APC competency: The inside track

APC-SeriesJon Lever talks to four candidates who have successfully completed the APC and presents their feedback to a number of typical APC process queries

Jon Lever could wax lyrical about the APC process pitfalls, great ideas from his own APC experience, and tips he constantly tells people about. But what advice do recently qualified candidates have to offer? Providing fresh feedback on the process, here is what four recently passed APC candidates have to say.

When did you start preparing for your APC? 

All: Six-plus months before my final assessment date.

What thoughts and ideas could you pass on about your APC final assessment preparation?

Nick Williams MRICS: Break each competency down into small individual topics. Don’t rush over professional ethics as if you get one of those questions wrong, it means an instant referral.

Robert Bearman MRICS: Get involved and learn what you can from the sources available – make use of RICS Matrics, your peers, RICS web classes and guidance notes, DeLever training and support and definitely do a mock interview. Be committed and take responsibility. Try to enjoy the learning process, it’s very rewarding and will make you a better surveyor.

Sara Cameron MRICS: Read and re-read the guides. The definitions will really help you match your experience to the competencies. I prepared my own revision mind maps and mini case studies for everything that was fair game in my submission. Also, read all the RICS Guidance Notes in your field – remember these are best practice guides.

Philip Brimley MRICS: Don’t leave anything to the last minute, have ordered files and make lists, particularly of all the RICS documents. Early on I made revision notes then reduced these down to colour-coded cards which included summaries of key RICS documents. I also made revision cards for each of the example properties I had referred to so that I had the depth of knowledge needed to prove I was a safe pair of hands. I built a network of peers and we spent many weekends working together, holding informal mocks, asking one another pop quiz questions. I covered my final submission with notes and knew it inside out, including competency examples and my case study.

What specific preparation did you do in the last seven days leading up to your final assessment?

Williams: Revision, revision, revision. Importantly though, I made sure it was effective revision. This included mock interviews with colleagues to practise applying my knowledge and answering questions as if I was speaking to a client.

Bearman: By this point I thought I should basically be ready. But remembering it’s an assessment of experience, not an exam, I practised my presentation, read through my documents, looked at what was new on the RICS website and read the latest issue of RICS Modus. I also tried to relax and be confident I had prepared adequately.

Cameron: I re-read my submission in full and practised my presentation once again. I also reviewed the APC series in the Estates Gazette as it helped bring my revision back to the whole feel of the competency. And I made sure I took the day before my interview off from any preparation and took that time to breathe.

Brimley: I took two weeks off work (probably extreme) but in that time I had two formal mocks with my supervisor, counsellor and an experienced estates manager. I met with my peers and had a full day revision session, which included questions and answers. I read through the whole of my submission document every day to become truly familiar with it.

I had daily rehearsals of my presentation and pushed myself, presenting to friends, family, colleagues and even the neighbours. This was not just to learn the content but to become comfortable with presenting to new faces. I didn’t look up anything new but by the start of the final seven days I had made all my revision cards and focused on those. These included summaries of key RICS documents.

What did you find helped you get through the final assessment day?

Williams: Prior preparation. The APC is not something you can just learn on the day before the event. It is crucial that you leave yourself enough time. Having answered questions as part of revision sessions time and time again with a slightly different stance made me feel positive. This was crucial as essentially the final assessment was my opportunity to show the assessors that I was professional and had firm knowledge of what I was talking about. Understanding any areas I did not have experience of was also important, along with the confidence to explain what I would do in practice with a client if I was unsure.

Bearman: Knowing even if I got referred I could hold my head high and say I gave it my best. The RICS reception staff and assessors are very pleasant and professional. They try to settle your nerves. What helped me was a colleague saying: “Imagine you’re just talking to your peers at work when you are in the assessment.”

Cameron: I became a serial attendee of DeLever’s masterclasses and APC forums. The DeLever revision day and Kate Taylor’s revision guide were also invaluable resources.

Brimley: Meditation. I started going to sessions two months prior to assessment. I learnt the APC was not bigger than me. I stayed at the hotel next to the assessment centre the night before and walked the route ahead of time. On the morning I read over my submission and presentation. I felt a wave of nerves in the waiting room but remembered to breathe and walked into the interview calm and smiling.

What is the best piece of advice you could pass on to others building up to their APC final assessment?

Williams: Don’t leave everything to the last minute. Make sure you know the content of your submission documents inside out and back to front as this will form the basis of questioning at your final assessment. Practice your presentation to others and remember to keep to the time allocation.

Bearman: Be prepared to sacrifice a few months of your life to move forward with the rest of your career. Think of the end goal when you are working the long nights and weekends. Passing is a massive achievement and worth the sacrifice.

Cameron: Follow Jon Lever (@deleverapc) and Kate Taylor (@KateTay73593006) on Twitter and use all the resources available to you, such the RICS APC mentors and RICS Matrics to build your confidence.

Brimley: Stay calm and don’t be overwhelmed. Fully learn the APC processes and timescales. Don’t underestimate the administration time – for example, printing, binding and posting the submission. Attend CPD events. I found Jon Lever’s RICS training advisor sessions offered a wealth of information. It was great to get advice and meet other surveyors at the same time.

Which of the DeLever services did you find most helpful?

Williams: The online Masterclasses were incredibly useful, particularly as they were interactive, providing the opportunity to ask questions and get feedback. The DeLever APC revision and presentation day was also beneficial.

Bearman: The timeline wallchart was useful and the online Masterclasses were great. I did a mock interview with DeLever which was the most invaluable experience.

Cameron: The DeLever APC revision day was an intense fun way to revise and check my understanding. Both Jon Lever and Kate Taylor put each candidate on the spot with questions and the revision competencies were mind mapped to aid revision.

Brimley: I used DeLever’s APC diary – the facility was the biggest help and saved me huge amounts of time. I also attended the DeLever final assessment revision day course, which was invaluable – the format, content and atmosphere were perfect.

Any final tips you think would benefit candidates preparing for their final assessment?

Williams: Ensure that you choose competencies that relate to the work that you are involved with on a daily basis. Understand what criteria you have to meet to hit each declared competency level and make sure that you can give examples of work that you have been involved in. Practical experience is required, not just reading a file or shadowing a colleague. At Levels 2 and 3 you will be asked to give examples of practice and what decisions you made and why. Merely having knowledge (Level 1) of something is not enough to prove you have reached the higher level of competencies.

Bearman: If you work for a smaller company, make sure you take the time to structure your learning and gain the experience you need. If you need help, ask; the support is there. RICS Matrics is a good way to meet people who have recently passed.

Cameron: One thing I learnt at the revision day was more about how the RICS is governed. Some candidates don’t know where to start with the RICS Charter and by-laws, let alone the makeup of the governing council. So an article about the RICS itself would be a good addition to the Estates Gazette APC Success series for future candidates.

Brimley: Don’t let it overwhelm you and be organised.


Thanks to the following recently passed APC candidates for their contribution to this article:

• Nick Williams MRICS, RICS registered valuer at Maxey Grounds & Co LLP

• Robert Bearman MRICS KWD Surveyors

• Sara Cameron MRICS, RICS APC mentor (commercial property)

• Philip Brimley MRICS, capital projects manager at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

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. Follow Jon on Twitter @deleverapc

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

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