Tom Boardman is an architect in our Wrexham studio who has been part of Lawray’s team for just over five years. Having qualified last year, he shares his experience of studying for his Part 3 Professional Practice course and offers tips to architectural assistants who are thinking about embarking on their journey to become an architect.

Can you briefly outline the different parts of the course, and what you found the most challenging?

I studied the RIBA NW Part 3 Professional Practice course and was assigned a study group consisting of other Part 3 students.

We were given monthly study packs through the RIBA Academy online portal, which included professional documentation and guides, industry specific questions and answers, and past papers.

The course was taught using a variety of methods including two four-day residential weekends during the Spring and Summer. This was complemented by seminars and workshops from RIBA members and visiting speakers. I did most of my learning over video conference due to the pandemic. These sessions gave me the opportunity to discuss my documentary submissions, professional experience, and to have any questions answered by a professional studies advisor.

We had to complete exams and a documentary submission which was split into three parts. This included a CV, career reflection essay, a professional case study, written exam answers and our PEDRs, which is our quarterly Professional Experience Development Record. The final part of the process was an oral interview.

Which Lawray project did you use for your professional case study?

The case study project I chose was Hope Street Church in Wrexham Town Centre. This was the transformation of a dilapidated former retail store into an inclusive community and faith centre for the Diocese of St Asaph.

The project was a good choice because I had the opportunity to work though RIBA work stages 3-6 in various capacities, including contract admin and lead consultant roles. This also gave me the chance to gain knowledge and understanding of various matters related to numerous Architects Registration Board (ARB) professional criteria.

How did you prepare for your written exam?

I read previous exam papers and answers available on the RIBA academy portal. This give me a great indication of the style and type of answers that the examiners are looking for. It was also useful for getting into the habit of reviewing the paper scenarios, picking out and highlighting potentially important or critical information that will be used within each question. My advice would be to make sure that you thoroughly read through the exam scenario multiple times when you receive it a few days before the exam.

Tell us how you prepared for your oral exam?

It’s important to re-read your documentation submission, particularly the case study, career reflection essay and written exam answers. By analysing and critically reflecting upon them, you can look to see if there is anything missing that might be queried by the examiners. It’s also a good idea to prepare additional answers to show them you have an understanding where you may have appeared to be lacking.

How did Lawray support you?

My employer mentor was very supportive, both during the project and whilst I was writing up my case study report for submission. He helped me explain any matters that I didn’t quite understand or assist me with procedures that I wasn’t completely confident or comfortable with.

We also had several discussions prior to the exam, to ensure that I would feel mentally and physically prepared to do the exam before starting. Lawray also provided me with a quiet room separate from the main office space in which to do my exam without disturbance. A debriefing session after each day helped me to unpack and briefly analyse my answers that I had written that day.

What advice would you give an architectural assistant preparing for their Part 3 course?

Look at the ARB professional criteria early on, perhaps as soon as you finish your undergraduate degree, as this will form the basis for all the documentation that you will be submitting. The examiners will want to see some evidence that you’ve had some experience. The criteria will also help to inform the discussions that you have with your employer mentor, especially when talking to them about the experience you need, and how they can assist you with obtaining it.

DO YOUR PEDRS ON TIME! I cannot express how much easier it is to do them quarterly, rather leave them to the last minute!

Lastly, my advice would be to study for your Part 3 when you feel ready. I wanted to get a few years of experience under my belt as a Part 2 before embarking on the Part 3 course, so that I could personally feel confident enough to independently undertake the role of an architect and the duties associated with the title.

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