Ditch the competence snobbery

Kate Taylor continues her exploration of the commercial property pathway, this time discussing the property records and information systems competency and addressing the urban myth surrounding assessor opinion of it

APC-SeriesThe property records and information systems competency began life as a way of recognising the effect of complex databases on public sector surveyors.

The Valuation Office Agency holds records covering around 22m domestic properties and just under 2 million commercial properties. That represents a huge amount of data to be used and protected and a valid area of competence.

It has not taken the private sector long to realise that demonstrating competence in this area can be achieved in any area of work and this makes rotating candidates through the business to gain APC competencies easier. This “management win” means that most candidates who have property records in the optional list, or who have the ability to choose an optional plus, will do so.

Assessors initially grumbled about this competency and muttered that it should be a mandatory competency like the other professional skills, rather than a technical one. Candidates skilled in the use of AVMs and bespoke records systems have dispelled this myth. It cannot be ignored: almost every candidate I assessed at session 2 in 2015 declared property records to levels 2 or 3, from the biggest private sector graduate schemes to local councils.

Good record keeping is often central to defending a negligence claim as well as helping surveyors to add value to their client through the use of in-house data, which can provide a competitive advantage.

There is significant crossover with the mandatory competency of data management and the level 1 knowledge will be useful to every APC candidate whether or not declaring property records and information systems.

Level 1

At level 1, like all competencies, assessors will be keen to check knowledge of the relevant law and RICS guidance. For example, the Data Protection Act 1998 will apply to everyone and most assessors have a good knowledge of it. It will not be sufficient to simply know that it exists. Candidates should familiarise themselves with the principles contained therein. In other words, don’t just revise the headlines, show some insight.

A common pitfall is for candidates to omit study of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This imposes a duty on the public sector but can be used by anyone to gain information and, as such, can be a useful research tool.

Level 2

At level 2, candidates need to show practical application in using property records and information systems. This may be something that candidates do every day, but it still needs to be clearly articulated with reference to specific examples in order to provide evidence of competence rather than statements. For example, talk about inputting data, extracting data and keeping data secure, with reference to a specific property project.

Many candidates fall into the trap of making automatic responses without thought and struggle with supplementary questions that probe understanding. For example, a candidate may confidently describe the use of a database but fail to articulate the weighting of the inputs for veracity or copyright. Like most competencies, many of these pitfalls can be avoided by thinking about the big picture. In other words, not just how, but also why.

Level 3

The competency description at level 3 is a little different to most technical competencies. It does not require complex reasoned advice to be given to the client, but rather the use of property records and information systems to “use and present data for specific purposes”. In other words, using the property records to make complex reasoned advice to the client clearer. This is a good excuse for the candidate to use the chart wizard in Excel and to show off their IT skills.

If the case study has been written appropriately, candidates should be demonstrating level 3 through the use of appendices such as maps, plans, photos and tables. This will not be sufficient breadth, but it provides a great start. Candidates need to be careful not to breach any copyright in the use of maps or plans as this will be evidence of incompetence.

At level 3 the use will be related to a candidate’s area of practice. Valuation Office candidates can talk about presenting expert witness evidence to a valuation tribunal and a private sector candidate in a global property practice may be able to contribute to extensive research and reports on the market or profession. The key point will be the range of information sources selected to support clear communication of complex reasoned advice.

A common pitfall is for candidates to talk about company policy and to be too inward-looking in this competency, by talking about bespoke in-house systems. Remember that the assessor may not share a work experience and something that is obvious to someone who works in a company may need explaining, particularly any technical acronyms or jargon. Be outward-looking and don’t over think the question.

Don’t be in any doubt that this is a valid area to demonstrate competence. It may not have the technical rigour of valuation, but skill in this area is vital for every chartered surveyor and most candidates are utilising the option. Don’t let “competence snobbery” make life unnecessarily difficult.


  • The Data Protection Act 1998 is always a hot topic in this competency.
  • RICS Guidance Note Electronic Document Management is actually part of the Quantity Surveyor Black Book but it is relevant to all document management systems and is increasingly cropping up on property pathways.
  • Practical points around the day-to-day use of property records, such as version control. Candidates will need to think on their feet.


  • Level 1 What are the eight principles of the Data Protection Act 1998?
  • Level 2 How do you know that the data you have extracted in this case is accurate?
  • Level 3 Describe the visual aids contained in the report to the client.

*Don’t assume that the questions given here will be asked at an APC assessment. Assessors will focus on and pose questions on the basis of the candidate’s declared competencies, pathway guide requirements, up to date developed knowledge base and the examples provided in their summary of experience, etc.


  • RICS APC Guides These should be read at least once every three to four months and fully understood. Candidates from outside the UK
    also need to check their regional websites for any local APC requirements: www.rics.org
  • APC Explained Masterclass This helps candidates to understand what needs to be done to achieve the APC, including a walk-through of the DeLever APC process timeline and myAPC Diary with an explanation of what to do at each key milestone: www.delever.com
  • Timeline wallchart An A2 pictorial view of the whole APC process, based on the RICS guides and Jon Lever professional knowledge and experience of the APC. It can be used to track progress. Free copies available at: www.delever.com


How to help

Candidates will be learning about the in-house property records systems from day one and as such will probably underestimate the value of these skills. This is where employer training and APC training crosses over. The holistic nature of the APC escapes many candidates. It is not separate to their job as a surveyor but part of it.

Encourage candidates to articulate how and why they are using the systems so that they will: a) become quicker; and b) remember the principles of the property records and information systems they use for final assessment.

Kate Taylor FRICS is an APC chair and a DeLever APC coach. Follow Kate Taylor and Jon Lever on Twitter: @katetay73593006 and @deleverapc

Click here for full access to EG‘s pathway to success series on APC competencies.