Top tips for passing the RICS APC
When someone mentions Heathrow, most people think of a holiday, unless you’re a Chartered Surveyor. There is no denying, the APC process is gruelling, and you will never forget the feeling of sitting in front of an experienced panel of assessors for what seems like an eternity. But do not fear, here are a few top tips to help prepare any budding young trainees and graduates working towards becoming a Chartered Surveyor.
Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
We never knew that those famous words by Benjamin Franklin would have such significance to the APC process, but it turns out, they do. Remember that the APC is based on experience and professional competence rather than a textbook quotation, although you must have sufficient level 1 knowledge before you can build on your level 2 or level 3 competencies. Make sure you understand your competencies and highlight areas which you might struggle to get experience. The assessors will pick up on any signs of hesitation or weakness in your knowledge, so understanding what is required is key, otherwise, this could lead to you not passing.
Submission documents are crucial as they are the first thing the accessor reads before you step foot into the assessment room. They will base their initial view of you from what you have said within your submissions, so you should ensure that you have gone through the documents several times and have had them checked by senior members within your firm. In essence, your documentation will separate you from passing or not passing. You should have relevant knowledge in each competency and back this up with specific examples. The case study is 3,000 words, the record of experience is 4,500 words and the CPD record is the longest of all, with no word limit.
At Strettons, you are required to take an in-house mock in order to assess your level at all stages. Failing to convince the assessors in a mock will lead to a Strettons graduate not being able to sit for the final assessment. Within your firm, organise realistic in-house mocks with senior surveyors and APC assessors you may have. This will help you prepare for the final assessment as well as help you to build your dialogue in delivering your presentation and answers. Not to mention, it will boost your overall confidence. Ask as many colleagues to give mini-mock scenarios as possible (short single competency mocks are suggested).
Study groups are essential. You should ideally find others who are at the same level as you to create these groups. Our group met every weekend; over Easter, after work, between Christmas and New Year to ensure we were prepared. Question each other regularly, this will highlight areas you need to work on and develop.
Try Not to Show Off
Although, a bit of showboating in your assessment is encouraged. Use case law in areas which you feel can support your answer, but make sure you know these thoroughly.
Do not waffle in your submissions or write about areas you have little or no experience in. The assessors will pick up on this. For example, if you have worked on a Capital Gain Tax valuation, but do not know much about it, do not mention it. You are leaving yourself open and will get questioned about it. Learn the examples you put in your submissions as they will be the main area of questioning in your assessment.
Keep your submissions simple and concise. The assessors want to see you are competent; you do not need to "wow" them.
Your Case Study should be something you have directly dealt with from start to finish based on a level 3 competency. Include at least two key issues and no more than three - but don’t overcomplicate it.
Practice Makes Perfect
We don't have to mention the importance of the presentation, so be sure to learn and memorise every word until you're comfortable and can recite it fully. While presenting, always make eye contact with the assessors to show confidence in the topic, and if you have brought a supporting handout, make sure you keep referring to it.
Cue cards are allowed and encouraged, so be sure to prepare them in an organised way that makes sense to you and glance at them when needed to get back on track.
Despite all of the practice, study sessions, mock assessments and time thinking about your competencies, the occasional question might be asked that you aren't prepared for. Make sure you are honest, and if you don’t know the answer, have a “get out of jail” response ready.
Day Before Interview Prep
Don't' leave anything to chance - you've come so far. Have your clothes ironed, your handout and cue cards ready and most importantly know your journey. Give yourself enough time to arrive at the venue and sign in. If you can stay the night before, then do - especially if you have your interview in the morning. It will relieve the stress of travelling and give you extra time to prepare if you need it.
Avoid talking to anyone about your case study or any theory. Most importantly…breathe, stay calm and remember the assessors are not there to catch you out or purposely fail you.
The RICS APC is no doubt a challenging process, however, with dedication, commitment and the right work ethic you will be able to pass and become a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. We promise it'll all be worth it.