tips

Changes to the APC submission process from Spring 2020

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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.

 

The Application Form and the 3 signatures

Your counsellor and your supervisor, if you have one, will sign off your submission documents but you also need to submit a separate application form to be allowed to present yourself at the APC assessment interview.

Three people must sign this application form and there are some strict rules to follow;

  • All proposers must chartered surveyors but it could be from any pathway. (Your counsellor will traditionally be your first proposer)
  • One of the three proposers must be a fellow (FRICS)
  • One of the three proposers must not work in the same organisation than you. (It could be a former colleague, a client or a former university friend.)

This is nothing new, it has been in place for decades. What has changed is the way you access this application form.

This form used to be available to download from the RICS website but it was then moved onto ARC where it was only available during the 2-week submission window twice a year.

From Spring 2020, this has changed again. There is no longer a Word Document form, instead you must complete the information online through ARC.

Plan ahead

The online form will only be accessible once you have completed all the other sections and your counsellors has approved everything. In other words, all the ‘boxes’ must be green.

Please be aware that it can take a couple of hours for your counsellor to approve everything as the system is quite painstaking, so do not leave it to the last minute.

Please do also bear in mind that if you change a single comma or word in your submission, the box will turn red and your counsellor will need to re-approve it. I would recommend you to send a Word Document draft to your counsellor and ensure that he/she agrees with everything and only then, copy and paste the final version onto ARC. This will save your counsellor a lot of time and frustration.

Once all the boxes are green and you have completed the online application form, ARC will send an email to your three proposers, requesting them to ‘tick’ an approval box. You will need to have obtained in advance your proposers’ names, RICS membership numbers and email addresses.

If you thought that finding a fellow was challenging, imagine trying to find a fellow who will be sitting by his/her laptop a few minutes before midnight on deadline day, waiting for ten candidates to be ready to submit?

No, nobody will be willing to do so. You will really need to plan ahead!

Please show some consideration for the people supporting you through the APC process. Make sure that your whole submission is approved within the first few days of the submission window to give your other signatories enough time to sponsor your application.

In-flight candidates 

If you are an in-flight candidate, you will not be able to access the online form. You will need to contact the RICS and request a copy of the old Word Document.

But because we are really nice, you can also download a copy here: Proposer_seconder_template_RICS_jf

Best of luck!

Sonia Desloges

Director, APC Support Limited

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with referral

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Note: This guidance is in line with the new rules that came in force on 1st August 2018. These rules apply to all candidates regardless of when they enrolled.

If you are reading this post, you have probably received the dreaded news that you were unsuccessful at your APC. This is probably quite a low time in your career but remember that all successful people have suffered failure at some point in their lives. Think about the spectacular failures of Virgin America and Virgin Cola! Richard Branson is not doing too badly nowadays, is he?

We have helped dozens of referred candidates pass their APC at their next attempt and here are a few words of wisdom that we have learnt from them.

Be upset but take it on the chin

First, you should take the time to be upset about it. You put a lot of efforts into your APC preparation and it is normal to be disappointed, disheartened or even angry. Do not hold back talking about it. 35% to 45% of candidates get referred every session so there will people in your network who will have shared the same experience and will be happy to compare notes with you.

Once you have passed this initial stage of upset, you need to take it on the chin and move on. Let’s show these assessors what you are truly made of!

I know of many brilliant surveyors who got referred at their first attempt. Being referred does not mean that you are not good at your job, it just means that there was something that you could not demonstrate at the interview.

The panel has only met you for one hour, so it is true that they do not have much time to get to know you, however the APC is quite a robust and impartial process. While you may feel that you have been unfairly referred, you have to accept it, identify your weaknesses and work on them.

Should I appeal?

The RICS allow you to appeal if you feel that the interview was not managed correctly. There is a £100 appeal fee and if successful, you will be invited to another interview free of charge, but you will not automatically become chartered.

If you were referred in a number of competencies, there is little hope of your appeal being successful. However if you were solely referred on your case study and it was obvious that you were being questioned on another candidate’s case study, this would be a valid ground (although quite an unlikely scenario!).

Remember that writing a referral report takes hours and assessors do not get paid for it, so believe me when I say that they want nothing more than to pass you! If they referred you, they had strong grounds even if you may not grasp them yet.

Personally, I would not bother and focus my energy on working on my next attempt.

Identify your weaknesses

You should receive your referral report within 21 days. Some panels will provide more details than others and you may not agree with all its contents, but regardless of this, your starting point for your next attempt must be your referral report.

There are several reasons why you may have been referred and each will require a different response.

1- Lack of level 1 knowledge

Most graduate candidates will be still in study mode after university and will have read all the books and memorised their contents. If you have not, well, it is a good time to re-open your books! If there was something that you did not know last time, make sure that you have studied it this time!

The more mature candidates may have found the revision stage more challenging. You may be good at what you are doing but the assessors expect you to understand why your company asks you to do things in a certain way. There will always be a guidance or a regulation that justifies the way you approach a task. Exploring the ‘Knowledge’ tab in the RICS website would be a good starting point.

Keep your rules of conduct and ethics up-to-date too. The ‘News’ tab on the RICS website will provide you with all the industry’s current topics and latest RICS publications.

We also offer an on-demand online library of revision webinars if you need a more structured approach to your revisions.

2- Did not follow industry best practice

Cutting corners or doing things your own way and ignoring the RICS professional guidance is not acceptable from an aspiring chartered surveyor. If it is the way you work, you will need to change your approach if you want to become chartered.

If your employer puts you under pressure to cut corners, you must be an ambassador to the RICS and promote best practice. You cannot passively follow bad orders. It does not matter too much if they ignored your advice as long as you used your best endeavour to correct procedures.

If you are not even aware that you are cutting corners, I would recommend you to read all the RICS professional guidance available on the RICS website and start applying it.

Many candidates think that they deserve to be chartered because they have 9 or 10 year experience but if you have been doing everything wrong all this time and you are not addressing this now, you will get referred again.

3- Did not demonstrate level 3

This is probably the biggest cause of referral. There are two possible reasons.

First, have you truly provided reasoned advice to a client on the topics listed in your pathway guide at level 3 or were just doing as you were told?

Sitting in a meeting room listening to your manager giving advice to a client is not the same than leading discussions yourself while your manager is only attending the meeting to support you if you get into difficulties.

If you are not getting enough client’s exposure to gain the level 3 experience, you must have an honest conversation with your employer. Why are they not trusting you with their clients?

Sometimes they may have simply not realised that they are not giving you the opportunity to grow in your role and this conversation can help open new doors for you.

But sometimes, you may not be ready and you need to carefully listen to your manager’s feedback and agree a plan of action for you to progress.

In some very rare situations, your employer will not be interested in your professional development and looking for opportunities elsewhere may be your only option. But do be critical of yourself before blaming others!

The second potential reason is that you may have not expressed yourself correctly at the interview. Did you answer many questions with ‘we advised’ rather than ‘I advised’? When challenged on the advice that you gave, were you unable to stand by your choices and justify them? Were you rushing to your solution without taking the assessors through your logical thought process?

If this is your case, this can be easily addressed. You need to read your submission documents in details (or ask an assessor to help you if you know one) and challenge yourself on all the advice that you gave at level 3. Why was it the best solution against the project’s objectives? Was there any risks in this option that you should have mitigated? Was there other potential solutions that you did not think of at the time? Which advice did you give to the client on other related topics? How does this fit in the bigger picture?

If you amend your submission documents accordingly and practise answering this kind of questions, your next attempt will be a much better interview.

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

4- Does not have the relevant experience

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

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

The re-submission process

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

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

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

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

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

Need further help?

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

Best of luck!

 

Routes to MRICS chartership

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FOREWORD: Please be aware that this post is not an official RICS guidance.

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

 

Routes to MRICS Chartership

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

  • You have over 10 year experience after graduation.

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

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

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

 

Option 2: You have a non-accredited degree

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

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

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

  • You have more than 5 year relevant experience

You are eligible for the APC under the Preliminary Route.

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

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

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

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

 

Option 3: You are a senior professional or an expert

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Option 5: You do not have a university degree

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

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

Further help

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

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

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

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completing your Summary of Experience

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

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.