Gemma Smith MRICS completed her APC in 2013 and currently works as a chartered building surveyor with Sweett Group, Edinburgh. She has presented at RICS APC days and is also an APC Mentor. In this interview she shares her top tips for APC success.
What did you do in the lead up to prepare yourself for the final assessment?
Firstly I revised all the projects I had worked on and the details I had included within my final submission documents. I made sure I had included enough detail in my diary logs throughout my training period so I could remember all the key information when it came to preparing my experience logs and critical analysis. This was a great help as it can be very easy to forget things over the two year training period!
I also made sure that I practiced my presentation in front of anyone who would listen to me, including my supervisor/councillor, work colleagues and friends and family. This really helped me gain confidence in my presentation.
I arranged a mock interview prior to my final assessment. I arranged this through my councillor, who worked at a different company to me, and she arranged for some of her colleagues to be my ‘mock panellists’. It was much more of a challenge presenting in front of people I didn’t know but it was great to get objective feedback from people only meeting me that day, exactly as it is for your final assessment. I would really recommend this to anyone preparing for the final assessment.
Did you attend any events? If so, how did they help you?
I actually attended the APC Prep Day Scotland and can’t recommend it enough. I attended the event 6 months before my final assessment and it was a bit of an eye opener for me. I think the main benefit was that it gave me a good understanding of the large amount of work that was involved in the final submission and preparing for the presentation. It really motivated me to get organised and I created a timeline leading up to the final assessment to allow me to prepare fully. After the event, I went back through my records and diary entries to add in more detail and this helped a great deal towards the end of the process.
I would advise current candidates to attend the APC Prep Day Scotland as early in your APC process as possible. It will really help you get a better understanding of all the work that is involved and allow you to prepare accordingly. You also come away with some great tips on how to make the process more manageable.
Apart from this event, I also attended some local Matrics events, including an event on interview techniques to help me when it came to the final assessment. These were a great help too and I would encourage all current candidates to get involved with Matrics and the local events available. It’s also great to speak to other candidates who are also going through the process.
Could you choose three highlights from the APC Prep Day?
1) The highlight for me was seeing the live mock interview. It is exactly the same format as what you will experience on the final assessment day, so it helps you prepare for what to expect. I think there is a lot of anticipation and nerves leading up to the interview and this helped alleviate them somewhat.
2) Getting to visit the final assessment venue was also a great help in preparing for the final assessment. This allows you to assess things like parking, travel time and where you should go when you arrive at the venue. You have a lot on your mind on the assessment day, not to mention the nerves, and it is very useful to not have to worry about these issues!
3) Having access to the speakers was also hugely beneficial. The mock panel we had on the day were all assessors so it was great to get their first-hand knowledge on the process. It was also good to find out what their expectations were. There are also plenty of opportunities to get your questions answered in various Q&A sessions throughout the day, or if you prefer, there are also ample opportunities to approach the speakers individually.
Finally, what are your top tips for current APC candidates?
Start logging detailed notes in your diary as early as possible. I can’t stress enough how helpful this is as you progress towards the end of the training period. Also be truthful about any experience you include within your final submission, as you will likely be asked in the interview!
Don’t rush your final submission and don’t leave it until the last minute before you start completing the documents. Appreciate how much time it takes to compile all of your experience into a single submission document. Also remember your Supervisor/Councillor will need sufficient time to check through the final document and sign it off.
Remember that your submission reflects two years’ worth of experience and it is the first chance your assessors will get to establish an opinion of you, so make sure this includes a detailed log of your experience.
Finally, be aware that RICS runs an APC mentor scheme to provide support for current candidates. I am now a mentor.
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