SWOT / PEST)
  • Organisational structures / Staffing levels – recruitment / turnover
  • Business support services – administration, secretarial, HR, IT etc.

Most APC candidates will have come across the key concepts of Business Planning – knowingly or not – at some point during their graduate studies. Some of the largest employers may also offer on-line management training modules. Alternatively nothing stops you from picking up a basic book on business management to brush on your knowledge in strategy, organisational structures, market analysis, etc

I also strongly recommend you to read the RICS Practice Management Guidelines  to understand how business planning is relevant to surveyors. It has now been withdrawn but we have saved a copy for you!

Those working in the largest companies may recognise some of the tools used by their employers and gain an understanding of why those are in place. Those working in small practices or as self-employed may find very useful advice to grow their business acumen.

Potential APC Questions

Due to time constraints, assessors will only have time to ask you a few questions on Business Planning. As a minimum they will expect you to know what a business plan is, be familiar with your company’s business plan and business model, and understand how you can contribute to the achievement of your company’s corporate objectives.

If you are applying under the Senior Professional Route (SPA), assessors will expect you to have a detailed understanding of the development and implementation of your company’ s business plan.

Some very classic questions would be;

  • What is a business plan? What do you find in a business plan?
  • Can you tell us about your company’s current business plan?
  • What is your company’s management structure / business model?
  • What are your company’s values?
  • What tools does your company use to manage its business?
  • How do you ensure that you contribute to the achievement of your company’s objectives / business plan?
  • What is contained within an appointment document? What are your company’s terms of business?
  • What is the relevance of a SWOT or PEST analysis to business planning?

Some points that you will have stated in your Summary of Experience may trigger some questions more specific to your experience and personal knowledge.

For example you may state in your Summary of Experience that you have studied Porter’s Five Forces Model, SWOT analysis and PEST analysis as part of a business module at University. This may lead the APC assessors to ask you to explain what they are and to give an example specific to your company.

Final Tips

Business Planning is a crucial competency for those considering setting up their own practice or progressing to a management role after attainment of the MRICS status. I therefore recommend that you do not neglect it, both for your APC and future career development.

Familiarise yourself with your company’s business plan and its management structure and tools. Consider how you personally contribute to achieving its objectives (‘achievement of corporate objectives’ is contained within the definition of this competency). This may be by completing your timesheets and expenses in a timely manner or assessing your own competences and planning your CPD’s to acquire the relevant skills.

Make sure that you understand how to prepare a business plan and what it should look like.


All our past APC candidates will give you the same advice: do not underestimate the time required to revise (learn?) for your APC! It will easily take you 3 months of solid studying every evening.

To make this task a little easier, 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.

Best of luck!

RICS APC – Accounting Principles and Procedures

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Introduction.

Accounting Principles and Procedures is a mandatory competency that APC candidates from all pathways need to achieve at Level 1.

Candidates from some pathways (Art & Antiques, Commercial Property Practice, Property Finance and Investment, Rural Surveying, Valuation) may elect to take this competency to Level 2 or 3 as part of their optional selection.

Accounting Principles and Procedures is a Core Competency at Level 3 for the Taxation Allowance pathway.

Please note that the requirements at Level 1 when taken as a Technical Competency within the aforementioned pathways are different from the requirements as a Mandatory Competency. You should refer to your specific Pathway Guide for more details.

The examples provided in this post are more focused on the Construction pathways but you should be able to relate our tips and advices to other Property and Land pathways.

What is it about?!

The official RICS definition is:

Level 1 = ‘Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of accounting concepts and the format and preparation of management and company accounts, including profit and loss statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets.’

This gives you the first clues to your study list;

  • Company Accounts & the Companies Act 2006
  • Management accounts vs. Financial accounts
  • Profit and loss statement vs. Balance sheet
  • Cash flow statements

Less obvious topics depending on your experience and CPD records may include;

  • Taxation
  • Capital allowances
  • Ratio analysis
  • Profitability / Insolvency
  • Auditing

All candidates may potentially set up their own practice or join their company’s management team in the future, therefore a basic knowledge of Accounting Principles is required;

  • For monitoring your own business accounts.
  • For assessing your competition.

Candidates may use Accounting Principles for different purposes depending on their pathway and experience;

  • For assessing the financial strength of contractors (for example in PQQ’s in a tender process or to assess initial signs of insolvency).
  • For assessing the financial strength of potential landlords and tenants.
  • For profits-method valuation

Potential APC Questions

Due to time constraints during the interview you are unlikely to be asked more than one or two questions on Accounting Principles but which questions is anyone’s guess!

Some very classic textbook questions would be to describe or compare and contrast some of the accounting documents;

  • What is the difference between a profit and loss statement and a balance sheet?
  • What do companies need to provide every year in accordance with the Companies Act 2006?
  • What is the purpose of a cash flow statement?

Some points that you may have stated in your Summary of Experience, your Case Study or previous answers may trigger some questions more specific to your experience.

For example, as a Quantity Surveyor, you may state in your Summary of Experience that you have reviewed the contractors’ financial information as part of a PQQ. Or that you have carried out a credit check before recommending the appointment of a contractor in your tender report. This may lead the APC assessors to ask you questions such as;

  • How do you carry out a credit check / analyse company accounts?
  • What type of financial information do you usually request in a PQQ?

Which may lead to;

  • What type of ratios can you use? (liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, gearing ratios)
  • What are the signs of insolvency in a credit check / company accounts?

Which could in turn lead to;

  • What measures would you recommend if your client insists on appointing a contractor with low credit rating? [This would be asked within the Procurement and Tendering competency]

Or you may state that you are aware of your company’s accounts which were presented to you at a staff meeting. The panel would then expect you to know the answer to this question;

  •  What is your company’s current turnover and profit?

Final Tips

Remember that you are expected to achieve this competency at level 1. While you should be aware of the main accounting ratios, you are not a qualified accountant and you should not claim that you are analysing companies accounts for your client. (Do not fall short of the RICS Rules of Conduct!)

Remember that for most candidates, you only need to attain level 1 so keep it simple.


All our past APC candidates will give you the same advice: do not underestimate the time required to revise (learn?) for your APC! It will easily take you 3 months of solid studying every evening.

To make this task a little easier, 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.

Best of luck!

RICS APC PREPARATION DAYS – £110 + VAT for early bird rate!

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Before talking about the RICS APC Preparation Day, let’s take you back to the very beginnings of APC Support Limited, the company behind this blog.

Once upon a time were 5 newly chartered surveyors in the North-West of England who had enrolled with the RICS APC Mentor scheme. APC candidates were seldom aware of the scheme or did not dare to contact the mentors for advice, so these 5 mentors decided that it was time to do something about it!

They met their local RICS Regional Training Advisor in Warrington and contacted the chair of the QS Professional Group in Manchester and shared their ambitions. They were thrilled to be received with unreserved enthusiasm and their first APC preparation evening was soon organised.

Their first event was certainly a little chaotic but be reassured that they got much better at it over time!

Sadly, after some exciting times, the RICS was re-structured and they had to part ways, eventually leading Sonia Desloges to found APC Support Limited in order to pursue their passionate work with APC candidates.

Can you imagine our director’s delight when the RICS contacted her to take part, alongside two other amazing trainers, to their APC Preparation Days? It was like being back to the beginnings, when every day brought a new elating discovery! But this time, she has years of experience under her belt, the event will be run smoothly by the RICS and she simply cannot wait to share with you all you need to know for a successful APC journey.

The RICS currently have two dates:

  • Birmingham: Tues. 24th July 2018
  • Manchester: Wed. 25th July 2018

 

 

The RICS offer an early bird rate at £110 + VAT, which is ridiculously cheap for the amount of knowledge that you will gain. Just check out the agenda:

  • The process – Interpretation of the Candidate’s Guide
  • Workshop 1: “Getting to know you” workshop
  • Ethics and Standards
  •  The APC Case Study
  • The APC Presentation
  • The Interview – Assessors’ Expectations
  • Live Mock Interview and Q&A
  • Workshop 2: “Competencies” workshop
  • Hear from a recently passed candidate
  • Lifelong Learning

But hurry up because the early bird will expire on Friday 8th June!

If you miss it, the full rate of £155 + VAT is still amazing value.

Please book online at this link: https://ww2.rics.org/uk/events/training-courses/apc-prep-day/venue/20180725/

Important disclaimer: For the purpose of clarity and transparency, please do note that APC Support Limited is an independent entity and is not endorsed in any ways by the RICS .

Understanding the APC Submission Documents

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20160507_065556[1].jpgFOREWORD: 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

Understanding the APC Submission Documents

If you intend to sit your APC in the next 12 months, it is a good idea to start familiarising yourself with the APC Submission Documents.

All candidates enrolled since 1st January 2017 must complete their documents using the RICS online platform (ARC). Candidates enrolled prior to this date (inflight candidates)have the choice between using ARC or uploading a Pdf of the old word template.

In any case, you may find it much more user friendly if you use the Word Document template available to download from the RICS website to write your drafts and issue to the counsellor for feedback. There is indeed no option for printing your draft off ARC. If you have already used ARC, you will know exactly what I mean!

The APC Submission Template contains 8 sections which I will review one by one.

  1. Candidate Details
  2. Summary of Experience
  3. Case Study
  4. CPD Records
  5. Ethics Certificate
  6. Log Book (If applicable)
  7. Referral report (referred candidates only)
  8. Updated submission (referred candidates only)

 

 1. Candidate Details

Candidate and Counsellor / Supervisor Details

You only need to provide your name, pathway and some basic information about yourself and your supervisor / counsellor in this section. You also need to attach a professional picture (as opposed to one from social media!).

Do not forget to sign it and to get your counsellor and supervisor (if any) to sign it. If cannot obtain electronic signatures, please scan and upload the relevant page(s) on ACR.

Having a supervisor is optional but I would suggest that you take up the extra support if it is offered to you.

 

Qualifications and Employment History

Complete this section as you would for a brief CV to give the assessors an idea of experience to date. It is always useful to briefly describe your key projects in this section to save yourself some of the wordcount in your summary of experience.

2. Summary of Experience

This section is the most important part of your APC submission and I have dedicated a separate post to it – Follow the link: Completing your Summary of Experience

 

3. Case Study

This is also a topic in itself and I have written several posts about the case study:

Part 1: Selecting your key issue

Part 2: Writing your case study to the requisite format

Part 3: Perfecting your draft.

 

4. CPD Records

As an APC candidate, you need to complete 48 hours of CPD every 12 months, which can be pro-rata to 24 hours in your final 6 months. At least 50% must be formal CPD.

Activity type: Was it a seminar, a training class, a university project, an on-line CPD, in-house briefing, personal reading, internet search, mentoring, etc?

Purpose / learning outcome: You should not attend CPD events just for the sake of it; you need to attend them with the aim of learning something in relation to your job.

You need to identify where the gaps in your knowledge are and research how you can address them. APC Support Ltd offer on-demand revision webinars covering all the technical and mandatory competencies which enable you to gain over 30 hours of formal CPD hours.

Description: Briefly explain what the event was; it will usually be the description given by the CPD provider. Please also specify who delivered this CPD, or in which journal or website you read an article for example.

TIP: Be careful, this section is an excellent source of questions for assessors! If you state that you attended a 3-hour CPD on the difference between JCT and NEC contract, the assessors will expect you to be reasonably clued up on the topic.

Formal or informal: Please refer to the RICS guidance to select. It is not the end of the world if you get the odd one wrong but do apply some common sense!

The RICS guidance is available to download here: Formal and Informal CPD Examples

If you studied on a day release or completed a master, you can record part of your final year studies as CPD.

As a chartered surveyor, you will have to complete 20 hours of CPD every year. You need to demonstrate that you have embraced this requirement. The assessors will not be impressed if all your CPD hours come from your company’s graduate development programme or your university degree! Put yourself in the assessors’ shoes for a moment: How will you achieve your CPD hours once you have left the graduate programme?

A few final points on CPD:

  • This is a small industry; the chances that one of your assessors delivered a seminar that you pretended to attend are greater than you think – Do not make things up!
  • Networking events, even organised by the RICS, are not CPD.
  • Attend CPD’s on a variety of topics relevant to your job.
  • Use a variety of sources: personal reading, seminars, on-line training, etc.
  • 48 hours is a minimum; feel free to record more!
  • But remember that everything that you record as CPD can be a source of questioning.

 

 5. Ethics Certificate

All candidates are required to complete the online ethics training and test and upload their certificate onto ARC (if you are lucky, it will be done automatically!).

The test consists of scenario-type questions and is not as easy as it may seem. ‘I decline politely’ is certainly not always the correct answer!  You will have to wait 24 hours before retaking it if you fail. As it is valid for 12 months, there is no excuse for leaving it to the last minute!

The RICS will e-mail you your personal login details to take the test as soon as you are eligible to sit your APC. If you have not received your details, please e-mail apc@rics.org to enquire.

6. Log Book

The log book records the amount of experience in days that you have gained in each competency each year. This is only applicable to candidates required to undertake a period of structured training.

Candidates with a RICS accredited degree and less than 5 year experience need to follow a minimum 24 months  structured training after enrolment onto the APC, and those with between 5 and 10 year experience, 12 months. Candidates with a non-accredited degree will have to undertake the preliminary review instead, and those with an accredited degree and more than 10 year experience will need neither of them.

Please read our post My APC: Getting started if you have no idea what I am talking about!

If you enrolled after 1st January 2017, you need to complete your diary on ARC which will automatically populate your log book (There is no way of getting away with not keeping your diary up-to-date!). If you enrolled prior to this date, you need to download the excel version from the RICS website under your pathway.

If you are an inflight candidate, please do not upload your diary on ARC! Assessors will not need to see it unless they suspect that you forged your log book and would then request evidence.

Please refer to our previous post for more details on the diary: Completing the APC Diary

 

7. Referral Report (referred candidates only)

If this is not your first attempt, please attach your referral report in this section. The assessors will question you on all your competencies again but they will try to focus on the areas highlighted in your referral report.

 

8. Updated submission (referred candidates only)

If you have been referred, the old rule was that you could not amend your original submission but you needed to complete this section to address the deficiencies identified in your referral report.

However, the referral template is no longer available on ARC and, while this has not yet been made official, it is now accepted that you may simply amend your documents.

Do not forget to update your CPD records and check that your Ethics certificate is still in date too! You will also need to gain new signatures on the front page.

 Further advice to referred candidates will be provided in a separate post.

 

Further help

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

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.

And as always, we are on Twitter @APCsupport_Ltd and you can send me an invite on LinkedIn if you would like to be notified of our latest events.

 

 

 

Completing your APC diary

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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

 

Who needs to record a diary?

Not all candidates are required to keep an APC Diary. Only candidates with an RICS accredited degree and less than 10 years relevant experience need to follow a period of structured training which they must record in their Diary.

Candidates with less than 5 years experience must record a MINIMUM of 24 months AND 400 days before being eligible for the Final Assessment interview.

Candidates between 5 and 10 years experience must record a MINIMUM of 12 months AND 200 days before being eligible for the Final Assessment interview.

It may happen that your structured training was put on hold for a few months (unemployment, maternity leave, sabbatical, etc.). In such case, I would suggest that you leave the relevant months blank (e-mail the RICS when you submit your documents explaining why so they can pass on the information to your assessors) and resume recording your experience until you have achieved the required 200 days or 400 days.

The 12 and 24 month periods are a minimum requirement and it is rare that candidates have gained sufficient relevant professional experience to sit their Final Assessment within the minimum period. You must therefore keep recording your Diary and Summary of Experience until you submit your final documentation for your interview, and beyond if you are unfortunately referred.

What is the purpose of the diary?

You must record your diary online via ARC on a regular basis. It will automatically populate a summary of the days of experience gained under each competency in a number of tables collectively called the log book.

The assessors will not have access to your diary, they will only receive the log book.

However, if they feel that your log book is very dubious, they may ask for your diary to be audited. It is therefore worth giving it a bit of care and attention.

 

What should I record?

You should only record your technical competencies (core and optional), not your mandatory competencies.

You can only record full days or half days, not hours. If several competencies are covered within the same activity, select the dominant one or alternate over several days if the activity lasted more than half a day.

Ideally you should try to have a balanced experience at the end of your structured training but ultimately quality is more important than quantity. You should also aim to achieve circa 25 days in each optional competency, but once again it will depend on your personal circumstances.

Unfortunately recording 100 days in Quantification will not suffice to attain Level 3 if all the experience gained is limited to measuring items on CAD measure; you will need to gain varied and in-depth experience in each competency in order to be ready to sit our Final Assessment. But if you think carefully about it, have you not actually gained some experience in Construction Technology or Sustainability while measuring some items?

A solid understanding of the competencies and constant reference to your Pathway Guide will be key in completing your Diary efficiently.

Recording your experience before graduation

At least 12 months of your structured training must take place AFTER graduation with a RICS accredited degree, but you may qualify for recording some of the experience that you have gained before graduation.

1-

If you are completing your degree part-time (either a BSc at University or a distance-learning post-graduate degree) and are employed in a relevant role, you can record your experience during your final year of study BUT you must have enrolled onto the APC (and paid the fee). You can only backdate your records by one month.

When you enrol, please promptly check that you can record your diary on ARC from your start date. You should notify the RICS immediately if you encounter any technical difficulties or your diary does not appear at all.

2-

If you have more than 5 year experience and are completing a post-graduate RICS accredited degree, you may be able to complete your degree and your 12-month structured training concurrently. Please contact the RICS to check whether you qualify.

3-

If you are doing a sandwich year / placement as part of your accredited degree, you can record your experience providing that you are registered as a RICS student member and that a RICS member or fellow (MRICS or FRICS) acts as your Counsellor and provides you with a letter confirming the dates of your placement. Your Counsellor must also sign off the competency levels that you have achieved during your placement.

After graduation, you must enrol onto the APC (and pay the fee) as soon as employed and record at least 12 months post-graduation experience with a minimum of 400 days in total.

 

Final Tips

I found that my Diary was an invaluable source of examples for my record of experience, during my interview and to discuss my progress and training needs with my Supervisor and Counsellor.

When you will start writing your Summary of Experience, ARC will give you the possibility to recall all your diary entries under a specific competency and level which will be an easy way to identify suitable examples to demonstrate your levels 2 and 3.

For this reason, you should try to include as much information as possible for each entry: name of project, stage of works, brief description of the task undertaken, key figures, etc. You would be surprised how quickly you can forget all about a project!

Whereas I am an awful example as I was constantly a few months behind my Diary, I can only strongly advise all candidates to keep your Diary up-to-date. I have spent days going through my Outlook calendar and files trying to remember what on earth I had been working on for the last couple of months! Trust me, this is not a smart way to be spending your time when you are trying to issue your Final Submission documents by the deadline while keeping up with the day job.

Best of luck!

 

Further help

If you are still unsure about the best way forward, please feel free to get in touch with us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk.

If you need support with your APC, we offer a complete programme of APC mentoring at all stages of the APC preparation including documentation review, on-demand revision modules, APC Questions packs, mock interviews and one-to-one mentoring. Please visit our website to discover the full range of our services: APC Support Limited.

And as always, we are on Twitter @APCsupport_Ltd and you can send me an invite on LinkedIn if you would like to be notified of our latest events.