Week 33: the critical analysis, part two – writing the report

Last week I discussed possible pitfalls with the critical analysis produced by candidates and mentioned the thought process behind choosing the subject. This week I look at producing the report.

What is the Critical Analysis report?

  • A professional report has a beginning, middle and end. It follows the content and section-heading structure laid out on page 17 of the APC candidate’s guide. The report should have front and back covers, a contents page and appendices supported in the report text.
  • Spelling and grammar must be perfect, with numbered paragraphs and the candidate’s name and number on every page. These are simple points, but many candidates get this wrong. About half of the pre-submission documents I have assessed in nine years as a chairman of assessors have lacked substance in whole or in part, with errors in the areas listed above.
  • The word count is noted in the guide as 3,000 words, not including appendices. But candidates should not hide swathes of text in an executive summary to justify a 4,500-plus word count.
  • The structure and headings should follow the RICS documented headings:

‘Key Issues’, ‘Options’, ‘Proposed Solutions’ and ‘Conclusion and Analysis’. Consider the problems when we receive a critical analysis with headings such as ‘Client Objectives’ or ‘Actions’. It is unfair for assessors to have to make assumptions on what the ‘Client Objectives’ relate to are they key issues or options? Not doing this right adds more candidates to the referral list and means candidates have to work harder in the final assessment interview to make up for poor documentation.

  • Photographs and plans as supporting information should be no larger than A4 when folded. Candidates should limit this content and only fold A3 sheets into A4 anything larger will cause problems for the reader and with the binding. Photographs should be of good quality, clear and well annotated, and well reproduced in the four copies of the final assessment documents not blurry, black and white reproductions.

Plans should be relevant, good quality, clearly reproduced and well annotated, with scales noted. Key parts may be highlighted to identify areas for discussion in the text. Plans and photographs should also be included in the appendices.

  • When having to disguise names of parties in the report, candidates should extend this confidentiality to the plans, photographs and appendices, ensuring that corporate logos are all removed.
  • Signing off the report is important, and a short statement noting the confidentiality and authenticity of the content generally suffices. This should be signed by the candidate, supervisor and counsellor. Remember, our professionalism is being tested here.
  • Presentation is paramount. I suggest Arial 10 or 12 point as a font and 1.5 line spacing. The report should be properly printed (black and white on A4 white paper is fine) and spirally bound or similar, but not in a lever-arch file or inferior plastic wallet. The front and back cover could be as simple as a plastic front cover and white card back. Keep all copies in pristine condition, ready for delivery to the RICS.

The final assessment documents pre-submitted to the RICS should represent the most professional documents candidates have prepared yet. Nothing less than 100% quality is acceptable. If this expectation is set now, they will not go far wrong.

Next week: month 18 supervisor and counsellor review, part one - explanation

By Jon Lever, managing director of DeLever, APC chairman of assessors, RICS training adviser and RICS licensed assessor trainer. DeLever produces APC resources, training and software: go to www.delever.com

Competency: Housing Management and Policy

Housing is the new black. Housing management is at last being recognised as a vital contributor to the standard of living and the social welfare of the communities we live and work in. The knowledge, understanding and competencies required to fulfil this pivotal role in society are challenging and because of the political ramifications involved in housing, the legislation and statutory regulations are specific, yet wide ranging.

At level 1 of the APC you are required to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the legislation and statutory regulations relevant to housing management. This is a daunting task, but many UK MSc programmes are dedicated to housing management and policy.

Be careful to articulate which sector of housing management and policy you operate in, but also to show that you are aware of the issues pertaining to other sectors of housing management and policy.

At level 2 you are required to demonstrate that you can apply your knowledge to day-to-day housing management functions, including the implementation of tenancy conditions, leases or licences, relevant legislation and statutory guidance. The important focus here is on the day-to-day functions: you must show how you put your knowledge and understanding into action and articulate not just what you do, but why you take these day-to-day actions.

At level 3 you are required to provide evidence
of reasoned advice, including the preparation and presentation of reports relating to the formulation and implementation of housing management policy and good practice. Don’t forget to include references in your notes to the various documents that have taken you on your journey to the advice being presented. This will help provide an audit trail of thought and process, which will contribute significantly to demonstrating competence.

By Ben Elder, director at the College of Estate Management, the leading provider of distance learning to the property industry. He is a member of the RICS valuation faculty board and an RICS ATC assessor. www.cem.ac.uk