Your case study is one of the most pivotal sections in your APC submission. It is a major component in terms of quantity, as the basis of your ten-minute presentation and the subsequent questioning.
An ideal project will have drawn on your professionalism to consider key issues and options, then make recommendations for resolution. You should have a choice of projects that you are working on so you can evaluate which are best for your APC.
Evaluate Your Projects
You will spend time and effort preparing the submission and presentation, so focus on your project with the greatest potential. A good starting point is to evaluate your projects against the Understanding the APC guide to eliminate those that fail to meet the criteria, then reassess the remainder as they progress for your best choice.
Sometimes the project that you had the highest hopes for falls by the wayside or fails to meet the criteria in some way; it helps to have an alternative project as a contingency. Be proactive in gaining advice and guidance from your APC supervisor and counsellor when selecting your case study.
What could you look for in selecting your project?
First, you should ensure the project is within two years of your APC submission date. Many candidates select a project where they are actively involved within one year of the submission date – if they are on the two-year structured training route they are likely to be given more responsibility in this second year, so it will be fresher in their mind and in certain circumstances it might be re-used if they are referred.
Second, if you provided reasoned advice on Building Surveying Level 3 core competency matters, then it has potential. Ideally, you will have identified the project early on as one where you are likely to be personally involved at Level 3.
Third, if your project has two or three key issues that relate to your Building Surveying competencies then it starts to look very promising. These will vary by project; examples include building defect investigation and repair, redesigning a refurbishment due to a client change, or the selection and specification of a product.
There should be meaningful options to consider when determining how the key issue should be resolved. If you had to research or reflect on an event in order to reach a reasoned decision on the project then this could be a key issue. Where you had already identified the project early on as a possible case study then it is a great help if you note key issues as they arise so you can select from these and have a ready-made aide memoire.
If you feel there are no meaningful key issues or options then do discuss the project or projects, key issues and options with your supervisor, counsellor or others involved in the projects; they may provide useful suggestions or advise you towards another project.
Ensure you provide clarity and detail
When preparing the 3,000-word case study, it can be tempting to select more than one project and also three key issues. While the 3,000-word limit is usually easily reached, the challenge is often to provide the clarity, accuracy and detail. This can limit your demonstration of the issues, decision-making ability, reasoned judgement and so on. Do take your supervisor’s or counsellor’s advice on the number of projects and key issues to cover. You may have a valid need for more than one project and three key issues.
Many case studies are on a single project and two key issues. Using two instead of three allows more detail, which should enhance clarity while helping you to keep to the word limit. An additional benefit of a single project and two key issues is in your ten-minute presentation, as it will also allow you more time per issue.
Take pride in it
Once selected, then make the case study your own. It is a key part of the APC in representing you and your work, so take pride in its preparation and the chance to show assessors your professionalism.
Ewan Craig is an APC assessor, APC coach and local director with Right Surveyors
The above article originally appeared in RICS Built Environment Journal April/May 2019 titled The case in hand
During an online Q&A with the RICS Training team candidates got to ask their questions on the APC case study, below are the questions raised and answers.
I have just started my APC and was wondering when I should be thinking about my case study?
If you’re on the Structured 24 route, you shouldn’t worry about it until the second year. Firstly, you may not have the range of live experience to choose from. Secondly, if you rotate seats and undertake different types of work, you may have not found something you are best suited to yet. Your first year is really about your learning and development as a surveyor. In your pathway guide, there will be a timeline that help’s you to manage this.
Would it be better to write about a project from start to finish or should I look to target one specific aspect?
Target one aspect, so for example, foundations. The project does not need to be completed 100%, just the part you are writing about.
Are you able to use a project undertaken whilst working for a previous employer?
Your project(s) needs to be undertaken up to two years before your assessment. As long as this is the case, altering your employment will not be a problem.
How do I find hooks in all mandatory and technical competencies?
In your pathway guide, there is a Case Study checklist that brilliantly bullet-points potential hooks you could use. Keep in mind though that the checklist is not a syllabus - you don’t need to know or do all of it. Think of it more as a menu where you can pick and choose the tasks and activities you have carried out.
When it comes to the presentation, do you have an opinion on whether assessors prefer visual aids, or do you just want to hear about the case study?
The most important thing is that you are comfortable. Some people get in a muddle, others like to use visual aids as a crutch. If you have one, make sure it is relevant and not a distraction - use it to enhance, not dominate your presentation.