Property agent exam being reviewed

-- ST ILLUSTRATION
-- ST ILLUSTRATION

CEA: Syllabus due for an update but content won't be very different

A MANDATORY exam for all real estate agents could be overhauled by year end.

The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) told The Straits Times that it is reviewing the Real Estate Salesperson (RES) examination, which it administers.

It said the review is expected to be completed later this year.

"The current RES examination syllabus was developed prior to CEA's formation... As it has been more than two years since the syllabus was implemented, an overall review is timely and necessary," CEA deputy director of policy and planning Cheryl Lim said last Friday.

"The objectives of this round of review are to enhance the syllabus with more details, and keep it up-to-date and in line with existing policies and regulations and industry practices."

However, Ms Lim added that the content covered in the exam will remain largely the same.

Any change in the RES exam could affect thousands of aspiring agents, who must pass it to get their licence.

Property consultancy Chris International director Chris Koh estimates that at least 2,500 to 3,000 new entrants to the industry take the RES exam each year.

All new real estate agents must take an RES course and pass the RES exam before they can be registered with the CEA as salespersons, under the Estate Agents Act 2010. The CEA did not specify what changes would be made to the examination.

Industry sources told The Straits Times last week that the CEA released a consultation paper in March to training providers, proposing revisions that included looking more closely at commercial and industrial property, among others.

Commercial and industrial property is a segment that has come under the spotlight after several rounds of property curbs drove some investors away from the residential property market.

The most recent change to the RES exam, held every two months, took effect in May. The exam consists of two papers, taken over one weekend. Each paper is 21/2 hours long and includes multiple-choice questions.

The exam format was changed in May to include an extra case study section with multiple- choice questions in both papers.

"The case studies are based on typical real life scenarios which real estate salespersons are likely to encounter when carrying out estate agency work in property transactions," the CEA said.

A sample case study provided by CEA is of a woman who wants to sell a house she jointly owns with her father. Various complications arise, such as the agent offering to lend the seller money.

CEA notified training providers of the addition last December.

Some training providers said that the change initially sparked a rush among students to take the exam before May, but that it has largely not deterred students.

"There was a rush for the March exam, prior to the change in the exam format... (but) the change in format should not delay them in taking the exams if they want to join the real estate industry," said Real Centre Network executive director Eunice Lim.

SAEA chief executive Dennis Tay said: "Students are also concerned that future exams may simply be tougher. They recognise the need to clear the exam irrespective of the new format."

Life Mastery Academy principal trainer Ken Koh said the centre revised its course to reflect the change as early as February.

"We have included scenarios during our tutorial classes so as to test the fundamental understanding of trainees... The new examination format is easier to pass," he added.

melissat@sph.com.sg