Record of Experience

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 practice answering this kind of questions, your next attempt will be a much better interview.

We offer mini-mocks with one assessor which can be a way to practise answering level 3 questions if you cannot find a colleague who could help. We can also review your revised documents if you wish.

4- Does not have the relevant experience

If the assessors repeatedly asked you to give examples that were not in your summary of experience or asked you to provide advice on a fictional scenario, it is likely that they felt that you had not covered some key aspects of your pathway in your documents. If you could not give them an example at the interview or you desperately waffled some vaguely related answer, this will confirm that you have not yet achieved all the relevant levels. Your counsellor should have probably not signed you off but this is a different matter…

You need to pick up your pathway guide and list off all the activities that you have not achieved to establish a competency gap that you can take to your line manager. Assisting your colleague to do something once does not count as meeting a competency requirement! Discuss with your employer a plan of action to close these competency gaps and monitor your progress every couple of months. If your employer is unable to give you the relevant experience, you could accept to delay your APC or apply for a job elsewhere. Please be aware that you are unlikely to be advising clients for months if you change employer as they will want to test your abilities first, so think carefully!

The re-submission process

There used to be a referral section where candidates had to explain how they had addressed the deficiencies identified in their referral report but since 01st August 2018, this section has been omitted.

As a result, you can simply re-write part or all of your submission documents as you feel fit. As a minimum, make sure that you address all the deficiencies identified in your referral report as (most) assessors will have spent a lot of time writing it to put you in the right direction.

If your referral report recommends that you should write a new case study or if it is now out-of-date, do not just ignore it: write a new case study. It will take you more time but starting afresh can help boosting your confidence. Do trust the assessors; Going back to the interview with a weak case study is not going to help you.

Please be aware that since 01st August 2018, assessors will no longer be informed whether a candidate was previously referred or not. Therefore, you no longer need to upload your referral report on ARC and you will be assessed in exactly the same conditions than your first attempt. The idea with this change is to remove any conscious or unconscious bias from the assessors.

As the number of assessors is limited, your new panel may include one – and no more than one – of your previous assessors but the chances are that he or she will not remember much about your first interview so do not be put off if you recognise a face.

Need further help?

Hopefully, this post will have put you in the right direction but if you need further help preparing for your next attempt, we offer a number of support services for referred candidates as well as a complete preparation programme.

Best of luck!

 

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!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding the APC Submission Documents

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20160507_065556[1].jpgFOREWORD: Please be aware that this post is not an official RICS guidance.

All the advice given in this blog is based on my personal interpretation of the APC Candidate’s Guide which I have enhanced through many discussions with fellow APC Mentors and APC Assessors.

Sonia Desloges MRICS

Director, APC Support Ltd

Understanding the APC Submission Documents

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

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

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

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

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

 

 1. Candidate Details

Candidate and Counsellor / Supervisor Details

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

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

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

 

Qualifications and Employment History

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

2. Summary of Experience

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

 

3. Case Study

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

Part 1: Selecting your key issue

Part 2: Writing your case study to the requisite format

Part 3: Perfecting your draft.

 

4. CPD Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few final points on CPD:

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

 

 5. Ethics Certificate

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

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

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

6. Log Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

7. Referral Report (referred candidates only)

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

 

8. Updated submission (referred candidates only)

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

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

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

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

 

Further help

If you require a detailed review of your APC submission documents, we offer this service for APC candidates in most pathways both in the UK and outside the UK. Please visit our website for more information: http://www.apcsupport-ltd.co.uk/pre-submission-support

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

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

 

 

 

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

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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 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! 

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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.

Completing your APC diary

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 Ltd

 

Who needs to record a diary?

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

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

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

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

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

What is the purpose of the diary?

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

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

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

 

What should I record?

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

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

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

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

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

Recording your experience before graduation

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

1-

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

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

2-

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

3-

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

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

 

Final Tips

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

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

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

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

Best of luck!

 

Further help

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

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

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