20 steps to APC success

APC-SeriesIn a special instalment of EG’s Pathway to Success series, Jon Lever offers his 20 top tips on how to start and successfully complete the APC process

1. Become a member of the RICS

Before candidates are eligible to start their APC, they can sign up for free student membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (“RICS”) and receive a membership number which provides instant access to the RICS website (www.rics.org) containing a wealth of knowledge and other membership services.

2. Understand the APC process

Candidates should make sure they have read and fully understand the RICS APC Guides on the RICS website. They should be re-read at least once every three to four months. Candidates from outside the UK also need to check the differences in the APC for their world region.

3. Get a relevant job

Candidates can only start their APC if they are employed in a relevant surveying role, gaining the experience expected for the pathway they intend to follow. It is also beneficial if their employer provides a structured training plan. RICS training advisers can assist and advise employers regarding any aspect of the APC process.

4. Get a supervisor and counsellor

Depending on the chosen APC route, candidates will need a supervisor and/or a counsellor to mentor them through the process. While it is vitally important for candidates to take responsibility for their own APC and career, a supervisor and/or counsellor should advise, guide and offer support. Candidates should make sure they have the relevant, up to date APC Guides and that they are aware of their role and responsibilities. Supervisors and counsellors should be monitoring progress and regularly signing off candidates’ competency achievement.

5. Understand the competencies

At the final assessment candidates will need to demonstrate to the assessors that their full and detailed understanding (Level 1) of each declared competency has enabled them to seek out and gain experience (Level 2) and the opportunity to advise (Level 3). The APC Guides provide explanation of the competency requirements and options for each pathway. A candidate’s supervisor and counsellor should help interpret each competency and discuss the experience available to help them achieve their competency goals.

6. Understand the levels

Level 1
This is all about learning. Candidates should not try to define the competency or regurgitate the APC Pathway guide text. They must remember they are trying to demonstrate to the assessors that they have reviewed the requirements in the APC Pathway guide with their supervisor and counsellor, and have researched, undertaken and achieved the required learning.

Level 2
This is all about doing. This needs to be a focused description of the depth and breadth of a candidate’s experience.

Level 3
This is all about advising. This needs to be a description of the depth and breadth of experience specifically advising clients, colleagues and anyone else of relevance. Candidates must remember that the ability to advise effectively comes from having had a large amount of relevant, varied experience.

• A free competency level writing guide can be downloaded at www.mydelever.com

7. Get stuck in

Far too often candidates expect to be offered everything when it is really much better to drive the process forward. Candidates need to take control and should continuously be seeking opportunities to develop their knowledge and experience.

8. Keep documentation up to date

As the APC is based on competency experience, it is hard to know whether structured training candidates are on track if their diary and log book are not up to date. It is a good idea to write these up weekly, including a detailed description regarding experience gained. This will help identify any competency experience where candidates are deficient. They should not forget to maintain regular communication with their employer in order to discuss ways to tailor experience to fill the gaps. A candidate’s diary is an important document and may be requested by the APC assessment panel, so make sure it is kept up to date.

9. Get involved with the RICS

It is important that candidates get involved with the RICS for their APC development as well as building up contacts. Good networking opportunities can be found at RICS events. This sort of activity can, on the most part, be recorded as continuing professional development (“CPD”).

10. Record CPD

Structured training candidates need to achieve a minimum of 48 hours of CPD per year. All other candidates will note the recent APC update where the 20 hours of CPD in the preceding 12 months has also increased to 48 hours per year.

All candidates should read the APC Candidates’ Guide and fully understand how to record CPD, including how to allocate formal and informal CPD against each entry.

11. Choose a suitable project/topic for the case study

The case study is the opportunity to effectively showcase the key elements of competency knowledge and experience. The project/topic chosen should be broad enough to demonstrate that a candidate has the depth and breadth of experience required for their declared competencies. The case study will become the basis of the 10-minute presentation in their final assessment and the assessors will take time to read and question the candidate on it.

12. Write the case study in good time

Candidates should give themselves sufficient time to produce the case study. Based on a 24-month APC training process, they should start the outline at about month 15 and have a final draft by month 18. A candidate should discuss it with their supervisor and counsellor each step, and ask at least 10 people (making sure three of them are not surveyors) to read it and comment, well before the pre-submission deadline. This will help remove any technical errors and ensure that it is a clear, logical read that is professionally presented.

13. Only attempt the APC final assessment when ready

When a candidate has completed at least the minimum period of training and is eligible to sit their APC final assessment, they should not just fill in their application and hope for the best, or be pressured into “having a go” if they don’t feel ready.

The final assessment is about competence, not time served. What takes one candidate three months to achieve may take another six months due to the quality of experience on offer. If a candidate has not had the experience, they should not assume they can talk their way around it at the assessment. Invariably candidates will not get through the final assessment without the full breadth and depth of experience.

A candidate should talk it over with their supervisor and counsellor and ask themselves: “Do I feel ready?” But if the decision is taken to defer the final assessment, inform the RICS in good time. If candidates fail to do so, they may be classed as not having shown up and may have to pay again when they do sit their final assessment.

14. Get the submission documentation right first time

Candidates should make sure they have collated all of the required submission information (see the checklists available in the RICS template). The RICS will only accept submission documents between specific dates, which are potentially different depending on the chosen pathway and world region. Submission is a candidate’s first opportunity to impress the final assessment panel, so it is important to get it right.

Once documentation is sent to the RICS, candidates cannot get it back to correct any mistakes. If submission documentation is poorly produced, candidates will have a much harder job at final assessment in convincing the panel they are professional enough to be a chartered surveyor.

15. Preparing the presentation

Once the case study is finished, candidates should focus on developing their 10-minute presentation. If a flipchart or handout is required, they should look professional. Notes should be detailed enough to be a useful prompt, but not a script that is read to the assessors. A vital part of preparation is practice to polish performance and get timings right.

16. Delivering the presentation

Candidates will be required to deliver their case study presentation at the beginning of the final assessment interview. They will be expected to deliver an excellent and professional presentation, with well-produced verbal communication, top quality visual aids (if any are used), strong eye contact, good body language, clarity of thought and structure, and professional and polite delivery, ensuring they can demonstrate top quality skill and awareness of the needs of their audience. This is the chance to excel and stand out from the crowd.

17. Preparing for the final assessment

Sitting the final assessment is stressful; understanding what to expect will help. It is a good idea to visit the assessment centre beforehand and test such things as journey time and parking. A candidate cannot be late for the final assessment. They should prepare a checklist so that when they get nervous on the day they do not forget anything. Absolutely anything in their submission documents can be the basis of questioning during interview, so they should make sure to put in the preparation time and regularly review their declared competencies and submission documents.

18. Structure of the final assessment

At the assessment centre, a candidate must first register with the RICS reception administrators, who will direct them to the waiting room. When it is time, they will be asked to go to their interview room. Usually there are three assessors, including the chairman, but there may only be two. The chairman explains the assessment process and then the candidate delivers their presentation, followed by five to 10 minutes of questions on their case study and presentation. Then 30 minutes of knowledge and experience-based questions focusing on declared competencies. Finally, the chairman covers the RICS rules of conduct and ethics. Questions on these may come out during the assessment, but generally the chairman will discuss these with you towards the end. At the end of the assessment the chairman will give the opportunity for any last comments and, if appropriate, revisit any questions that were passed over during the interview. The RICS informs candidates of the assessment result a few days later.

19. Final assessment questioning

The assessors are expected to provide candidates with clear, concise questions relating to their competency knowledge and experience. Candidates will be asked to explain their understanding, experience, advice and actions, give opinions and generally explain how they would undertake their business professionally. They should make sure they have plenty of competency experience project examples to discuss with the assessors. Candidates should remember that anything included in their submission documents could be the basis for a question at the final assessment.

20. RICS rules of conduct and ethics

The RICS rules of conduct and global ethical standards are paramount. They set out the requirements of the RICS to ensure that chartered surveyors maintain an accountable level of professionalism and service. They are one of the key areas of APC knowledge and experience that mean that, if a candidate goes wrong at the final assessment, they will be referred. Candidates must make sure they have the latest version and discuss the rules of conduct and ethics with their supervisor and counsellor at their three-monthly meetings; this can probably be recorded as “formal learning” in their CPD.

For further guidance and useful resources, including an APC Explained Masterclass, myAPC Diary, timeline wallchart and free APC Forums once a month, visit www.delever.com

Read previous articles in Estates Gazette’s APC Pathway to Success series >>

Jon Lever FRICS is the RICS UK licenced assessor trainer, a RICS regional training adviser, an APC chairman of assessors and a member of the RICS governing council