Part III – The Basics

So, you have finally made it through the first five years of your journey to become an Architect in the UK. You are a Part II graduate, who is either looking for a job or already has one, and are considering undertaking Part III but have no clue what it involves. Hopefully this post can help. 

Before actually enrolling on my Part III course I had no idea what was expected. To make matters more confusing the course criteria and assessment varies depending on the institution you decide to take the course with! The focus of this post will be on the RIBA North West (NW) Part III course, as that is the one I undertook. While courses differ slightly, a majority of the information below is still relevant.

Firstly, Part III is all about the profession, your professional experience, competence and ability to meet the prescribed criteria set by the ARB (Architects Registration Board). These include demonstrating you can meet the following Professional Criteria: 

  • PC1 Professionalism, 
  • PC2 Clients, users and delivery of services, 
  • PC3 Legal framework and processes, 
  • PC4 Practice and management, and 
  • PC5 Building procurement 

Before enrolling on a course it is a good idea to have some professional experience. At a minimum you will need at least 24 months experience before you can apply to sit the exam, 12 of which has to be from within the UK. But do not worry if you do not have enough experience just yet, you can still sign up on the RIBA NW course and take the exam when you are ready (you have up to three years to do so). However, do check the course your applying for as some do require you to sit the exam within a year of enrolment.

The RIBA NW course teaching time is limited to two intensive seminars, generally held over the weekends (Saturday – Tuesday). During these seminars you will attend lecture after lecture, it is hectic and you will be exhausted from it (although due to COVID-19 this may all be online now). Most other courses I am aware of run weekly lectures instead. Other than the two seminars there is not much teaching or tutor time. There are the optional drop-in sessions held every month. Other than this you are assigned study groups with other members on the course that you can arrange to meet up with in your own time. 

The elements used to assess your ability to meet the Professional Criteria by the RIBA NW course consists of a documentary submission, exam and professional interview. 

The documentary submission is comprised of the following:

  1. CV [2 pages max]

Treat this as your professional CV. It should be clear, concise and up-to-date. Plus make it visual, include images of projects you have worked on!

  1. Self-Evaluation [3,000-5,000 words]

Treat this as a reflection on your experience to date, include your architectural schooling, professional experience and future aspirations. Remember this is an appraisal so make sure to reflect on the good and bad parts of your experiences, and what you have learnt looking back. It is easier to split this into headings and work chronologically. For example, ‘Path into Architecture’, ‘RIBA Part I Architectural Education’, ‘RIBA Part I Professional Placement’, ‘RIBA Part II Architectural Education’, ‘RIBA Part II Professional Placement’, and ‘Evaluation and Future Aspirations’. Again, do not forget to include pictures and add a timeline to map out your career path.

  1. PEDRs (Professional Experience and Development Record) [min 24 months]

I know everyone says this and then does not necessarily do it, but try to keep on top of your PEDRs and make sure you get feedback from your mentor. Although PEDRs are painful, they are a really good tool and opportunity to get your office to give you more varied experience and cover all the RIBA Work Stages. Plus, they are even more painful when left to last minute and you are left scratching your head trying to figure out what you have done for the last 24 months!

  1. Case Study [8,000, or 10,000 if you are using dual project case studies]

This is one of the main components of your submission and involves you writing about a project you have been involved in, reviewing it from inception to completion. If you have not been involved on a project through the majority of RIBA Work Stages you can choose to shadow a project. This will require having good access to project material and someone you can talk to who has worked on the project. 

The key to the case study is to write about what happened and then critically analyse this in relation to ‘best practice’ (basically what the textbooks tell us should be happening). For example, if the project you picked had no formal appointment with the client, you could highlight this and mention best practice would be to have one; and then identify the risks of not having this to show you understand why it is needed. If things follow best practice you can also compare how different procurement routes would impact the project. 

For ease pick a project that is not too complex, where you can access all the information, and know a few things that happened which did not follow ‘best practice’. 

  1. Practice Problems 

In this section you include your answers to the exam questions. The exam itself is two full days of answering five questions a day and then one day to review. Questions are scenario-based and usually presented as the director in the office needs your assistance with an issue. Answers to the questions will either include drafting a letter, writing a memo with your thoughts on the matter, or filling in a standard form depending on the question. On the third day you are able to correct any spelling or grammar mistakes, and finish formatting your answers to form part of the whole document submission. 

It is an open book exam, but you do not have much time to flick through and find information. By knowing ‘best practice’ for your case study you will already have covered quite a lot of the material, and this will form part of your revision. That said, I would advise trying to do as many past practice problems as possible beforehand. By doing so you will notice similar topics coming up, get a better idea of the format of the exam, and how to approach questions. Plus, by doing this you can set up some template letters, memos, project programmes and resource schedules. 

Also, please remember the following: You are not expected to know everything! Instead you are expected to be able to show how you would professionally approach the problem. Be logical, there is no right or wrong answer!

The CV, Self-Evaluation, PEDRs, Case Study and your response to the Practice Problems make up the physical submission. You will need to upload these as one complete document to an online portal and send two spiral bound copies in the post to their offices before 17:30 on the day after the exam.

A month later is the final step, the interview! Use this time wisely to review your exam answers. Pick a few questions you felt you did not do as well on and make some notes on what you could have done. The interview is a perfect time to correct these answers. You will also find that some questions do not have an obvious answer, so it is useful to speak to your peers, study group and people in the office for an idea of how they might have approached the questions. Also do not forget to review and refresh yourself on your whole submission before the interview.

The interview itself consists of two examiners asking questions about your submission for 45 minutes. Do not worry it does go by quickly! They will most likely go through each section and ask a couple of questions, and then focus on the case study and practice problems. Try to relax they are not there to catch you out, but instead to check your knowledge and give you the opportunity to correct any mistakes. If anything, they will likely try and prompt you until you get the right answer. After all they are not trying to fail you!

The workload is high and no easy feat when you are also working full time. The best way to tackle everything is to plan, plan and plan. Be realistic with your time, break down the document submission, and leave yourself time to revise for the exam! Get out your calendar and plan out the months working backwards, set goals for completing sections of the document submission and areas to revise, and factor in if you miss them. As soon as you do this, you will realise you need a good amount of time before the exam to prepare. I am not talking weeks, more like months!

As part of your planning, I would recommend setting up your document, placing in a contents page and sections for each element of the submission, which you can fill as you go along. I would also select the fonts, graphic style and colour scheme you want to use and keep this consistent throughout each part. Start with the easy wins like the CV and Self-evaluation, these are not weighted the same as the rest of the submission so do not get too caught up on them. With the case study the structure is typically broken into sections, such as ‘Project Summary’, ‘Introduction’, ‘Project Environment’, ‘Legislative Framework’, ‘Procurement Contract Choice and Tendering’, and ‘Post-mobilisation’. To be able to get through the case study I found it helpful to work on one section or sub-section per week, reviewing relevant lecture notes form the seminar weekends and doing additional reading around best practice. 

Typically, you will find people who finish the document submission in advance and leave themselves plenty of revision time for the exam. As my time management skills are not the best, I factored in I would still be working on my case study close to the exam. Therefore, I decided to make sure I spent two evenings a week attempting practice problems, alone and with my study group.

This worked well for me, although I would recommend completing each part of the submission as you go! You will feel much better knowing you do not need to keep going back to finish things when the exam is looming closer. Closer to the exam aim to set up regular meetings with your study group. As there are no published past answers to the practice problems it helps to go through these with your study group to have an idea if you are on the right lines. A good idea is to set five questions for everyone to attempt before you meet up and then go through these together. I found this to be extremely helpful.

woman reading book while sitting on chair

Some other tips for Part III:

  • Do not leave any of the document submission to last minute. The process is stressful enough whilst working a full-time job! Aim to have all the document submission done a month ahead of the exam date at an absolute minimum.
  • For the case study do not fret about being involved in the whole of the project, as long as you can access all the relevant information, records, and have someone to discuss it with you will be able to fill in the gaps. 
  • Study groups and senior colleagues are a really good resource when it comes to running through practice problems. Try to get your study group to meet regularly and stick to these meetings.
  • Add a page in your submission which shows how you have met the ARB criteria. You could do this by using a diagram or coding system and link it to the relevant sections within your submission. The examiners can hardly let you fail if you spell out for them how you met all the criteria!
  • Do not be afraid to ask your firm, or in job interviews, what support they offer for Part IIs undertaking their Part III. I know firms who will pay the course fees, and designate mentors to read through your submission and give you pointers. Likewise, try to soak up conversations in your office and do not be afraid to ask questions!
  • Speak to friends who have recently completed their Part III. Ask if you can see a copy of their submission and if they have any resources they can share. It helps to see what you need to produce when it comes to having to put your submission together. 

Yes, doing your Part III is daunting. But as soon as you sign up and start the process it does come together. Even if you do not presently have a job, do not let this put you off from thinking about undertaking your Part III. There is nothing to stop you getting ahead of the game and starting some of the submission elements before enrolling. But when it does come to enrolling one thing you need to get in order, other than scheduling time in, is to let your firm know you are planning on doing your Part III and need their support to place you on a suitable project for the case study. 

If you have any questions, want to know more, or just want some advice about your Part III feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. All the best to anyone who is thinking of or undertaking their Part III! 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Samya Kako on our Writers page.

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