Mandatory competencies

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 It has now been withdrawn but we have saved a copy for you!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!

Completing your Summary of Experience

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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

Completing your Summary of Experience

Your summary of experience will form the basis of the assessors’ questioning so it is really worth spending time to get it right. If you are following the Preliminary Review route, a poor summary of experience is also likely to receive a ‘Not suitable for you to proceed’ response and delay your interview.

So what do assessors expect to see in your summary of experience?

  • A demonstration that you have achieved the required levels
  • Statements relevant to your declared competencies
  • Precise and concise real project examples
  • A broad range of experience
  • Professional vocabulary and grammar

Writing your summary of experience correctly is a time consuming exercise. It is not unusual for candidates to spend over an hour on each competency – it is really not as easy as it seems! – and it is a smart idea to start working on it about 6 months before your interview.

Word limit

The word limit for the Mandatory Competencies is 1,500 words maximum. This represents approximately 100 words per ‘box’.

The word limit for Technical and Optional Competencies is between 3,000 to 4,000 words.

As different pathways have different numbers of competencies this adds up to approximately;

  • Circa 160 words per box for Building Surveyors and Quantity Surveyors
  • Circa 125 words per box for Project Managers
  • Circa 185 words per box for Built Infrastructure

 Assessors aim to focus on your levels 3 so the rule of thumb is to be succinct at level 1 and provide more details in level 3.

 

A demonstration that you have achieved the required levels

Level 1: learning

At level 1 you will be tested on the theoretical knowledge deemed required to carry out your job diligently.

You should (very briefly) explain how you achieved this level: university degree, self-study, employer’s structured training, CPD, etc. and mention the topics that you have studied. Assessors will use your statements as a starting point for their questioning but be aware that you are expected to be familiar with all the topics listed within your pathway guide. Assessors may also use your CPD records and case study to test your levels 1 and they may bounce back on your answers during your interview to assess some areas of knowledge in more details.

Level 2: doing

In level 2, you should describe how you have put the theoretical knowledge acquired in level 1 into practice. Depending on your professional experience, you may not have been exposed to all the activities listed in your pathway guide. This is why it is important that you provide the assessors with precise information for their questioning.

You should pick between 1 and 3 activities listed under the relevant competency in your pathway guide and explain in details the process you followed to carry out these activities in one or several of your projects. You do not have to name the project if you do not wish to, but you should let the assessors know what type of project it was: an office refurbishment, a new industrial warehouse, a university teaching unit, etc.

Level 3: advising

At this level, you need to demonstrate that you have provided reasoned advice to a client. If you work for a contractor, this may be an internal client such as a director or another department in your company and if you work for a sub-contractor, this may be the main contractor in the project. Explaining to a trainee how to carry out a task can count towards your CPD hours but it does not constitute reasoned advice as per the APC requirements.

To overcome this hurdle, think of your levels 3 like mini case studies:

First, on which topic did you have to provide advice? Present the assessors with some brief background if necessary.

Secondly, what factors did you have to consider to ensure that you would provide suitable advice? This may be some specific site conditions, some budget constraints, some technical issues, some programme considerations, etc.

Then, what course of action did you recommend and why? It is critical that you answer the question ‘why?’ to achieve level 3. The more you can demonstrate that you applied logical thinking, the better.

And finally, try to give sufficient details to demonstrate level 3 but leave some areas open for assessors’ questioning.

 

Statements relevant to your declared competencies

The APC requirements are very strict and you must be watchful that the statements and examples given in your Summary of Experience reflect your selected competencies. For example, you may have gained experience in planning and programming but if it is not one of your technical or optional competencies, there is really no benefit in expanding on the topic for your APC.

Your starting point should always be your pathway guide. You should constantly refer to the examples of activities listed under each competency as you write your Summary of Experience.

Precise and concise real project examples & A broad range of experience

The APC is evidence based. At levels 2 and 3, it is therefore essential that you enhance your statements with examples from specific projects.

Assessors do not need to know the full project details nor the exhaustive description of what other people have done. They are only interested in the process that YOU followed.

Some unsatisfactory examples would be:

Project Financial Control and Reporting, Level 2;

‘I am responsible for producing reports in most of my projects, which I do with professionalism and high standards of work.’

 Here, the candidate does not provide any evidence to support his generic statement.

Construction Technology, Level 3;

‘I always advise to use steel frame in all my projects because it is cheaper and faster.’

The advice provided should be tailored to the specificities of the project and client. While steel frame may be generally cheaper and faster, it is not the best technical solution for all projects and the candidate is not demonstrating any logical reasoning in this statement.

Suggested wording:

Procurement and Tendering, Level 3;

‘In the office refurbishment project in Manchester, I was asked to advise my client on the most appropriate procurement route. I organised a meeting with my client and several stakeholders to understand their key priorities. In this case, it was critical that the planned completion date was achieved and they were willing to transfer a large proportion of risks onto the contractor. I explained that the contractor would be charging a risk premium which my client acknowledged. Retaining control over the design was not critical in this simple refurbishment project. Basing my advice on my experience and the use of a procurement scoring matrix, I recommended a design and build procurement route. This route would enable my client to start the project on site earlier thus providing a greater float towards the end of the project. It would also provide my client with a single point of responsibility. My client accepted my advice and the project was completed within the required timescales.’

 As this example is based on a fictional project, it is still rather generic and you may add more or less details as relevant to your project.

 

Selection of project examples

I have only presented one project example in this blog as an illustration, but you may state 2 or 3 examples in each level 2 and each level 3 to demonstrate a broader range of experience if a single example is too narrow.

Obviously you will find yourself limited with the word count which is why being concise but precise is crucial. In the other extreme, do not try to squeeze in as many examples as possible as you would have to be so brief that the quality of your submission would suffer.

Be also mindful that some areas of your competencies will be more important than others. For example, under Contract Practice, you are expected to have provided advice on the most appropriate form of contract to achieve level 3, or at least be able to convince your assessors that you would know exactly how to proceed if you had to.

If you do not mention a key topic in your Summary of Experience, you should still expect to be questioned about it during your interview.

Some questions will probably still take you by surprise but if you can answer most of the assessors’ questions precisely and with confidence, you will be on the right track to becoming chartered.

 

Final tips

As you read once again your final draft before sending it to the RICS, it is worth focusing on a few last points;

  • Check your grammar and spelling – Get a couple of people to proofread your submission.
  • Use the first person – Assessors are only interested in what YOU did.
  • Use active phrases rather than passive.
  • Use the appropriate terminology in particular in contract practice and rules of conduct – If you are unsure, check in a textbook or google it!
  • Give some breathing space to your summary of experience by jumping to the line between topics.
  • And once again, make sure that your levels 3 demonstrate logical reasoning like mini-case studies.

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

If you need to enhance your understanding of the competencies, APC Support Ltd offer on-demand revision webinars covering all the technical and mandatory competencies in Quantity Surveying, Built Infrastructure, Building Surveying, Building Control, Project Management and Facilities Management.

Alternatively, we offer face-to-face training for corporate clients across the UK. Please e-mail us at Sonia@APCsupport-ltd.co.uk to discuss your requirements.

All the modules are recorded and will provide you with over 30 hours of formal CPD. You can attend them on a pay-as-you-go basis or subscribe to our unlimited revision package.

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.