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Dealing with referral

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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 practise 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 assist you with 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 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!

 

Routes to MRICS chartership

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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.

 

Routes to MRICS Chartership

There is no standard profile for APC candidates so the routes to chartership are varied and ever evolving. I thought it would be worth dedicating a post to the options available.

 

Option 1: You have an accredited degree (list available through the RICS wizard)

  • You have less than 5 years experience after graduation. (Your final year if you completed your degree on a day release and your sandwich year if applicable count as relevant experience)

Once enrolled, you need to complete a minimum of 24 months or 400 days of structured training before being eligible for the interview.

  • You have between 5 and 10 year experience after graduation.

Once enrolled, you need to complete a minimum of 12 months or 200 days of structured training before being eligible for the interview.

  • You have over 10 year experience after graduation.

You are eligible to sit your APC as the next session after enrolment and do not need to complete any structured training.

Structured training is a period of work experience during which your counsellor will support you to develop the competence and experience expected of a chartered surveyor. You will need to keep a daily diary of your work activities (through ARC) which will automatically generate a summary called the log book.

Many candidates elect to defer their interview in order to make sure that they have gained sufficient relevant experience, so do not feel under pressure to rush into it!

 

Option 2: You have a non-accredited degree

This must be a university degree but it may have been obtained from abroad, be from a non-accredited university or be from another disciple.

  • You have less than 5 year relevant experience (It must be in the role under which you want to sit your APC and may be before or after graduation)

Sorry, you are not yet eligible for the APC. You need to wait until you have acquired at least 5 year experience.

  • You have more than 5 year relevant experience

You are eligible for the APC under the Preliminary Route.

You must prepare your APC submission documents in full and send them for preliminary review via ARC during one of the prescribed windows.

Two experienced assessors will review your documents and decide whether they are of sufficient quality to proceed to the interview. As you do not have an accredited degree, they just want to check that you have understood the various competencies before sending you to the dreading interview!

If your documents do not meet the required standards, you will need to submit a revised version at the next window, usually 6 months later.

If you are successful, this is your opportunity to fine-tune your documents based on the reviewers’ feedback. You will need to upload the final version on ARC a couple of months before your interview.

 

Option 3: You are a senior professional or an expert

Regardless of your qualifications, if you are a senior professional (= a director, a business unit leader or manage a large team with some business management involvement) or an expert (= you have published books and articles), you could apply under the Senior Professional Route (SPA).

Under this route, 75% of the assessment will be focused on your management skills. While this may sound easy, the referral rate is actually extremely high so choose wisely!

 

Option 4: You are already a member of another professional institution

If you have been a full member of Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES) for over 5 years (with a degree) or 10 years (no qualifications), then you can become a full member of the RICS without even sitting the APC.

If you are a member of other professional bodies such as RIBA, ICE or CIOB, you can apply for your APC. If you do not have a degree or it is non-accredited, you will still need to apply through the preliminary review route. You will usually have to have been a member for at least one year by the time of your final assessment so if you have to submit your documents from preliminary review, you can do it within 6 months of becoming a member of another professional body.

The timescales may vary slightly depending on your membership. You need to call the RICS to discuss your personal situation.

Please refer to the RICS wizard for the full list in the UK and abroad.

 

Option 5: You do not have a university degree

At the moment, you do not fit in any boxes! Becoming MRICS will be a long process but it is possible. Here are your options;

  • If you are a director or a manager with substantial responsibilities, you may apply through the SPA route within a few months.
  • Contact the professional bodies (relevant to your role) listed on the online wizard and check which ones would allow you to become a member without qualifications. You can then wait for the prescribed number of years (usually 12 months by the date of your APC interview) and apply for your APC through the preliminary review. Some are easier to achieve than others. I would recommend MAssocE if you are a QS as it only takes a couple of weeks! You can send your documents for preliminary review up to 6 months before you have met the minimum membership duration.
  • Become AssocRICS. This is a lower level of RICS membership and you do not need a degree. To convert to MRICS, you will then need to complete 900 study hours (conversion course – distance learning from one of the RICS approved suppliers), complete 4 years of further work experience and then pass the APC.
  • Complete a university degree. If you have sufficient UCAS points, you may complete a degree on a day release. Some universities offer an accelerated programme over 3 years. You can then apply for your APC under the preliminary review or the structured training route (you may want to discuss this with the RICS before selecting your course).
  • New APC entry route. The RICS is currently piloting a new entry route whereby candidates can complete an online qualification (conversion course) with the RICS to become eligible for the APC. This is very much work in progress so watch this space. This route will still require a substantial amount of studying but will be a faster option than the conversion from AssocRICS to MRICS.

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.

Procurement and Tendering

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Procurement and Tendering

The first thing to achieve this competency is to understand the difference between contract, procurement and tendering!

  • Contract: Selecting the suitable form of contract within the JCT suite of contracts, NEC, FIDIC, ICC, etc.

⇒ Selecting between NEC Option A or B is not relevant to this competency!

  • Procurement: Traditional, Design and Build (including EPC for those in the MENA region), Construction Management and Management Contracting.

Some more unusual routes may include frameworks and partnering.

Procurement routes can be further broken down by basis of contract sum: lump sum, target cost, measurement, reimbursable, etc. However you should refrain to mention how you selected the form of contract under this competency.

  • Tendering: Open, competitive, negotiated.

Alternative categories: single-stage, two-stage and negotiated.

Essential reading:

⇒ JCT Tendering Practice Note 2017

⇒ FIDIC Tendering Procedure 2nd Edition (1994)

 

If you are working with public clients, you need to study the Public Procurement regulations in use in your country, even if your projects have always been below the threshold or procured under framework agreements.

If you are working in the EU, you will know public procurement as the ‘OJEU regulations’. This includes;

  • How the EU Directives are transposed into your national legislation
  • Threshold levels
  • Procedures available
  • Timescales
  • Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT)
  • Standstill periods and Alcatel letters

 

If you have to take this competency at level 3, you are almost certain to be asked how you advised a client on a suitable procurement route. Or if you work for a contractor, how you advised on procurement routes for a specific works package. If you simply answer that you considered time, cost and quality, this is a level 1 answer only.

A level 3 answer would be explaining that it was a school project (for example) and that it had to be imperatively completed for the new term, that accountability was essential because it was publicly funded and explaining (briefly) how your recommended procurement route fulfilled these objectives under the specific circumstances of your project.

 

There are many other topics that we cannot cover under this blog; those are listed under your pathway guide, so please do refer to it while writing your summary of experience!


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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case Study – Part 2: Writing to the requisite format.

Posted on Updated on

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:

  1. Select your key issue(s)
  2. Write your Case Study to the requisite format
  3. 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.

  • Confidentiality statement

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.

2.2 Options

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)

Background

2.4 Options

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

The outcome

  • 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! 

FREE DOWNLOADS

case-study-template-august-2016

Further help

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.

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.

Case Study – Part 1: Selecting your key issue.

Posted on Updated on

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.

  1. Select your key issue(s)
  2. Write your Case Study to the requisite format
  3. 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.

Which project?

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.

 

Further help

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.

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.

Visual Aids for your Presentation

Posted on Updated on

One topic that was lively debated at our ‘Interview Tips and Mock APC’ workshop in Manchester on 7th May 2015 was the use of visual aids for your case study presentation at the beginning of your APC interview.

Below are some of the key points discussed at the workshop.

IT based supports

Candidates should be aware that for logistical reasons, APC interviews are traditionally held in unconventional locations such as hotels rooms, airports or football stadia. As a result the rooms are generally small, not equipped with any IT facilities and may present the odd feature such as bedside lights or a couple of busy groundsmen mowing turf under your windows!

Candidates are also strongly discouraged from bringing in laptops, I-pads or mobile phones.

IT equipment takes up valuable time to set up and is notorious for letting you down when you need it the most, so do not take any chances.

Please be also aware that recording your interview under any form of media is strictly forbidden.

A3 easel folders

A3 easel folderSome employers and APC training providers advocate that using an A3 easel folder is compulsory.

Having spoken to many assessors, we do not agree with this statement. These A3 easel folders are like Marmite in APC world: some assessors love them, other detest them!

The underlining reason for this division among assessors seems to be that many candidates are very clumsy when using them. In other words, if you want to use one, make sure that you have practiced many times and that that they enhance rather than hinder your presentation skills.

Your slides should be brief and limited to a few key bullet points. Assessors will be very busy listening to you, referring back to your case study and taking notes; they will not have time to read lengthy slides.

You should only use slides to clarify or illustrate a point, and summarise a section if necessary. If they do not add anything to your presentation, you should reconsider whether you need them at all.

If you decide to use an A3 easel, place it on the table to your right or your left (depending whether you are left-handed or right-handed), but never in such a way that it would form a barrier between you and the assessors. You may insert a copy of the slides or some notes for your own use at the back of each slide but chances are that you will have to twist your neck to read them! Practice many times until you find what work best for you and consider using a mind map to assist you.

Once you have finished answering questions on your presentation, remember to put your A3 easel out of the way, may it be on the floor if no better place is available!

Other visual aids

It is perfectly acceptable for candidates to only bring in a chart, graph or plan if it works better for them or if it is all that is required to enhance their presentations. As they say, sometimes less is more!

In such case, we would recommend that you print three A3 copies of your graph / chart / plan for handing over to the assessors at the beginning of your presentation.

As we have mentioned, assessors will not have time to read any large amount of text so hand-outs are not a good idea. Also avoid A1 or A0 drawings as you will have nowhere to open them up.

As usual, if you have any queries feel free to drop us a line on Twitter @APCsupport_NW or e-mail us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk.

 One-to-one mock APC interviews

Are you sitting your APC in the next couples of months and ready for the final stages of your APC preparation?

Each session, we offer mock APC interviews for candidates in the construction pathways (QS / PM / BS / Infrastructure).

Please  e-mail us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk for details.

We also offer many seminars and workshops throughout the year in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield.

You can find all dates and booking links here: http://wp.me/p5Nraq-5j

 

Best of luck!

The interview – The Assessors’ perspective

Posted on Updated on

2015-05-07 21.15.26

If you missed our ‘Interview tips and Mock APC’ workshop in Manchester on 7th May 2015, here are some of the topics that we discussed.

Assessors’ expectations

 The assessors’ expectations are listed in the RICS Candidate’s Guide but how do they translate in practice?!

  • Professional interview

You should treat your APC panel as your most important client that you are pitching for a very important contract.

No matter what happens in the interview room, you should always behave with the utmost professional attitude. You would not argue back or crumble in front of a client and your APC is no different. Watch your body language and do let negative feelings get the best out of you.

Dress smartly and show confidence, but be mindful that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance that you should be vigilant not to cross!

  • Holistic approach

The assessors will base their decision on a number of criteria;

  • The quality of your documentation – Your perceived strengths and weaknesses.
  • The pertinence of your key issue(s) and the reasoning applied to achieve the solution.
  • Your presentation skills – Documentation, case study and interview.
  • Your professional attitude.
  • The quality of your answers during the interview.

This means that you do not have to be perfect in every aspect of your assessment. You can still become chartered if you stumble a little in one competency but are brilliant in the others.

You can download the Assessors Mark Sheet from the RICS website or at the bottom of this post.

  • Presentation: Presentation and communication skills, body language, reasoning.

This is a topic in itself but do not neglect your 10 minute presentation. It is your chance to shine on a topic that you know well and show the panel what you are made of.

  • Technical questions: Concise and precise answers, awareness of industry, all levels covered.

Even if you know a topic in details, do not waffle or ramble on it. Give a short and precise answer. The assessors only have one hour to assess you on a large number of competencies. Achieving this takes practice, so organise Q&A sessions with colleagues or fellow candidates.

Do not try to waste time hoping that you will be asked less questions. If the assessors cannot test you in all the competencies, they cannot pass you!

Listen to the question and answer it. Do not answer you own questions! If you are unsure, ask for the question to be rephrased or clarified.

If you do not know an answer, say that you do not know. Do not take a wild guess. Ask to come back to it at the end of the interview. (Do not use this card too often though!) The chairman of the panel will ask you at the end whether you would like to come back to any question or add anything. If you have a bright spark, come back to it – Otherwise, say nothing! You do not want to leave the panel on a confused or incorrect answer.

  • Demonstrate your understanding of the role and responsibilities of a chartered surveyor.

Read the RICS website. Show an awareness of the RICS activities and objectives.

Know your rules of conduct and professional and ethical standards inside out!

  • Ability and confidence to work unsupervised.

Ultimately the panel wants to assess whether you are a safe pair of hands to represent the best interests of your clients, your employer and the RICS.

  • Ability to apply your professional and technical skills to benefit your clients.

Remember that you need to demonstrate level 3 in your core competencies. Give examples of your work whenever suitable and do not omit to explain how you advised your client. You are also expected to be able to justify why you made specific decisions in your projects.

Why do candidates get referred?

  • The submissions are not presented in the required format, greatly exceed the word count or contain significant technical or professional errors.

This is not a cause for referral in itself but it will certainly not go in your favour if you are borderline.

  • The presentation does not reflect the candidate’s written submissions.

It is apparent that your supervisor wrote it for you and that you do not have as much experience as claimed in your record of experience.

  • The candidate’s communication, documentation or attitude is not professional.
  • The candidate is unable to demonstrate knowledge or experience relating to the declared competencies. This could be deficiency in just one competency or a range of competencies.

They did not revise level 1 / basic textbook best practice.

They are weak in ethics and rules of conduct, do not understand what the RICS is about.

They lack of experience / client exposure or cannot relate it to the competencies.

They have done things their way for many years and do not care much about best practice and standards.

They work in a highly specialised area (which is not a cause of referral in itself) and have not broaden their horizons through private study. The panel is not convinced that they could transfer their skills and experience to another client.

Final word

Remember that the assessors want you to pass!

They have been trained to show interest in your presentation and answers, and to question you on your own personal experience. Approach your APC as a chat between professionals and you will be fine!

Download

Assessors Mark Sheet: APC Final Assessment Mark Sheet

One-to-one mock APC interviews

Are you sitting your APC in the next couples of months and ready for the final stages of your APC preparation?

Each session, we offer mock APC interviews for candidates in the construction pathways (QS / PM / BS / Infrastructure) in the Manchester area.

Please e-mail us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk for more details.

We also have a number of workshops and seminars planned in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield throughout the year.

You can find all dates and booking links here: http://wp.me/p5Nraq-5j

If you have any queries feel free to drop us a line on Twitter @APCsupport_NW or e-mail us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk.

Best of luck!