Navigating the APC journey

Lloyd Cullen
After successfully passing my Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in June 2019 and becoming Charted Project Manager, I have had time to reflect on my journey and what I have learned through the process.

After graduating in Construction Management, from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2012, I spent two years living in Australia, returning to Scotland in 2014 to work on an offshore wind project. However, my real interest was in the construction of buildings, so I was delighted to join Faithful+Gould in 2016 as an Assistant Project Manager.

Faithful+Gould, offer a renowned APC training programme which they encourage all early graduates to undertake, I found it reassuring knowing that you would be supported by the business throughout the entirety of the process.

When registering in May 2016, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task that lay ahead. My advice to anyone starting the programme is to try and focus on the task at hand, it can seem overwhelming but break it down into manageable milestones. Although passing the APC ultimately boils down to your final assessment on the day, there are a multitude of tasks that you need to complete over the 24-month process. Therefore it is important to take it one step at a time.

Although I felt prepared and ready heading into my final assessment in June 2018 unfortunately, I was referred. I was extremely disappointed at the time, however if you find yourself in the same situation, don’t feel too disheartened, view this as an opportunity to get another 6-12 months of valuable experience under your belt while focussing on the areas you need to improve on.  

In the following months, everyone at Faithful+Gould was very supportive and continued to encourage me while helping me develop my knowledge and experience. By the time I was sitting my final assessment for the second time, I was assisting on a major project, at the University of Glasgow, providing me with invaluable experience which I was able to demonstrate during my final assessment. I was thrilled when I found out I’d passed in June this year, becoming a chartered Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). 

Reflecting on what I have learned throughout the whole process, here are my top six tips for success:

  • 1.     Create a robust study plan – Faithful+Gould and the RICS have excellent supporting documents which clearly outline what you are expected to know and topics / subjects that you need to study. Utilise these and use them to develop your study plan from the outset.
  • 2.     Be prepared to make sacrifices – Passing your APC not only provides you with worldwide industry recognition but with the knowledge which will greatly assist you in your day to day role. However with this comes sacrifice, on the six months leading up to your final assessment, be prepared for lots of late nights and weekends spent studying. On the bright side, this is the perfect example of short-term pain for a significant long-term gain.
  • 3.     Make sure you know your experience inside out - If your experience is predominantly in a specific sector or a main contract such as NEC3, you must be able to talk authoritatively about that. For example, what are the contracts main options, what advice did you give, what are the change control, risk management and payment processes and how does this differ to a contract such as JCT / SBCC.   
  • 4.     Don’t underestimate the importance of your written submission. Most of the questions you are asked on the day will stem from what you have written within your summary of experience, so this is vital. Don’t leave this until the last minute and don’t include anything you are not confident being questioned on or have not actually carried out during your training period.   
  • 5.     Practice your answers out loud. There is a big difference between reading your study notes, thinking you know an answer and answering a question professionally in a structured manner. Doing a lot of mock assessments helped me get used to the interview experience, especially practicing with those who were not my peers.
  • 6.     Be Confident – Confidence is important and something that comes more naturally to some than others. It’s natural to be nervous on the day but remember that giving a correct answer in an unsure/nervous manner is almost as bad as giving an incorrect answer. You have put in all the hard work by this point, this is your opportunity to show it. 

On the day of your final assessment treat it like an important meeting with your client, assessors want to be reassured and confident that clients will be in safe hands with you and that when you leave the room as a chartered professional you will promote trust in the profession.

As a chartered Member of the RICS, I am now ready to progress my career, taking on new challenges and more responsibility. Going forward, I’d like to work with others, at the beginning of their career, who are going through their APC. Hopefully I can provide some guidance and encouragement, sharing with them my successes and failures and offer some friendly advice.