Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism APC

What APC candidates need to know about the competency Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism


  • Susan Hanley

01 November 2019

Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism is the only mandatory Level 3 competency in the RICS APC, so it is imperative that candidates have a detailed understanding of what is required. Ultimately, the aim is to assess whether you are a safe pair of hands and will foster trust in the profession.

Assessment method

Candidates are required to complete the ethics module in the portal of the Assessment Resource Centre in the  12 months before final assessment, and can record the time spent doing so as part of their CPD.

The final assessment process itself starts with the assessor reviewing the candidate's summary of experience. Before submitting this, candidates should have checked that it complies with RICS documentation, and the content should also have been tested and approved by an APC counsellor. A guide to what the summary of experience should contain is given in Table 1.

What to expect at interview

At final assessment, 10 minutes are set aside towards the end of the interview for demonstrating that you have fulfilled the competency's requirements. This time is defined in the APC Candidate guide as 'Chairperson's area of questioning [and it] may include professional and technical matters, CPD, Rules of Conduct and mandatory competencies'. In their questions, the chair may ask candidates to put themselves in hypothetical scenarios and consider how they would react or respond to these.

Candidates must know the RICS' five ethical standards:

  • act with integrity
  • always offer a high standard of service
  • act in a way that promotes trust in the profession
  • treat others with respect
  • take responsibility.

Most candidates will soon identify that they are, in the course of their role, already complying with these, and will have copious examples showing where they have demonstrated as much. 


While there is no way to predict what questions candidates will be asked at final assessment, they need to have detailed Level 1 knowledge of the competency description. Many candidates make the mistake of memorising the ethical standards alone, and this is not sufficient.

The examples of what candidates need to know contained in the competency descriptor are an excellent starting point for revision and include:

  • the structure of RICS
  • the organisation's global and professional ethical standards
  • mandatory professional statements, for example Conflicts of interest
  • guidance notes
  • RICS' CPD policy
  • the role of professional groups
  • bodies within RICS, such as Matrics and Lionheart
  • the Rules of Conduct for members
  • the Rules of Conduct for firms
  • policy documents
  • RICS bye-laws
  • government legislation and regulation
  • common law
  • relevant case law.

The regulation pages of the RICS website and the detailed guidance notes, all listed at the end of this article, will help you gain an understanding of these.

Top tips

  • Before submitting your summary of experience for final assessment, ensure you have checked it against the RICS ethical documents.

  • Memorising the ethical standards alone is not sufficient; you need a comprehensive knowledge of the competency as a whole.

  • Start reviewing ethics and regulations as early as possible to ensure you are acting appropriately, and identify evidence of practical application, at Level 2, and reasoned advice, at Level 3.

  • Take the ethics test as soon as you can to get a feel for the requirements. You can always retake it nearer the time if need be. Be sure not to leave it to the last minute – if you do not pass, the system can take 24 hours to reset.

  • Remember that the way you conduct yourself both inside and outside work can have a bearing on your RICS membership.

What should your summary of experience contain?

Requirement Example Level
Indicate sources of learned knowledge
  •  'While undertaking the RICS ethics module, I learned…'
  •  I reviewed the Ethics and the Regulation pages of the RICS website and learned…'
Demonstrate what you know about the module
  •  'I am aware of the RICS' five ethical standards and its Rules of Conduct for members and firms…'
  •  'I am aware of the need for professional indemnity insurance...'
  •  'I am aware of the requirement for firms to have a complaints-handling policy…'
Give evidence of practical application with real-life, project-specific examples
  •  'I identified a conflict of interest when…'
  • 'I'm involved in running my local RICS Matrics, and promote the benefit of this to others by…'
  •  'I read my employer's policy on hospitality and checked this against legislation and RICS guidance...'
Offer evidence of giving reasoned advice
  • 'I handled my client’s money in accordance with…'
  •  'On this project I dealt with a complaint…'
  •  'On this project I advised the client regarding a potential conflict of interest…'

Work placements

Candidates must take the following due diligence measures while on placements.

  • Ensure they are familiar with their employer's policies in relation to professional indemnity insurance – who does this cover, and at what level?
  • Investigate the company's  complaints-handling procedure.
  • Look into the policy on gifts and hospitality, and how this relates to RICS guidance and the Bribery Act 2010.


RICS ethical standards form a basis for providing professional services. All APC candidates and RICS members are required to embrace and adopt the organisation's ethical standards, both as part of their professional practice and in life outside work.

RICS guidance states: 'All members must maintain a relevant and current understanding of our professional and ethical standards during a rolling three-year period.' Divergence from this will generally affect public and professional perception of RICS and potentially your membership. Counsellors should also be up to date with professional and ethical standards, ensuring they comply with their obligations to undertake ethics-based CPD.

Susan Hanley is Director of the APC Academy and RICS Regional Training Advisor for Scotland

Contact Susan: Email

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