Successfully Pass your ICE Professional Review
Updated: Jan 9
After years of preparing and writing quarterly reports, you are finally ready to apply for your Professional Review with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE.) Your Initial Professional Development (IPD) has been signed off, and all that is left for you to do is simply pass your review.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? After all, you have spent years building your experience, demonstrating your engineering judgement, and recording your continual professional development. Why is it then, when you ask a fellow civil engineer for advice, they make it seem like you have to have single-handedly delivered the London 2012 Olympics?
Perhaps it is a lack of knowledge about the current application process, as it changes regularly. Or maybe it is a misplaced sense of elitism, because the more unreachable it sounds, the more people are put off applying — leaving a shortage of professionally qualified engineers.
Ok, I admit it is highly unlikely that anyone is deliberately trying to stop you from getting professionally qualified, but getting a straight answer is often nigh on impossible. At times, it can feel as though getting those highly sought-after CEng or IEng post-nominals is nothing but a dream.
Nonetheless, names keep getting published in the New Civil Engineer “pass list”, so it is possible. Follow this guide for useful, practical advice that you can action today and give yourself the best chance of seeing your name in print as well.
Find a good mentor
Whilst this is fairly obvious, putting this into practice can be more difficult than it sounds. If you don’t have many professionally qualified engineers in your workplace, you may feel as though you have no choice as to who will mentor you (or act as your Delegated Engineer.)
ICE has recently developed a mentor matching service, which helps pair an experienced engineer with those who are looking to complete their IPD. Even if you are past this stage and ready for your review, another engineer can still give you guidance on your presentation and help proofread your report. Just be clear about what you would like to gain from the mentoring when you first get in contact with your prospective mentor.
It is also worth expanding your definition of who a mentor should be. Mentors do not always have to be senior members of staff. There are many people in your professional life that you can learn something from, and who can give you pointers on your writing style or presentation techniques. Remember, a good engineer can explain complex, technical ideas to non-engineers in a way that they can understand, so your non-technical colleagues should be able to follow the main points of your project. They can probably give you a unique perspective you hadn’t considered.
A good mentor will also give you honest, constructive feedback on any areas you might need further development, or where you haven’t been as detailed as you could be. They should also be able to give you clear, actionable advice, as opposed to vague statements.
Your presentation glosses over the health and safety aspects of your project. Can you expand on how you handled the asbestos on site, including the steps you took to ensure everyone’s safety?
You haven’t given enough health and safety examples in your project.
Stick to the brief
An ICE reviewer once told me that my brief for the professional review was to demonstrate the 9 attributes. If I could do that to the right level, I would pass — that is your brief.
It is very easy to get confused as to whether you should be demonstrating your knowledge as set out in IPD Online, (previously the Development Objectives), or the attributes. IPD is there to prove you have reached the required level of knowledge and competency; when it comes to your review, it is the attributes that you want to focus on.
Don’t be afraid to use the attributes as section headings in your report and presentation. The reviewers know what you are trying to achieve, so why be disingenuous about it? If you make it obvious what you are trying to demonstrate, you make the reviewers’ lives’ easy — and thus make it easy to pass you. Get more specific advice on ICE report writing.
Do an ICE Mock Review
Yes, it costs money, but so does re-taking the professional review — and that is far more expensive. Unless you have a reviewer working in your organisation who is willing to do a mock review, it is well worth doing one at your local ICE branch.
These are usually run a month or two before the review dates, so you have time to action any feedback you get on the day. Usually the mock reviews do not include the written examination but focus on the presentation and review itself. You have the benefit of an actual ICE review panel, so you are getting trained reviewers who have done this before.
As well as some tips on where you can improve, a mock review will also give you an idea of how the interview will be structured and might help calm your nerves if you know what to expect.
Identify your weaknesses
Review your report and presentation objectively. Are there any areas where you are a bit less knowledgeable?
Reviewers can pick up on this, so whilst you may think you have cleverly hidden your weak spots — everyone has them — they will notice them immediately and test your knowledge on these areas. A lot.
Your mentor or Delegated Engineer should be able to point these out to you. If you are still struggling to decide where you need some more work, ask another colleague to read your report or presentation. Notice what sections they ask you questions about — these may be the areas that you can improve.
Keep in mind that your weak spots are likely the areas where you will get the most questions at your review, and potentially in your written exercise.
Practise and polish your writing
The written exercise can be difficult to prepare for. The reviewers will set you questions based on your experience or pick an area they think you have not explained well.
A writing group with other members also preparing for the review is a very good option. The ICE will sometimes run these groups for a fee – check here. You can set a topic to write about together and compare your written answers. This is a good way to pick up new ideas that you have not considered.
However, if you are not fortunate enough to have this kind of support, you can still prepare yourself. Your mentor can set you test questions, or you can make your own. You should already have a good grounding in describing factual examples from your own experience from writing your report. Try to take this further by debating the advantages and disadvantages of a particular construction method or form of contract, for example.
Finally, practise your writing. Don’t let poor grammar or spelling let you down on the day. Whilst it is unlikely that you will fail for grammatical errors, it doesn’t reflect well on you as a professional. You cannot leave if you finish the written exercise early, so spend some time reviewing your work and run the spell checker. You can also try out the free version of Grammarly, but don’t rely on it or Word to give you 100% correct suggestions.
The goal of the review is for you to demonstrate that you can communicate your ideas and use your knowledge to support your reasoning in a professional manner. Practice really does make perfect here.
Prior planning and preparation…
Really does prevent poor performance. Give yourself the best chance of passing the first time by being prepared.
Know your report and presentation inside and out — so choose a project you very familiar with, as opposed to a flashy project with experimental materials that you can’t explain. A simple project that had several sensitive stakeholders, a contractual dispute, and some areas where you implemented improvements is far better than a shiny, multi-million-pound project where you made the tea on site.
Similarly, bring copies of your report and presentation to refer to during the interview. You may get caught out by nerves, so having a hard copy to hand can be a life line when you draw a blank.
Plan your route to the review centre beforehand, and if possible, stay nearby the night before. Chances are there are expensive hotels very close to where your review is being held, but you can probably stay nearby somewhere cheaper. This gives you a chance to get a good rest the night before, without stressing about the traffic or arriving on time.
Bring a bottle of water or other drink to your review. If nothing else, taking a sip can give you a few extra moments to collect your thoughts before you continue.
Consider why you want to be professionally qualified. The reviewers will ask you, and if you have not given it some thought beforehand it can be a difficult question to answer. You don’t want to blurt out, “I am expecting a large pay rise if I pass!” Wanting to progress your career is one thing, but focussing on the money actually cheapens you.
The professional review can be very daunting, and it is very easy to unnecessarily stress yourself out. Try to maintain some perspective on the situation — you are not going to be sacked if you don’t pass (if for no other reason than that’s probably illegal.) Also keep in mind that the review is nothing but an hour and a quarter to talk about a subject you know better than anyone — you.
Often engineers will put off applying for years and years, but if anything, this works against you. We live in an age of continual improvement, which means that the review process is only going to get more onerous, not easier.
Finally, if you are successful, please pass your knowledge on. Engineers achieve amazing things when we support each other to be all that we can be.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Tanya – a Chartered Civil Engineer now working as an engineering and construction copywriter. Having established and run professional development groups as well as acting as both a Delegated Engineer (DE) and Supervising Civil Engineer (SCE) for engineers looking to get professionally qualified, I’m keen on sharing knowledge and helping others achieve their goals. You can find all my professional development posts on my blog.
I currently do not offer one-to-one mentoring due to my work commitments. However, if you’re looking for a mentor to help with your Initial Professional Development (IPD) or career goals, take a look at the ICE Mentoring website where you can find a professional member who can give you advice and guidance.