EVENT REVIEW: Navigating the Assessment of Professional Competence 17th June Colliers International

June 25, 2013

On Monday 17th June, a healthy contingent of chartered andPicture5 would-be chartered town planners converged on Colliers International’s offices to learn about that most fear-inducing of navigational challenges. Seemingly even more intense than navigating one’s way out of the Barbican Centre, this evening was devoted to the RTPI Assessment of Professional Competence.

The first speaker was Tony Horrell, CEO of Colliers UK and Ireland. Tony introduced the evening, providing some snippets of background information (did you know that Colliers is the third largest real estate advisor in the world?) Importantly, he highlighted that Planning is very much seen as a key department within the firm.

RTPI London Young Planners Chair Charlotte Morphet welcomed attendees and launched the APC Snapshot Interviews of recently chartered RTPI London members. The interviews start with chartered members of committee but invite other members throughout London to share their experience.

The main presentation was given by Philip Woodward, Senior Membership Officer at the RTPI. This talk was emphatically not a regurgitation of RTPI guidance; however, guidance is one of the most important lessons of the evening:

Lesson # 1: You will not pass the APC if you don’t read the guidance

Lesson # 2: Make sure that you are using the correct guidance!

  • It is extremely important to use the most up-to-date guidance. The previous document “The Guide to the APC is now out of date and, if used for an APC submission, will not meet with success.

Lesson # 3 Learn from others

  • Another useful sub-page is Top APC Candidates 2012 This contains tips from ten of the most impressive APC submissions from last year and these (according to a fellow  audience member) are most helpful when approaching the APC as a comparative novice.

Recent Changes

While the APC assessment criteria are unchanged from 2012, the process has undergone some recent alterations. These are as follows:

  • Clearer, more detailed guidance
  • Eight week assessment period (down from ≤18 weeks previously)
  • “Fail” outcome replaced by a referral
  • New compulsory Personal Development Plan (PDP) template
  • New forums for discussing the process to be developed/resurrected (e.g. LinkedIn)

The Role of the APC

The Assessment of Professional Competence does exactly what it says on the tin. It proves to the RTPI that you are working as a planner at a suitable professional level to achieve chartered status.

In order to do this, a licentiate must explain how they go about doing their job. The APC is not simply a 5,000 word job description. It must demonstrate that a master’s degree is required to do the job, that the learning outcomes from academic qualifications are supported by learning and development and that the individual in question can display professional judgement.

1.  Practical Experience Statement (PES)A minimum of 24 months of practical experience is required to apply for the APC, but this must not be treated as a numbers game. 24 months are not solely enough; they must be 24 months of professional spatial planning. A year’s worth of reprographics in a planning consultancy is unlikely to contribute substantially to one’s professional planning experience.

Under RTPI guidelines, 1,000 words should be sufficient for this section of the APC.

2. Professional Competence Statement (PCS)

This, at 2,500 words, is the largest single section of the APC.  It assesses the licentiate’s competence at managing the projects they have been given, using between one and three case studies (most people seem to use two). All the assessment criteria must be passed in the professional competence statement. These are as follows:

  1. An understanding of context.
  2. An ability to identify and analyse issues.
  3. Competence in gathering appropriate information.
  4. Competence in identifying and evaluating a course of action.
  5. Competence in initiating actions to implement a course of action or (for academic applications) the dissemination and application of knowledge.
  6. Engagement in a process of reflection and review.
  7. Knowledge and experience of the:
    1. legal framework
    2. ethical challenges
    3. political challenges and
    4. how the RTPI Professional Code of Conduct impacts on your work in practice.

These must all be addressed reflectively and competently. Additionally, Philip pointed out that the ten criteria listed above, should not be used as subheadings; the statement should flow smoothly.

The criterion that claims the most scalps is the sixth. It is essential to for licentiates to identify what they have learned from this task. The principle of engaging in a process of reflection and review underpins the APC.

At all points, the Professional Competence Statement (PCS) must demonstrate how decisions have been made. Descriptions of the situation are insufficient. It is very important to avoid the trap of simply summarising everything.

3. Professional Development Plan (PDP)

While the principle of reflection and review can claim many victims on its ramparts; it is the PDP which is the number one reason for APC submissions to fail.

There is a new template which must been used to undertake PDP.

The PDP starts with a SWOT analysis. This feeds directly into the remainder of the document, where applicants should build upon their strengths, address their weaknesses, make use of opportunities and pre-empt threats.  1-2 main SMART (i.e. not unrealistic) goals should come out of the PDP.

All of this is outlined in the new template.

Presentation Standards

Quality of presentation also forms part of the APC assessment. The RTPI takes a very dim view of poor presentation and, if the submission is sloppy, misspelled, untidy or otherwise inadequate, it will not pass.

Licentiates need to allow time to proof-read and re-edit the document (particularly if the first draft is longer than 5,000 words). Paragraphs must be numbered and references (e.g. to logbook entries) must be accurate. People with learning difficulties can ask the RTPI for assistance with their APC submission.


This is a recommended component of the APC process and there is a chance that it will become compulsory from 2014. Meetings with mentors should take place at regular intervals.

Licentiates must choose a mentor very carefully. It is best to choose someone who does not know you personally as opposed to a line manager or a personal friend. The mentor should be au fait with competencies and guidance. It is possible, if desired, to have two mentors.  There is a form where licentiates can request a mentor.


The Logbook is intended to help Licentiates get their application together and is a mandatory component of the APC. Eligible material can potentially come from any area of planning. It does not need to contain information on pre-licentiate experience. It is important to keep this up to date; it needs only be updated every month. There is a log book template which is encouraged to be used. There is no word limit to the Logbook and the 12 months contained within do not need to be consecutive.

Breakout sessions

Following Philip’s talk, breakout sessions were held with RTPI London Young Planners Committee members who are MRTPI. These covered each component of the APC process. The breakout sessions allowed us to ask in-depth questions to chartered members.

RTPI London Young Planners would like to thank Colliers for hosting and sponsoring this event and all committee members to who contributed to its organisation and the breakout sessions.

If you have further questions please e-mail rtpilondonyoungplanners@gmail.com

Essential Resources

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