PwC advice for 2014 applicants



Hi there, my names Jason Massey and I recently obtained quite a late offer for the 2013 intake for the Higher Apprenticeship. Just wanted to give my personal experience of what I went through and what it will be like for the 2014 applicants. If you are a graduate, certain aspects may be a little different for your process such as the Assessment Day so look for graduate guides on here but my article has useful tips for you. Any questions please comment on the forum.

Stage 1 - Application Form
A straightforward process, the only reason you’ll fail here is if you don’t meet the grade criteria. Make sure you put down any relevant extenuating circumstances and how they hindered your performance and any work experience if you did any. Make sure everything is CORRECT. The last thing you want is to get an offer and you have accidentally put some wrong grades down!

Stage 2 - Online Tests
For the higher apprenticeship these will only consist of Numerical and Verbal Reasoning tests. I used Practise Aptitude Tests and Assessment Day to practise with, they are very good so do use them. Remember the tests are very time pressured which make them quite difficult, so make sure if this is the first time you are taking them that you prepare for them thoroughly. Not too sure what the pass rate is but I scored Average for Numerical and Exceptional for Verbal, think you have to score average at one and higher than average in the other to proceed to the next one. Make sure you are in a quiet place to do your test and don’t worry if you completely mess it up, you may have done better than you thought as this is what I thought happened to me. You also get another try as well but I would try to pass in the first attempt. Have a look at your feedback, you’ll need to do these again for the Assessment Day.

Stage 3 - First Interview
Not going to go to much into this as it is not on the 2014 recruitment process. However it was by telephone and very competency based and assessed my commercial awareness as well as the qualification I was doing. With this removed, the Assessment Day is more difficult and the Final Interview could also be more difficult.

Stage 4 - Assessment Day
The most difficult part of the whole process. You’ll be up against Online Tests in paper format, a group exercise, a written exercise and with the removal of the first interview, the E-Tray exercise. I’ll run through each process.

Online Tests - Not online anymore, they are in a paper based format. I preferred this though. Some people say they are easier than Stage 2 and some say it is harder, I found them easier and managed 11/20 on Numerical and 26/30 on Verbal. They do them at the Assessment Day to check you didn’t cheat before so it’s a good idea to revise again with the material I spoke about in Stage 2.

Written Exercise - Basically to assess your time management, structure and reading ability. You’ll have to look through 16 pages of information and write a two paged report in 30 minutes. Don’t worry, most of the information is useless, it’s about picking out the correct stuff and using it for your argument, mine was to do with water conservation and I had to decide which of the four methods put forward was the best. Just remember it’s really time pressured so you have to start writing within the first three minutes. Read the question and answer the question, you don’t have time to waffle and go on a tangent, if it asks you for pros, cons and a conclusion then do just that. FINISH IT! My mate failed because he didn’t finish it and get a conclusion done. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect and don’t go over two pages - automatic fail. With the structure below you won’t need to prepare for this, it’s straightforward just remember what I’ve said and reading this will prepare you well! Set your report out like this.

Introduction - just a sentence what your going to so.

Method 1

Method 2

Method 3

Method 4

Conclusion - keep it brief doesn’t need to be very special.

I did this and they said I did really well so be sure to follow it.

Group exercise - I really enjoyed this. Basically you have information to read for the first 20 minutes then discuss this in a group together. You’ll all have the same information but you’ll each have additional separate information that you’ll have to relay to other members of the group and it’s important you do this. Also, an “urgent email” will come through half way through the group talking time that you’ll have to read the information on and make sure you include this in your final deliberations to which point you’ll choose. It really helps to win over other people in you assessment day here as they are the key to your success. My group was really lovely and we all performed really well in this exercise and we just went round the table letting everyone discuss their own information and then after debating together, we decide was the best one. Don’t worry if you really don’t know what the debate is about, I was completely lost after the initial reading time but just make sure your able pick up the pros and cons of your own method that has been given for you to argue and be able to put this forward. Don’t dominate the conversation but make sure your able to clearly and articulately discuss your points. Also if someone isn’t speaking or being quiet, ask them what their view is. Don’t be afraid to say that yours isn’t the strongest, you won’t get marked down, you’ll get marked up as your able to make a good decision to help the group move on quicker! Make sure someone’s keeping the time and if no-one does, take it upon yourself, our group was very good with time management and we finished two minutes early than expected. You don’t need to prepare for this but Assessment Day has a really good article for the group exercise that’s well worth reading!

E- Tray exercise - I have never done this I’m afraid so can’t give you advice as it’s new to the 2014 recruitment process. However Assessment day have good advice for this so you should look there.

Stage 5 - Final Interview
The final stage and also where you will be most nervous as it is so tough to get here but you worry you may lose the job offer completely! Don’t worry. The partner will just generally want to get to know you. I also spoke to a graduate when he came out of his and he said exactly the same. Despite this, all partners are different and as for 2014 applicants, this is your first interview (it was my second of the process) it will likely be quite competency based a make sure you go through the competences with two examples each using the STAR technique. My partner was lovely, put me at ease, was fun to talk to and answered all my questions. He didn’t ask me any specific competencies or commercial awareness only how I would work well under pressure, why I’m here today and what my friends thought about me as well as how do I organise myself. It was very relaxed and I think to succeed it is very important you get your enthusiasm for the job role across to the interviewer which means knowing the role and your qualifications well. As for finding out, I found out an hour later because I was late in the process and had to find out that day so I could sign my contract but normally it’s not longer than two days to a week depending how busy the partner is and they let me know that I had to sign my contract that day as some people like time to think over the job offer.

Stage 6- Offer and Checks
PwC will make you an offer and if you accept then they will start checking through your application. In the meantime, all you have to do is get up to speed on all your contract and the tasks on the embark system.

And that’s it! My process took three and half months but would have been quicker had I not gone on holiday and delayed my Assessment Centre! Any other questions please let me know I will be more than happy to answer through this feed.

Good luck!


Hi, Well done.

Can I please clarify you have not applied for the graduate scheme have you? This is something else right?


I practiced the reasoning tests at and achieved an above average for this part of the selection. Unfortunately didn’t make to through the interview, but next time better.

Good luck to you anyway!


Hi IM1988,
No I was offered a place on the higher apprenticeship scheme! You only need A levels for this although they were some graduates on my intake!
The graduate process if different such as the Assessment Day and I reckon the Final Interview would be a little tougher. But the PwC website has everything you need!



Thanks Jason,

Yeah it seems different as I had a telephone interview and no e tray exercise.

Also I have done the Assessment Centre and am currently waiting on dates for the next stage. I missed this October entry and therefore now have to wait till next April.

Also with the final interview many people say that its often borders on being an informal chat. Somebody told me that they spent 45 mins talking about horses and just skimmed through the competencies because they had to. Of course I am not going to take it for granted and I will prepare for every eventuality but what is your experience?


My experience was just that, he skimmed the competencies and it was quite an informal chat really. He just wanted to get to know me and I guess if you strike up a similar interest the conversation and swerve onto that! But prepare for the competencies. It isn’t that bad at all. He kept saying to me “you’ve come this far” so it’s just a matter of seeing if they can put you in front of a client to be honest. I spoke to a graduate when he came out of his interview and he said that he only wanted to get to know him so you’ll be fine! Your 90% here now.

Good luck!


Thanks for the last reply Jason.

Can you please tell me how you managed to move fast enough to sign and do everything before the 7th Oct deadline (i think it was)? Which date was your telephone interview? Which date assessment centre? and which date was your final interview? Just out of interest. Because I was down for Oct 2013 but places got filled so now I am down for April 2014.


I had my telephone interview on the 23rd July, AC on the 5th September but delayed that because I was on holiday, it could have been the 14th August. Senior interview was on the 30th Sep. what actually happened was I applied to public services 2013 and this got filled up so they moved me back to public services 2014. However they brought me back to 2013 with a tax vacancy, and I chose that. You was probably unlucky but don’t worry, April is not too far away at all!


Hi Jason, I’ve passed the numerical and verbal reasoning tests and have an assessment centre booked for mid December. However I recently looked over my initial application and saw that I could have improved on the additional skills section. May just be worrying, but was wondering if you think this could affect my application if I get to the offers and checks stage, where they check through my application? The only issue was i didn’t really write that much in the box for achievements etc. I just sort of listed them.
Thanks, Matt


Hi Jase,

For the written exercise, how long was each of your paragraphs?
And in the conclusion, did you include your recommendation there or did you have a separate section for the recommendation?



Not Jase but I’ve recently received an offer from PwC to join them in 2014.

Answering your question, how long is a piece of string? For me, I wrote far too much for the first option available to the firm and so had to cram the other 3 and the conclusion in, I had to use every inch of available paper! As long as you cover each option and briefly discuss the pros and cons that will be enough. They aren’t really looking into how well you understand the information, more so how you manage your time and structure your arguements.

Also for the conclusion, mine was very brief just saying how each option had it’s own advantages and disadvantages but this one stood out because of x and y. Honestly it’s not too bad, just start writing as quick as you can!

Hope that helps


Did you write headings for your paragraphs like Introduction, Analysis of projects, Conclusion?


Kinda, it was more I said this is the third option, then a brief description of it followed by at max 1 or 2 pros and cons and then moved on to the next. You honestly do not have time to go into anymore depth just make sure you cover all the options and conclude and you’ll be grand!


Thanks a lot,
How many options were there? three or four?


Should be fine, I didn’t really go through a proper offers and checks phase they just check grades and work exp is correct!



Only about four to six lines long for each paragraph not long at all.

Yes I included my recommendation in the conclusion the conclusion is just basically the recommendation!



Hi jason.
Was wondering if I could get some tips for the written exercise?
I’ve applied for the higher apprenticeship as well.