A Guide To Writing Your Reflections

Please follow this link to the RPS' helpful tips section on writing reflections. Based on the reflective cycle used in our PDS, this guide offers some useful pointers to consider when writing your reflections. - http://www.rpharms.com/resources/helpful-tips.asp

What is the Professional Development Scheme?

BPSA PDS LogoThe BPSA’s Professional Development Scheme (PDS) is an important service that the BPSA offers to help you prepare for Continuing Professional Development (CPD), a mandatory activity for all UK-registered pharmacists.
The scheme allows pharmacy students to develop the necessary reflective skills for CPD through the collection of evidence from different BPSA or Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) activities. Continuous participation in the PDS takes you from Level 1 (Bronze) to Level 4 (Platinum) of the professional development during your degree. This demonstrates your commitment to CPD and to your future profession right from the beginning of your career. Indeed, it shines on your CV and is highly valued by the employers.

Log in requests are now open, click here to fill in the signup form. 

Please download the final reflection form here.


1) How does the scheme work?
2) Where can I get my PDPs from?
3) Recording Your PDS Entries Online
4) Using Learning Outcomes and Competencies to Complete Your PDS Portfolio
5) Conversion of Your Certificate(s) from the Old PDC Scheme to the New PDS
6) Using the Principles of CPD to record Your PDS Entries
7) FAQs

How does the Scheme work?

By taking part in an accredited BPSA or RPS activity, you become eligible for a Professional Development Point (PDP). In order to claim a PDP, you have to complete your entry online using the system provided by CoAcS, the company which also maintains the CPD recording system for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Once you have completed an online portfolio of five PDPs, you should fill in a Final Reflection Form and submit your portfolio to the Educational Development Officer (EDO) for marking (see PDS User Guide below for more details). The EDO marks your portfolio against the approved marking scheme for PDPs and the Final Reflection Form, and considers your entry for a Professional Development Certificate (PDC). There are four levels of the PDC: Bronze (Level 1), Silver (Level 2), Gold (Level 3) and Platinum (Level 4). Completing five PDPs each academic year allows you to progress through levels of the certificate, so at the end of your four years at university, you have earned the highest level: platinum.

PDCs will be posted to the address provided in your Final Reflection Form. Those students who do not fulfil the requirements for a PDC will have their portfolio sent back to them with some advice and guidance on how to improve it. They may then re-submit the portfolio for another review. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email the Educational Development Officer.

PDS Diagram

Where can I get my PDPs from?

The PDS-accredited events and activities vary from conferences and competitions organised by the BPSA or the RPS to the BPSA Research Poster Awards or the CPD Clinic questions published in the Future Pharmacist magazine. PDPs can be obtained for taking part in the following accredited BPSA/RPS activities:

Note that a maximum of 2 points can be gained from any one type of activities (e.g. an Area Conference or a competition). However, if one of the activities is worth 2 PDPs (e.g. a two-day Area Conference) you can obtain a maximum of 3 PDPs from that type of activities.

Recording Your PDS Entries Online

Your PDS entries should be recorded online using the system provided by CoAcS. Click here to go to the online system.

You should request your online system username and password as early in the academic year as possible as it may take up two weeks for the EDO to issue you with these details closer to the submission deadline. If you already have access to the “uptodate” system via your University, then you can simply upload your portfolio there and add BPSA as a “viewer”. Please include your “uptodate” access number/code in the portfolio submission email to the EDO.  

Please follow the PDS User Guide on how to submit your PDS portfolio to the EDO.
A copy of the marking schemes may be accessed for your reference below:

Deadline for this year’s entries will be the 31st of July 2015Please do not send any of the completed portfolios by post.
Before you start recording your entries online, read carefully through “Using Learning Outcomes and Competencies to Complete Your PDS Portfolio” and “Using the Principles of CPD to Record Your PDS Entries” below.

Using Learning Outcomes and Competencies to Complete Your PDS Portfolio

Each of the PDS-accredited activities you take part in contains specific learning outcomes and/or competences, which are tailored for different years of the MPharm degree. In order to meet the PDS standards, your online entry for a particular activity should be structured around the relevant learning outcomes and/or competencies based on your respective year of the MPharm. For instance, if you are in your first year of the MPharm degree and are applying for your first PDC (Level 1 or Bronze) you should structure your answers around MPharm 1 learning outcomes and/or competencies for that activity. Similarly if you are in your second year of the MPharm and are applying for a PDC, you should structure your answers around MPharm 2 learning outcomes and/or competencies. In this case, if you have already been awarded a Level 1 (Bronze) PDC, you may be eligible for a Level 2 (Silver) PDC. If this is your first time applying for a PDC and you are in your second year of the MPharm, you will only be eligible for a Level 1 (Bronze) PDC that year despite having to structure your answers around MPharm 2 learning  outcomes and/or competencies.

In an ideal situation, you should begin completing your PDS portfolio in the first year, which would enable you to progress all the way to Level 4 (Platinum) of the professional development by the end of you MPharm degree. This would prepare you for the competency-based pre-registration year and would demonstrate your early commitment to CPD. However, you can begin compiling your PDS portfolio at any time of time of the MPharm, e.g. by starting in your second year of the degree, you will be able to reach a Level 3 (Gold) PDC by the end of your MPharm.

Learning outcomes and competencies have a few fundamental differences:

  • Learning outcomes are more specific and clearly defined whereas competencies are more abstract. E.g. “Knows how to calculate creatinine clearance for a patient with renal impairment.” (Learning outcome) vs. “Is able to adjust patient’s pharmaceutical therapy according to the level of renal impairment.” (Competency)
  • Learning outcomes are usually theory- and knowledge-based whereas competencies are often orientated towards abilities, experience and practice. E.g. “Knows different types of questions that may be used to ascertain information from the patient.” (Learning outcome) vs. “Uses open and closed questions as part of the medicines reconciliation process to ascertain information from the patient.” (Competency)
  • Learning outcomes are more applicable to students in the process of early professional development whereas competencies are more applicable to the practice of qualified pharmacists. E.g. “Identifies the common resources used to answer Medicines Information enquiries.” (Learning outcome) vs. “Is able to use Stockley’s Drug Interactions to answer relevant Medicines Information enquiries about drug-drug interactions.” (Competency)
  • Learning outcomes are activity-specific and are often presented prior to the activity whereas competencies are usually based on a certain competency framework, such as the Performance Standards framework for pre-registration pharmacist trainees or the General Level Framework (GLF) for Postgraduate Diploma in General Pharmacy Practice. E.g. “Can define the principles of a clinical audit.” (Learning outcome presented before the lecture/workshop about clinical audit) vs. “A4.8 Have successfully carried out a small, planned audit assignment.” (Competency from the GPhC Pre-registration Manual)

As can be seen from the notes above learning outcomes and competencies may overlap. The BPSA have utilised the Miller’s Triangle of Competence to create four different levels of learning outcomes/competencies based on you the respective year of the MPharm and the expected amount of knowledge and skills at each step of the degree:

Therefore, each PDS-accredited activity you take part in will have four different levels of outcomes/competencies (MPharm 1-4). These will be uploaded onto the PDS section of the BPSA website before the activity or shortly afterwards. The following is an example of how the principles of learning outcomes/competencies apply to McNeil’s Responding to Symptoms Competition.

If you are in your first year of the MPharm, your PDS entry on McNeil’s competition will only be expected to demonstrate that you possess the knowledge of good and bad aspects of communication e.g. eye contact, gestures etc. As you progress into MPharm 2, your entry should reflect your knowledge on how these aspects can be used to elicit information from another person, e.g. using open vs. closed questions. In MPharm 3, you will be expected to show that you know how to use the aspects of good patient-healthcare professional communication to elicit information from the patient, e.g. to ascertain the causes of their symptoms. Finally, in MPharm 4 you will be expected to demonstrate the ability to apply the previous knowledge and experience of pharmacy communication during your placements/work experience, which would reflect your competence as defined by preregistration standards B1.4 and B1.7.

BPSA recognises that CPD is a very individual process and allows a degree of flexibility in your answers. You should aim demonstrate the relevant level of knowledge, experience, skills and attitudes based on your year of the MPharm and the level of your professional development (Level 1-4) using the learning outcomes/competencies provided for each event. When marking your entries, the EDO will focus on the quality rather than the length of your answers.

Conversion of Your Certificate(s) from the Old PDC Scheme to the New PDS

If you have previously obtained a PDC or a number of PDCs and would like to convert it/them to the relevant level of PDC according to the new grading system, please complete one of the following forms below as they apply to you:

Using the Principles of CPD to record Your PDS Entries

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an active process which involves not just attending a training event such as an Area Conference, but also a reflection of what your training needs are, planning how to meet these needs, and evaluating what you learnt and how this might change your practice. A CPD cycle contains 4 steps which continually follow on from one another:  

  • REFLECT - Identify what you need to know/be able to do
  • PLAN - How to meet these needs
  • ACTION - Undertake (and record!) training activities
  • EVALUATE - What have you learnt? How will it change your practice?
  • REFLECT- Have you identified any further learning needs?

CPD can start at any point in the cycle. For example you may know in advance what your learning needs are, therefore you start at reflection. But in some cases you can have more spontaneous learning whereby you identify a learning need through attending an event, which means you start at the action step. The majority of BPSA’s PDP entries start at the action step and move onto evaluation. Where your evaluation identifies any further learning needs and corresponding action points, remember to make them SMART:

  • Specific - Does the action point tell you precisely what you are going to do differently as a result of the activity?
  • Measurable - Can you measure the change in practice?
  • Achievable - Is the action point challenging, and yet not totally unachievable?
  • Relevant - Does the action point relate to the specific job you are currently undertaking (or perhaps to a future identified role such as being a qualified pharmacist)?
  • Time Bound - When will you have it done by, and when will you reflect upon it?

Having PDP’s in the style of a CPD cycle prepares you for CPD as a qualified pharmacist. Here are a few examples and tips to help you to fill in the questions:

Click here to visit the RPS website for more information about the principles underlying the CPD and CPD recording process.   


1. Can I submit my PDS portfolio after the specified deadline?

No, your entry will not be marked if you submit your portfolio after the specified deadline.

2. How many times can I re-submit my PDS portfolio for a review?

You can re-submit your portfolio for a review twice (i.e. a total of three submissions) provided you score at least 50% of total marks (50/100) in your initial submission.

3. How many PDPs can I get from any one type of activity?

A maximum of 2 PDPs can be gained from any one type of activities (e.g. an Area Conference or a competition). However, if one of the activities is worth 2 PDPs (e.g. a two-day Area Conference) you can obtain a maximum of 3 PDPs from that type of activities.

4. Can I obtain a second PDC in the same academic year if I collect 10 or more PDPs?

No, you are currently unable to apply for a second PDC in the same academic year even if you collect 10 or more PDPs. This arrangement is to be reviewed in the near future.

5. Can I still obtain the Platinum (Level 4) PDC if I start compiling my portfolio later than the first year of the MPharm?

No, in order to make it fair for students who begin participating in the PDS from the beginning of their degree, you will only be able to achieve the Level of PDC depending on the year you start compiling your portfolio. E.g. if you start in the second year of the MPharm, you will only be eligible for the Gold (Level 3) PDC at the end of your degree.

6. Can I copy-paste my answers from different resources for use as part of my PDS entry?

No, BPSA does not tolerate any form of plagiarism. You answers should be written in your own words and where appropriate accompanied by citations of the reference sources used. Consult your University library for more information on different referencing styles used.

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© British Pharmaceutical Students' Association 2013