How to handle competencies

Jon Lever offers mentoring tips for APC supervisors and counsellors, which also provide useful lessons for candidates.

APC-SeriesIt’s important to be really clear before we go into the detail, that readiness for the APC final assessment is about competence, not time served.

We see so many candidates thinking that they have done the minimum training period so they must be competent. This is sadly not the case and, as stated in the RICS APC Candidate guide, the timescales are a minimum training period.

I believe if we focused a little more closely on this mind set of competency, not time, we may just see an improvement in our success rate at the final assessment.

As it stands, from personal experience of APC assessing over the last 20 years, we have a continuous 30+% referral rate, which largely falls on the shoulders of the supervisor and counsellor for sending their candidates for assessment before they are fullly ready.

Competencies are the firm foundation of everything APC. So, as a supervisor and counsellor, you need to make sure that you have initially read the competency explanations in the pathway guide specific to your candidate’s chosen pathway, and fully understand the knowledge required for your candidate to have a successful assessment.

With your up to date process and competency awareness firmly in place, along with your own experience, you will then be in a perfect position to advise your candidates accordingly.

This article is predominantly focused on how supervisors and counsellors should be working closely with structured training candidates (12 & 24 months/Grad 1 & 2). However, the principles are the same for all candidates, and those not undertaking structured training would be expected to apply similar processes, albeit condensed into the six month lead in to the APC preliminary or final assessment.

Here are a range of tips on how to approach competencies at each required level:

Level 1 – Knowledge

Get your candidates to review their declared competencies and then feed back to you in a short 10 minute presentation what is required at level 1 for the specific competency.

At the same time ensure your candidates start to draw together relevant information and start creating their physical or virtual revision notes. This is a great start for Level 1 knowledge base development for your candidate and, if done regularly, will save a mass panic at the end of the process when they should be spending the time revising.

If you are mentoring a number of candidates, task each one with a specific competency, then pool the resources and revision notes and benefit from the economies of scale.

Level 2 – Experience (doing)

The natural progression from Level 1 is to then start applying the knowledge-based learning into relevant projects that in turn can be used as examples for discussion at the final assessment.

It is so important as a supervisor and counsellor that you pay close attention to a candidate’s experience and activity, ensuring at the regular three month meetings this is appropriately assessed and levels achieved are signed off. Make sure any red flags raised about competencies not being met are addressed and future experience is planned for so that you end up with a competent, well balanced candidate at the end of the training period. Sadly this does not always happen.

Level 3 – Advising

The natural progression from Level 2 is to then start developing the “doing” into Level 3 “advising”, with the requisite depth of experience and reasoning behind the advice given.

The assessors are looking for commitment and awareness when giving advice as often the candidate will discuss advice they (allegedly) gave yet cannot back up with sound reasoning. This often suggests to the assessors that the candidate has not had enough experience and has been put forward too soon to the assessment.

A mild annoyance I have with candidates, when writing their Level 3 summary of experience entries, is the use of what I call “weaker” words such as “I suggested” or “I proposed”. Lose those words, have some commitment, like “I advised”. Then you are hitting the Level 3s with the right mindset.

Also remember that advice comes with a statement why advice has been given (which comes from plenty of Level 2 experience), so your candidates will be challenged at the final assessment by the assessors to explain their reasoning.


■ At your regular three month meetings, to assist you with competent competency sign-off, make sure you get your candidates to give you a critique of what they have done in the previous months and show you what they are producing for the summary of experience. It is good to see competency sign off over time – and remember, generally level 1s get signed off before level 3s.

■ Get your candidate to produce a list of their declared competencies, noting each to the highest level required, and at the outset of their training start noting project names next to the competency and level, realising that a single project activity may cover multiple competencies and levels.

■ This way you can start to build a picture of knowledge and experience across all competencies, and this in turn will enable you and your candidates to identify suitable project examples and case study projects. There is also the additional benefit of quickly identifying competency gaps, which can be reviewed and addressed.

■ Remember all engagement with your candidates and their APC can be relevant CPD.

Jon Lever FRICS is the RICS’ UK licensed 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

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