SECRETS OF THE APC: Preparation, Revision & On the Day

with Odiri Itoje


Host:  Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast Building Surveying for Professionals, giving you a detailed and technical view of the world of Building Surveying, in this episode we are going to have a chat with Odiri Itoje, Chartered Surveyor at Cardoe Martin and this is our third Podcast in 2020 AC that’s after Covid-19, things have changed in the way we live and the way we work despite the clear facts that a paradigm shift has occurred our buildings still need care and preventative maintenance, leaks still need to be fixed and a human being remains at the heart of our built environment, keep safe and best wishes to you, your family and community from all at Cardoe Martin as you join us once again for a journey through time and materials as we uncover more secrets of the APC.  In this episode we are pleased to have Odiri Itoje back on the sofa. Welcome again Odiri.

OI:             Hi James, hi.

Host:        Well, it is good to have you back on it has been a while and without ruining the first question, but you were a guest on the very first podcast we did, that was way back last year? 

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        So, rushing past.

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        And hopefully people will enjoy this one more than they did the last one.

OI:             Oh hopefully.

Host:        Although actually I think you got some very good feedback from various people about the last one, didn’t you?

OI:             Yes.

Host:        We got listeners from around the country who kind of let you know that you had done a good job.

OI:             Yeah there was some that worked at the House of Commons as a Project Manager and messaged me a Linked-In saying he really enjoyed my Podcast and I said, “wow amazing”, he said to keep it up so here I am again, happy to be here. 

Host:        Yeah, it is great, and I think we have got quite an interesting topic that is going to be relevant maybe less so for this year depending on how things turn out, but certainly could all remember the next sitting is.  (1.40) First question then, remind us of when you sat your APC?

OI:             I submitted my document I believe in November 2018 and then I sat my interview in June 2019, I think that’s correct but I did sit my interview in June 2019.

Host:        (2.01) Okay yes so hence by the time we spoke on the Podcast back in July last year you were already Chartered?

OI:             Yes, yeah thankfully.

Host:        (2.08) Has it been worth it being Chartered?  Has it been that different?  Does it feel the same?

OI:             It hasn’t been that different I’ve had loads of people asking me how does it feel and it just feels good to know that it’s done, like I have to remind myself that I’m Chartered like wow, that is out of the way now and I just put it on the end of my letters and emails but in terms of, you do feel a bit more confident in that you actually did manage to get through that and that you are now a professional that is recognised in the world so you do feel good but I’m still doing the work, I think you do get more recognition and that people like assume they are working with a professional, so overall it feels good, it’s a confidence booster.

Host:        (2.54) Now in the last Podcast you talked a little bit about how you love travel and going to different places, did you treat yourself to a nice holiday after you got Chartered that summer?

OI:             Yes, I went to Venice, I went to Malta, I went to Madrid and then I had the whole of December in Nigeria, but I think I over treated myself but being that we’re in Covid-19 now (laughter) I think that was the right decision.

Host:        (laughter) I think it was a good decision.  Anyone pining to stay at home has got their wish I think at the moment.

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (3.24) So going back to the assessment itself then so where did you sit your assess, did you consider other locations? 

OI:             Mine was at the Park Inn Hotel in Heathrow, that was my first choice because I’m in London so that’s ideal, I also considered the next closest location, I can’t remember exactly what it was but you have to choose another location and then you fill out your form online, so it says “what’s your first option?” so you obviously pick the location closest to your house and then if you don’t get that at the first option what would be your second option, I probably picked like Cardiff or something, or maybe, I can’t remember but the later you leave it the less options you had because I had a friend who left his quite late and he had to do it in Leeds, so it’s best to get in there early and pick wherever you live.

Host:        (4.06) Do they cover your transport there, did your friend have to pay for his train or car to get up there?

OI:             I believe he paid; I am not sure if he claimed it back, but he did pay for it outright.

Host:        (4.14) So it is probably another good lesson.

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (4.17) You are going to have to pay for your mistake if you don’t get in there early so it’s good advice. 

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (4.24) Did the APC sit in a hotel or around an out-of-town airport hotel type situation or do they have other type centres do you know?

OI:             I believe so, I believe it’s in the hotel because even when I’ve spoken to surveyors that have been Chartered for years in London they sat at the same place, it’s always been in a hotel.  I had advice a few years ago from a Surveyor, another Chartered Surveyor and he said the greatest advice he had was that he stayed the night before in the hotel so in the morning your not rushing to get over on the train, commute in stressing, sweating, so he stayed the night before, I didn’t take that advice because mine was about 11 o’clock so I just left myself enough time but that’s also, if you’re a person that gets quite stressed having that extra time to already be at the location is also ideal cos you can never be late then, you’re already there.

Host:        (5.13) Well the other advantage to that is you’re not going to get to caught up in other travel issues.

OI:             Exactly.

Host:        (5.15) So say if you left yourself two hours to get from Central London out to Heathrow you may be cutting it fine and then you get lost and all the other things so yeah excellent. 

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (5.27) So what are the other top five things you did to prepare in the weeks leading up to the assessment?

OI:             There are a number of things, the top five I would say that I’ve always told everyone to do is read your submission document like memorise them inside out because they’re gonna question you on this document, so if you submitted something and you don’t know what you submitted you’re gonna mess up in the question, so I read over my submission at least five times, I knew exactly the projects that were in there, I knew what I’d spoken about, I highlighted various projects, that’s my second point, I highlighted the various projects that would be an easy target for interviewers to question me on and I made sure I knew it inside out.  I also read recent Modus publication, that usually you get that in the post, I still get that now, I think all surveyors if they register with the RICS will get a Modus magazine, I think every month or so and I made sure to read the last few that I had so that if I get any questions about what’s going on recently in the industry I would be able to answer that and I did get a question on that luckily and I would also advise that you review any recent changes in the legislation or read up on any major event in the industry so at the time I made sure to read up on Grenfell Tower, I read the article that had been published, I read so many things online just because that was such a hot topic, if that comes up I want to make sure that I have an answer to it, and then lastly is mock interviews, I cannot stress how important it is to do a mock interview and those five were key for me actually passing I think.

Host:        (6.56) So going back to the Modus thing was the article one of the really big one’s because they have to feature articles in Modus and then they have the various some shorter or monthly articles going through the back of the magazine, do you remember what it was and how prominent it was?

OI:             I can’t exactly remember what I read but when they did ask me this question about oh have I read any recent publications that had been issued, I had mentioned something about energy performance or something like sustainability, I had memorised it to be honest just for that interview, so I can’t remember exactly what it was now and I know they often put in the key topic or interesting news within there.  You also have a section there where it talks about recent questions, or some APC panellist or candidate would put in a few comments in there as well which is quite helpful to read.

Host:        (7.44) Lovely so going back to then the mock interviews, you obviously mentioned that those were handy, so I am guessing that you did do some and were they helpful and how did they go, how much prep time did you have to put in?

OI:             Oh most definitely, I think I would say that’s No. 1 on your list of how to prepare for your interview.  I had about 2 or 3 interviews and if they’re handled correctly, if you’re able to have your colleagues or somebody within your company do them, if they’re handled correctly it does feel like a natural RICS interview so it’s like re-living it beforehand, and you have a feel of how the interviewers will question you, you’re able to practice how to answer because it’s very, very important that you answer the question correctly to Levels 1, 2 and 3, you don’t just want to do it to Level 1 you want to make sure you’re hitting Level 3.  If you’ve practiced beforehand, you know the kind of words you need to say to make sure you’re getting to that Level 3 and you also get to work on your timing and your presenting skills because part of your interview is to present.  So if you’re able to make sure you are doing it within the 10 minutes that’s perfect and you also want to become familiar with eye contact and having to be confident in front of the panel because when you do sit your APC you want to make sure you’re looking at the panellists, you’re keeping eye contact, you’re explaining yourself well and if you just walk in there blindly and with all the best but if you have the ability to have interviews they are so, so helpful.  I knew what I was getting myself into on that day because I had done so before so it is extremely helpful.

Host:        (9.10) How closely to the actual date did you have these interviews, so did you space them out or was it kind of like okay we will just block them in for a first, we’ll have one at 6 months run up and the rest like within 2 weeks of the actual event?

OI:             And so you get your date, I think 3 weeks, I should look at my calendar but I think you get the date of your interview 3 weeks before the actual day, if not even 2, maybe 3 but you don’t have much time so as I soon as I had known I had passed my submission date then I’ve got my interview date I told my colleague and then we set in dates so we did the first one maybe a week after that and that was very raw, (laughter) I had no idea and if you go into your APC without doing it you might feel how I felt at the first time, and then my first interview they had said they would not have passed me, that was my first go, but knowing when I got that feedback from that first interview I was able to make sure I worked on it for my second interview, and then in the last week of my APC interview I didn’t do one just because my mind, I thought it was going to explode, so I left myself a week must to continue to read over my submissions, but I would say as soon as you get a date lock in your diary at least 2 different dates when you can have an interview, do one just as you are, so just so you get the feel of it and really prepare yourself for the second one.

Host:        (10.26) So that’s advice so essentially what you’re saying is, is that even if you’re not exactly sure when you’re going to be running on the APC book in everything in advance, stage it up, organise yourself and you can take full advantage of what is essentially the most important you can do the mock interview. 

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (10.44) What would you suggest to any candidates who are struggling to arrange for don’t want to do any mock interviews?

OI:             If you’re struggling to arrange it maybe because you don’t have the facilities or there are people that can’t act as interviewers then on the day then that would be unfortunate but I would just refer to the other points which is read your submission, maybe do question and answer with a friend or family, it doesn’t have to be set up how mine was set up as a proper interview but try and do Q&A with a friend, just write out some questions that you think they would ask you, get somebody to look over a document and see what they would ask you and just somebody get to help you.  If people don’t want to do mock interviews, I would urge them to do at least 2 interviews otherwise the actual interview date will be a massive shock.  There are little things you pick up that they’ll tell you in a mock interview such as knock on the door, shake their hand, look into their eye, introduce yourself and if you’re not told any of that and you just walk in the interview room as if you’re going into a shop it’s gonna be a massive shock.

Perito:      (11.39) Yeah, I can imagine, it’s that sudden surge that your tummy goes a bit err and tunnel vision in your eyes and do you think, I remember this from our first conversation first Podcast, you had quite a lot of help from people within the business.

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (11.55)  How important do you think it was to have good people who are leading through this and do you think, see not everyone’s gonna be, if you’ve got accommodating team members who are gonna be with you, how much effort should people put in to go out and hunt people down, so to speak, to make sure they get the good quality mock interview?

OI:             I would say put in 100% effort to get someone to do it for you, if you don’t, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my team, so if I’d gone in there left to my own devices and left just my revision I don’t think I would have passed, but because I had so much support that’s the reason I think I passed because of the support, not because I was good or because my submission was good I just think I was well prepared and I had the support of my team that were telling me you’re gonna do fine, it’s gonna be good.  So you go in there feeling like okay I’ve done this now with my team, they think it was okay, hopefully if I just do the same thing, the panellists might think I’m good and pass me, if you don’t have the support in your workplace then I would say definitely hunt, for other people that would do it, if you have a look on Linked-In I see people often putting up posts can I get some help with my APC, and I think most people are likely to help because they know how difficult it is, I don’t think anyone forgets the APC process so I think most people will want to help other people to become a Chartered Surveyor, I don’t see why not so I would say hunt, look into other companies, some other companies will help you, put a post out on Linked-In, put a post out on Twitter and just try and reach out to somebody who is able to do that with you and I think you’ll be, I think you might be lucky.

Host:        (13.25) Okay that’s great advice again thanks.  Tell us about what resources you used to prepare and revise for it and maybe if you remember the timeline took adopted for revision that could be helpful too?

OI:             So my track was quite traditional, I just read over my documents with a notebook and a highlighter, anything that popped out to me that I either forgot about or didn’t know, didn’t have that much knowledge on, I would go and do a full blown revision, so if I had mentioned concrete defects in my submission I wanted to know everything about every type of concrete defect, just in case because that’s a building pathology question, if that comes up I want to be able to answer it to the best of my ability, so I would go through my submission as I said, highlight any key points that would be an easy target for the interviewers to question me on, make up some questions in my head but try and put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and say okay what would I say somebody, if I read this what would be my first question, work like that, answer the questions, write it out and I also made revision cards on the competencies that I had so I could read them before bed, or I’m quite a morning person so anything I take in first thing in the morning I’m likely to remember it, I would also read my revision card on the train and I also had revision cards in my presentation, so even though I had, you are allowed to take notes in for your presentation, but because I’d read it so much I knew exactly what I was saying for every single slide because I was constantly putting it into my brain.  That’s what helped me cos I’m quite traditional in terms of just I want to read, I want to write, note things down, if you’re someone that works well with like voice recording or audio things like that one of my bosses, my Chairman he has said you could record yourself doing it and then listen to it every day and just listen to it back to yourself so you can see, okay this is the question, this is the answer.  You have to find what style works for you, my style was to read everything was to do things in the morning with the revision cards constantly pumping it into my brain it’s that.

Host:        (15.22) I’m exactly the same day, all my revisions always been done by constant refining.

OI:             Yes.

Host:        (15.30) And unless it is rammed in there firmly it’s never gonna stick, even to the degree one minute before an exam I’ve still got my note on the smallest piece of paper.

OI:             Same.

Host:        (15.38) And then go ugh drop it all on the nose.  But that’s a nice suggestion by Graham about the audio because you can easily, if you listen to a Podcast you obviously like your audio and you can learn from this thing and then it’s relatively easy these days to have recording devices on your phone so you could record it all and then just constantly run it in cycle. 

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (15.59) Or if it is anything like that Friends episode where was it Jerry or Chandler listening to self-help tapes whichever one that was.

OI:             (laughter) Yeah. 

Host:        (16.06) It is in his brain so it clearly works it’s on television.  So thinking about the assessment itself how did the actual day work?

OI:             When you get to the hotel you sign in, there’s lots of other candidates, you’re put into a meeting room with several other people and you have a number on a card and whilst you’re in the meeting room your given further instructions so somebody else will come in and say “if I call this number this group come out with me, I’ll take you to the room”, they’ll tell you look for the screen that has your name on or the number of the room, stand outside the room and then you knock, you wait to be invited in, then you open the door, shake their hand, they’ll probably offer you a glass of water also then you’ll take your seat, the Chairman will run through the interview process which you’ll know, if you’ve had a mock interview, you’ll hand out the material for your presentation if you have any and then you would start, but the instructions you get in the meeting room are very concise so they’ll tell you, this is where you’re gonna go, knock on the door, wait to be invited, go in, shake hands, have a glass of water and sit down, it’s quite straightforward and I would say obviously get there early, don’t ever try and get there just in time, get there early, there’s tea and coffee, there’s water, there’s juice you can sit down, you’ll probably read over your notes if your anything like me and just be relaxed so your not all rushing to get in there, but that’s generally how it goes, the day is quite smooth and once you’re done, you’re probably done at the same time every other person that was in that group so everyone will come out at the same time and then you breath and it’s like oh my god did they ask you this, I remember speaking to so many people after and nobody was sure of it, nobody, I didn’t come out thinking I had definitely passed, I didn’t know if I’d failed but it’s nice to talk to the other people when they come out and see what kind of questions they got and you kind of compare and just say good luck and go home, that’s how it went for me.

Host:        (17.58) Were all these people waiting in the corridor or in the seating area for their turn…

OI:             Yes.

Host:        (18.00) …or was it the case that you wandered in, there was no one else there and you just went straight in.

OI:             No you go in and there’s quite a few other people there, you’ll know who they are because everybody looks just scared as you are and then when it’s your time, I got there fairly early so I was able to just wait around the corner there was tea and coffee, and then you’re called into the room because everybody had different interview slots, when you’re called into that room you’re probably with about 20 other people and everyone’s saying “I’m so nervous” I’m this, I’m that, I’m scared.  You have a laminated card that has a number on and then a worker that’s there will come in and say, “this group please follow me” and then you know you’re on the way to the interview room and it’s about to get real, that’s how it was.

Host:        (18.41) Sounds kind of nerve racking.

OI:             Yeah.

Host:        (18.43) What do you know that you kind of wish you had known before you went in because you’ve got all this host of stuff that we’ve talked about but there must be a couple of things that really stand out and go, that would have made life so much easier?

OI:             If I go back to even before the interview process, even before you get a date and you’re still doing your APC document, if I had just listened to the instructions when they are given, I urge everyone to start with their logbook and diary and that makes up part of your submission.  If you start with your log book and diary you would run through all the projects that you’ve done since you started working, or that’s I’m assuming you’re working before you do your APC, you would find so many projects that you’ve worked with that you could note down, put down which competencies they relate to that when you’re doing the competencies you have a range of projects to talk about.  I stupidly left my log book and diary to the very end so as I filled out my log book, or they call it diary, I just call it log book, as I filled out my log book I had missed so many other projects that I could have spoken about in my submission.  Thankfully what I had done was okay because it passed but you will find, you might go through the competencies and think you haven’t got enough experience but if you’ve been keeping a log of all that you’ve done you will definitely have enough experience if you just remember what you have done, so that’s my biggest, biggest regret, is that if I didn’t pass and had gone back to do the submission again I would always do my log book first, see that I’ve done about 50 more projects that I could have spoken about and then build my competencies based on that and in terms of the assessment the actual assessment day I think because I’d done my mock interviews I was well prepared for what to expect, nothing really came as a shock for me on that day because my team had prepared me so much. 

Host:        (20.30) Okay some excellent points there thank you.  As we draw to a close have you got any final advice to listeners?

OI:             Yes I would say you must dedicate time to the whole process, it’s not something that you can rush and do, I’ve had people that have rushed, I’ve had friends that have kind of rushed it or maybe didn’t put as much time into it and then haven’t passed, not because they’re not competent just because they maybe didn’t get the support or didn’t have enough time, so firstly dedicate time for it, you have to be really focussed and you have to be consistent, it’s really, there’s gonna be times when you’re doing your submission and you just think oh I can’t do that I don’t have enough time, if you don’t make the time for it and stay focussed on it you will never have enough time, because as you continue in your career you’re only going to be given more work so unless you’re planning to take two weeks off just to do your APC, which even then you wanna space it out over enough time, you don’t wanna just cram and do it all in a week or two, you wanna do it over a few months and be really consistent, apply yourself and be disciplined, your social life isn’t gonna be the same when you’re doing your APC, I was in the office a few times until about 9 or 10 and then I also came in once on a Saturday to get it done, so you have to really just tell yourself that I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna pass, or I’m at least gonna submit my documents to see where it goes and I’m gonna put my all into it.  Keep the goal in mind, remember the goal is to get Chartered, so remember you are not doing it for fun but you’re doing it to progress in your career and don’t procrastinate because it’s very easy to say.  To be fair I should have actually be Chartered the year before but I had put it off as well and then I decided, when I finally did it that I was not gonna put it off for another 6 months because you will just keep on procrastinating, so don’t do that and also if you don’t pass the first time, it’s okay, you can just brush yourself off and you can try again, you’ll have feedback from your first time, hopefully you’ll have more help, you’ll know where you kind of went wrong, it’s not the end of the world you can do it again, but mainly anything you put your mind to you can achieve, you just have to decide that I want to do this, I’m going to do this to the best of my ability and you’ll do it.

Host:        (22.33) As usual some good clear articulate thoughts there, thank you very much Odiri.  You’ve been tuned into Cardoe Martin’s Building Surveying for Professionals Podcast thank you very much for listening and thank you very much Odiri for joining us today.

OI:             Thank you.

Host:        And for sharing your experience and knowledge which reveal even more secrets at the APC.