“Unfortunately you have been unsuccessful in your assessment. To support you coming forward again you will receive a feedback report shortly. Further details on the next steps will be sent to you.”
View Olivia Proudley's guest blog and podcast over at Property Elite https://www.property-elite.co.uk/post/how-to-bounce-back-from-apc-referral
It’s been over a year, but it feels like only yesterday I was reading those words on my laptop screen, feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. It was a rainy morning in May 2020 and I was working from home by myself, continually refreshing my ARC screen, not expecting to see it update until much later in the day. But at 8.45am, it did, and it knocked the wind out of me.
I recall I burst into tears, my emotions a mixture of upset, anger, frustration, exhaustion, failure and shame. Yes, shame. I had worked so hard for so long and so many people knew I was taking my assessment. I was embarrassed I had been referred and didn’t know how to tell them. I sent a screenshot to my husband and to my parents because I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and say the words. I hadn’t had my email from RICS yet and ARC stopped working, so I started thinking perhaps it was a mistake. Wishful thinking, I know.
There were a lot of things about my interview which were far from ideal – it was the first session online, there were quite a few teething problems and I didn’t particularly hit it off with my assessors. I wanted to blame them and for a while I did, but in hindsight I now know I simply wasn’t ready to sit the final assessment at that time, and my fear of the unknown got the better of me.
It is not an easy thing to pick yourself up after being referred and put yourself through the submission process again. It feels like a mountain you cannot climb, and for a while I couldn’t even look at my materials without feeling dejected and unmotivated. However, with a lot of determination and an excellent support network, I am happy to say that I was successful in my second attempt in November 2020. Having gone through the process twice in the space of six months, I thought it would be helpful to share the following tips on how to pick yourself up and start again:
1. OWN IT
There is no shame in being referred and you should not feel embarrassed if it happens to you. It is one of the hardest chartership processes in the world and it has a 65% pass rate for a reason. I let my friends and family know that day, and I also did a post on my LinkedIn to let all my professional contacts know, so I could avoid people asking me how I had got on. It turned out I received an overwhelming wave of support, not just from my contacts but from surveyors worldwide, wishing me good luck in my next attempt and reassuring meabout how the difficult the process is. It made me realise it was nothing to be ashamed of.
2. TAKE A BREAK
No doubt you have just spent the last few weeks, if not months, spending all your time outside of work with your head buried in your submission, RICS guidance and legislation, learning your presentation and practicing your answering technique. I cannot stress enoughthe importance of giving yourself a break. You are looking at 21-28 days from your assessment date before you receive your referral report – and you better believe mine took the full 28 days! There isn’t really anything you can do until you receive that report, so take the time to catch up on sleep, watch TV, read books, exercise – whatever it is you do that you enjoy!
3. SEEK ADVICE
Once you have got your referral report, I recommend reading it over a few times. When a candidate is referred, the panel have to include every tiny infraction within the report, so it can feel like nit-picking a bit, and I have to admit to feeling slightly attacked. However, the report can actually be incredibly helpful in shaping your next submission and it does highlight the areas you need to work on. I recommend showing the report to your supervisor and other RICS members you know, and get their advice. The referral report isn’tthe be-all-and-end-all though, I do know other candidates that have had quite vague reports and felt quite let down by them. So don’t just rely on the referral report to assist with future attempts, it just can be a good starting point.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE
In my first submission, I was very focused on demonstrating the full width and breadth of my experience, and included all sorts of weird and wonderful examples, which in turn led tosome very complex questioning. Through my mentoring with Property Elite, I learned I could be more tactical in writing my submission, to almost tailor the type of questions I wasasked. So – keep it simple! You can demonstrate valuation to level 3 with a strong understanding of the advice you would give on a simple term and reversion valuation – it doesn’t need to be a complex residual valuation with masses of inputs and assumptions.
5. KNOW YOUR SUBMISSION
This is a very key piece of advice – know your submission inside out and upside down. In my first attempt I spent too much time making sure I knew all the level requirements of the pathway guides and not enough time on my specific examples – which is what you are going to be questioned on primarily. For each example, you should be able to talk about theproperty, the method of measurement, what was included in your measurements, the method of valuation and why, specifics of the valuation, any issues you encountered etc – this should all be verbatim. You should also be able to discuss what other options you considered, why they weren’t in your final advice to your client, what else you could have advised them and why you didn’t, and what legislation or section of the lease you referred to.
6. GET CONNECTED
On my first attempt, I was very much on my own. I work in a small family business and didn’t have anyone who had gone through the process to assist me. I had my counsellor of course, but he worked in another firm so I didn’t have day-to-day support. On my second attempt, I was very lucky to find a small group of candidates local to me and we formed a WhatsApp group – we were continually messaging each other and met at least once a week online to question each other and practice our presentations. This increased to 2 or 3 times a week in the run up to actual assessment and proved invaluable. It massively improved my answering technique and I found myself solidifying my own learning by helping others when they got stuck. If you are struggling to make contacts, try posting in the “RICS Assessments” group on LinkedIn and see if you can find any other candidates local to you.
7. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Mock assessments are also a very useful part of your preparation. I only had one in the run up to my first assessment and it was with people I knew. Try and book multiple practice assessments – ask within your firm and other surveyors you know. You can also pay for assessments from Property Elite and similar companies, and post in the LinkedIn Group. Whilst practicing with people you know is great experience, it doesn’t really compare to running through the whole process with surveyors you don’t know.
8. CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE
I sat my first assessment during a very busy period at work, I didn’t take any time off apart from the day before – which I used to cram. My mind was still very much on the matters at work and I was not as focused as I wanted to be. For my second assessment, I booked off the two days before. The first, I used to decompress from work and revised in short bursts. The second day, I got up and practiced my presentation, made sure I had everything ready, and then I spent the rest of the day relaxing. I went for a long walk to clear my head, took a bath, did my nails and watched television. You aren’t going to learn anything on that day that you don’t already know, and forcing yourself to revise is only going to stress you out more. At the end of the day, it is what it is and you can only do your best.
Whilst it is a massively intimidating process, the interview should be just a conversation between you and your assessors about your experience. They aren’t trying to trip you up, they just want to make sure you can do everything you say you can in your submission. You will be surprised how different you feel sitting a second time in comparison to the first. I know brilliant surveyors who passed on their third, fourth and even fifth time! It is the luck of the draw as to who you get to assess you and what questions you are asked – the important thing is that you do not give up!
I cannot put into words the feeling I had when my ARC updated after my second submission - ‘Many Congratulations, you have been successful in your assessment; you are now qualified as an RICS professional.’ I can tell you that it made all the hard work, the anguish, the tears and the anxiety all worth it. You can do it, and there is so much support out there available, you just need to ask.