Passing the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) is often seen by trainee surveyors as the Holy Grail - the end of the long journey towards finally beginning their career in earnest.

Iain McGhee

With the next round of candidates set to have their interviews this May, it is worth reflecting on what separates the success stories from those who need to resubmit their applications.

Like most things in life, the more preparation you put in, the higher the likelihood of success.

In its present format, the APC comprises three parts. First, there is the work experience and period of structured training. Next, there is the RICS online ethics module.

This includes online training about the RICS Ethical Standards and sees candidates review real ethical scenarios and answer 20 multiple-choice questions. The final part of the assessment comprises written submissions and an interview by a panel, normally made up of three practitioners, lasting one hour.

Ultimately, these professionals form an assessment of whether you are indeed ready and can demonstrate the competencies required to practise as a member of the RICS.

Candidates can place too much emphasis on this last component. The key is preparation in the build-up to the interview. Candidates should have built up experience across their academic and fledgling surveying careers to maximise their chances at the final interview stage, where a lack of experience or knowledge will quickly be exposed.

Ensuring the candidate gets to this point in the best position possible is incumbent not only on them, but also on their employer.

All too often, though, a combination of workload and commercial pressures sees candidates being left to their own devices. Inevitably, this leads to a panicky attempt to cram knowledge and experience before the final assessment.

Instead, the ideal programme for graduate recruits involves a blend of hands-on experience with rotation across all relevant departments within a consultancy. This should be supplemented with internal and external training, and monitored with regular progress and review meetings with supervisors.

Clearly, there is a great deal to navigating and completing the APC process - and success is a prestigious accolade. However, the reality is that succeeding in your APC is just the beginning of a much longer journey as you move into a position of being fully confident in your ability to advise clients.

Iain McGhee is a RICS APC panel member and valuations partner at Knight Frank