Hello folks 👋
In this post I will go through 5 things you must know before you sit your APC!
Importance of the submission document!
When I started my APC it really wasn’t made clear to me how important the submission document was. If you didn’t know, the submission document consists of a breakdown of your work experience, your summary of experience (300 words each per competency), your CPD log and your case study.
In the final assessment, questions will generally be guided by your experience listed in the submission document. Remember, there is a limited time frame so the assessors have a small time frame to ask you the required questions. Therefore, the submission document is your opportunity to lay ‘hooks’ for the assessors so they ask you questions that you’ve already prepared for.
Obviously this is easier said than done, and it requires A LOT of work and drafting. Bear this in mind in the last 6 months prior to your document submission date - after it’s been sent there is no going back.
Revision - What shall I revise and how much?
This is an obvious one but the difficulty I struggled with was structuring my revision in such a way so that I don’t feel overwhelmed.
Quantity Surveying is a such a broad field, therefore you aren’t really expected to know everything about everything. However, you will be required to know the basics of your required field. Interestingly, “basics” is not a subjective concept, there are some things that you need to know as a quantity surveyor no matter what field you are in (e.g. infrastructure, commercial, residential).
You may already know such “basics” but examples include:
What is a method of measurement (most people use NRM)
What are the different types of order of cost estimates
What are the different types of pricing documents
What are the different sources of pricing information
How do you normalise pricing information and tender pricing
What are some of the different headings you might expect in a pricing document
What are some of the different headings you might expect in a cost report
How are variations dealt with in your form of contract
The above isn’t an exhaustive list but you need to know the “basic” stuff because the questions they will ask you in the assessment will build on it. To help you with this, I would recommend starting with the RICS Study Checklist (page 62 onwards of the QS pathway guide). This lists out the concepts you need to know for each competency. That will keep you busy for a while.
Aside from the basics, you need to revise the concepts, mechanisms and scenarios you mention in your submission. For example, lets say as part of your Summary of Experience for Design Economics and Cost Planning you mention that you took part in a value engineering workshop. This may trigger the following questions in the assessors mind:
What is value engineering
What did you contribute to the workshop
What is the difference value engineering and value management
Are you qualified to provide design advice
In terms of how much revision you need to do, that’s not a easy question to answer as it’s dependent on how much you actually know and at what stage you are at. I will tell you what worked for me: Twelve to six months before the assessment I did approximately 10 hours per week, about an hour a day during the week and 2 hours per day on the weekends. Six to nine months before, I would say up this to about 15 hours per week. Nine to eleven months increase it to about 20-25 hours per week.
In the final month just revise as much as you possibly can. The last thing you want to do is fail the assessment and regret it because you know you could have done more. It can be tough balancing this with work and family commitments but it will be worth it in the end
The best way to gauge how ready you are is to do a mock interview.
Mock Interviews - what’s the point?
As part of your APC you should be getting signed off by your counsellor and supervisor on a 3 monthly and 6 monthly basis. This should be your starting position. I happened to get a new counsellor roughly 12 months before my assessment, and he essentially did a mock assessment with me before agreeing to undertake the role. I didn’t have my case study ready at this point so it was essentially a one hour grilling on my summary of experience. This was tough and revealed that I had a lot of work to do.
If you haven’t got your case study ready, try and get your Summary of Experience to a relatively complete stage (you can always amend) and get your counsellor to do a full 1 hour mock with you. After this point, I would recommend doing weekly Q&As with your supervisor and counsellor on competencies where you need improvement.
Once your submission document is ready and submitted, the real fun begins. Send it to your colleagues (preferably chartered colleagues) and set up full mock interviews where you will undertake a session in assessment conditions. These will be invaluable. Make sure you record every mock you do (with permission from your colleagues) and after every session make a note of the questions you get wrong. You will start to recognise a pattern of questions which always get asked - this will serve as a good revision reminder.
You will have good interviews and bad interviews. Some of your mocks may be more difficult than the final assessment itself. You may lose confidence, feel demoralised and feel anxious after a not so good session. Despite this, remember, these sessions are there for your benefit and will help you get through the real thing.
Case Study - How shall I write it?
The case study is a 3,000 word project review which discusses a key issue/challenge you faced on a project. The best way to get ideas for your case study is to ready other case studies. Speak to your counsellor and colleagues and they will be able to provide you with example case studies from within your business. Once you have an idea of what you want to write about, don’t overthink it, just open a up a blank word document and write everything out. It doesn’t matter if it’s wrong or guesswork. You can amend it later. I guarantee your first draft will look vastly different to your final piece.
Your first draft should have the following details:
Project details (perhaps in a table)
Tendering procedure / procurement route
The project issues
Candidates role / your role
Reflective analysis / lessons learnt
The above should then be condensed into the recommended RICS format:
Conclusion and Lessons Learnt
Your case study needs to tell a story. It becomes a bit difficult because you as the author know the project background and the context, when you hand it to a random person they will not have this pre-information so it needs to make sense as a stand alone document. Make sure you get it reviewed by a others, preferably those in another department or team.
Once it’s complete, it should be issued to others for review. This will act as a sense check - assessors will be able to spot when you have knowledge gaps, so make sure that you know the details of your subject matter. For example, if your case study is on framework tendering, you need to be able to confidently handle a grilling on all things related to it, include definitions, processes, mechanisms, legislation etc.
Presentation - Tips for success!
The first 10 minutes of your APC Final Assessment will be a presentation on your case study. You should prepare your presentation either after or in tandem with your case study. This will ensure that your singing from the same song sheet when you present your case study. I remember at one point during my drafting stage, I had changed my case study report but I forgot to alter the presentation. This was problematic as I had a mock lined up and I the two were not in sync and I essentially had to explain that I made an error.
I was given the following tips to improve my presentation:
If you are fast speaker, purposefully slow yourself down. This can be excruciating, because you think time is just flying by, but really what your are doing is enabling your assessors to actually understand what you are saying. This takes practice. Once you have your case study and presentation ready, practice every day. Practice in front of anyone you can. You need to build confidence in delivering your presentation and it needs to come across as well-rehearsed and seamless.
Use the notes tab on Powerpoint to write out your script. I did this. I literally wrote out a word for word script on the notes tab on Powerpoint and I practiced reading it out in such a way that it did not seem scripted. I even wrote out filler words like “um” to make it look like I wasn’t completely scripted. Remember having a script is allowed - but i didn’t want my presentation to come across as robotic - i wanted it to feel natural and polished. When you share your screen during your Assessment, the assessors will only see your slides and not your notes. Obviously test this out with your colleagues to ensure your computer is working well.
Have a glass of water next to you. If you are a fast speaker, another way to slow yourself down is to take a drink of water every 2-3 slides.
Make sure your actual presentation is not too content heavy. What I mean by this is make sure your slides don’t contain too much actual words. The presentation slides are an aid to you. You need to be the point of focus with the slides being an aid to complement what you are saying.
Practice. I’ve said it above anyway but the most important this to just practice. That’s the best thing you can do!
That’s it for this post, drop me a message if you have any further queries!