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!
The Case Study Presentation or,
How do you convert your 3,000 word Case Study into a 10-minute presentation?!
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 2015 which I have enhanced through many discussions with fellow APC Mentors and APC Assessors.
Sonia Desloges MRICS
Outline Plan of your Presentation
Nobody can possibly read 3,000 words under 10 minutes so there is no point trying to cram everything in your presentation. Based on my personal experience, 1,300 words is a good target to keep within the 10 minute time limit.
You need to focus on the key message that you want to convey to the panel, and this might be by covering only one key issue during your presentation. It is actually common practice for candidates to only present one key issue. If the assessors want to know about your second key issue, they will do it during your 10 minute Q&A session.
So, what is the key message that you want to convey?
I think, in simple words, that you want to explain to the panel that you provided your client with the best possible professional and reasoned advice, that you have learnt a lot from this experience and that you are ready become chartered!!
You need to really focus on your logical reasoning. Do not waste time talking about the project details or what other people did more than strictly required. Remember that explaining is not just about providing information, it is being able to justify how and why things happened. You need background and reasons as well as facts.
One tool that we use to achieve this with our candidates during our ‘Case Study Presentation’ workshops are mind maps, also called spider diagrams. If you cannot attend one of our workshops, you should still be able to find some information on the web.
Suggested Format of your Presentation
The format of your presentation will be very similar to your case study but I have added some indicative durations and word counts for each section:
- Introduction (30s / 100 words)
- Background (app. 1min / 200 words)
- Main body
- Review of options (3 to 4.5min depending how many key issues / 400 to 600 words)
- Achievements & lessons learnt (critical appraisal) (3 to 4min / 400 to 500 words)
- Conclusion (< 1mn / 130 words)
Introduction & Conclusion
All presentations should have a powerful introduction and conclusion!
Your introduction should be brief (30s / 100 words) and only focus on the information that is relevant to the resolution of your key issue;
- Introduce the problem to be addressed and context
- State the purpose of your presentation clearly
- Give the outline of your presentation: Tell them what you are going to tell them.
- Background, options, outcome of solution applied, lessons learnt
Your conclusion (< 1mn / 130 words) should mirror your introduction and close your presentation without adding any new information;
- Summarise: tell them what you have just told them.
- Repeat the purpose of your presentation / key message
- Show that you have achieved your aim
- Thank the panel and welcome their questions
Background (app. 1min / 200 words)
The sole purpose of the background is for the assessors to understand how your key issue came to light and which constraints and challenges you had to overcome to resolve it. Remember that they will have already read the finer details in your written submission!
It could include the following elements;
- Project description – only the relevant bits!
- Client & contractor’s description if relevant.
- Project challenges & constraints if relevant.
- How did you get to the stage when you encountered your key issue.
- Restate how you identified that there was a key issue(s).
- Then state the options (between 2 and 4) that you considered;
- Three courses of action were considered… [one sentence each]
Review of options (3 to 4.5min depending how many key issues / 400 to 600 words)
Review each option one after the other, like in your Case Study;
- What was the option considered & why
- What did you do
- What was your recommendation and why
Do not forget to explain how and why decisions were made and do not hesitate to provide evidence and figures for one or two key points to reinforce your statements.
Achievements & lessons learnt (critical appraisal) (3 to 4min / 400 to 500 words)
One common mistake of candidates is to spend 3 minutes on the background and then fly through the lessons learnt. It is the easy way but not what the assessors are looking for. A decent portion of your presentation should be dedicated to the critical appraisal of your work because this is how you can demonstrate what an amazing professional you are!
- Did your solution change the course of the project?
- What was the most successful outcome?
- Or was there any room for improvement?
- You may provide here an update on the project if anything significant has happened since submitting your Case Study.
Lessons learnt (3 main ones only)
- State lesson learnt
- Explain why is it important as a chartered surveyor / for this project / client
- And / or what you could have done better
- And / or how you could / have applied it in later project(s)
Remember that if you exceed 10 minutes, the assessors will ask you to wrap up or cut you short, which would not be an ideal start to your Final Interview.
Our best advice is to practice your presentation dozens of times with colleagues, friends, family, in front of your mirror, with your dog, anything!!
Best of luck!
We have published an earlier blog on visual aids for your presentation. Feel free to have a read here: Visual Aids for your Presentation
If you need some help to prepare for the interview, we offer APC Questions packs, mock interviews and mini mocks. Please check our interview preparation 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.
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
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.
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!
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.
The assessors’ expectations are listed in the RICS Candidate’s Guide but how do they translate in practice?!
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!
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.
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!
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
Best of luck!