Novak Pharma: Industry Analysis

The CIMA November 2018 SCS exam is based a pharmaceutical company “Novak Pharmaceuticals” – as the exam is approaching it’s a good time to take a look at some industry analysis that you can use on exam day.

Novak Pharmaceutical’s: Industry Analysis

VIVA Financial Tuition have produced an insight to the pharmaceutical industry for SCS students to get to grips with – below is a look at some of the financials in the industry as well R&D within the industry.

Revenue’s Vs Profits

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest industries in the world in terms of revenues generated and those revenues have grown considerably in the last 15 to 20 years.

In 2001, annual world revenues for the pharmaceutical industry stood at US$ 390 billion.

Today, they have already surpassed US$ 1 trillion per year.

To put it in perspective, that accounts for around 1% of the entire world GDP! The sheer size of the industry in absolute terms often leads to a popular perception that this is also one of the most profitable industries in the world today.

However, although profits can be large in any given year, if we look at the rate of return on investment in the pharmaceutical industry, it is not as profitable as popular opinion suggests.

According to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the average return on equity for key industries from 2014 – 2016 shows that the pharmaceutical industry’s profits stand at 16.2%, significantly lower than Computer Sciences (31.6%), Beverages (27.4%), Aerospace/Defense (23.0%), and Trucking (19.1%).

So despite health revenue growth figures in recent years, and large profits in absolute terms, relative to investment, it is not the most profitable industry in the world by any means.


Clinical Trial Phases

The research and development phase in this industry is long, painstaking, and has an extremely high failure rate. In the full analysis we investigate the reasons why this is the case.

Here, we offer a quick overview of the structure of the testing period for new drugs, and look at the fail rates that correspond to each.

There are 4 main stages or phases of testing that new drugs go through.

First, there are pre-clinical trials. These are usually a battery of sophisticated laboratory tests, in which pharmacists and technicians perform provisional tests on the efficacy of a chemical compound by using biological cultures, disease samples, and in some cases (though less and less frequently), animal testing.

Once promising indications of efficacy have been established at this pre-clinical stage, the drug passes on to testing on human subjects. This is usually called “Phase 1” testing. In Phase 1, voluntary human subjects are administered the drug.

These subjects are typically healthy and are not suffering from the relevant disease or ailment. The primary aim of this phase is to determine whether or not there are any strong adverse side-effects, and appropriate dose thresholds.

If there are no clear problems at this stage, the drug proceeds to Phase 2 trials. Phase 2 usually involves a larger sample of people, and in this case, the drug is tested on people who actually suffer from the relevant disease. The main objective of Phase 2 testing is to ascertain and confirm the efficacy on real human patients, while again ensuring no adverse side effects in those actually suffering from the disease.

If there appear no obvious problems here, the drug is submitted for the final Phase 3 trial. This is a much larger trial, typically taking in hundreds or even thousands of patients where possible, over longer periods, in order to establish long-term usability and efficacy.

One of the main aims of Phase 3 testing is to compare the long-run efficacy and safety of the new drug with already-available medications that are on the market. Once Phase 3 testing is successfully completed, the drug is submitted for approval with the relevant regulatory authority (e.g. the FDA in the United States, or the PTA in the pre-seen case of Novak).

Success Rates


It’s interesting to note the success rates in percentage terms from one phase to the next. As you can see in the chart above, the main hurdle is at Phase 2.

This is perhaps not surprising, as this is typically the first time that the drug is tested on real patients who actually suffer from the disease.

Even if in Phase 1 no adverse side effects are discovered, there is no guarantee that patients with the disease will not react differently due to their ailment.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that the provisional efficacy established in pre-clinical trials on isolated biological samples (or animals) will carry over into real, full human subjects.

Therefore, Phase 2 is critical from the point of view of determining whether or not the drug is really viable in the real world.

Once all the clinical trials have been completed in accordance with criteria established by the regulatory authority, then there is an 85% chance that the drug will be approved.

However, when we sum the probabilities and we look at the overall chances that any given drug will make it from pre-clinical trials to approval, the percentage plummets to just over 9%!

Put another way, there is a 91% chance that any given drug will not be saleable at the end of an approximately 10-year cycle of testing! Not surprisingly, research and development in this industry is very expensive indeed…

The full industry analysis on the November 2018 CIMA strategic case study from VIVA Financial Tuition can be found at

*The above industry analysis article was taken from the VIVA Financial Tuition website with permission 19/10/2018

CIMA Nov 18 Case Studies: Top 10 Issues


CIMA November 2018 Case Studies

The November 2018 CIMA case studies will begin in around four weeks with the OCS scenario of GymFit. With the November case study session finishing just over two weeks later with the SCS scenario of Novak Pharmaceuticals.

Students taking the exams next month should be well in their exam preparation and have made extensive motes and analysis on the pre-seen materials.

Now you should be drawing your focus on the most likely issues that will come up on exam day.

The benefits of understanding the so called “Top 10 Issues”

  • Gives you a focus for your final weeks of study.
  • Provides an insight to the syllabus that could appear in your exam variant.
  • Boosts confidence ahead of the exam.
  • A useful tool for brainstorming about the case study scenario.
  • Can generate discussion between yourself and other students – do they have a different opinion on the issues?

If you are struggling to digest all of the pre-seen materials and draw your own conclusions from the materials you have, then use the videos below as a way to get the ball rolling and start thinking about the main issues with your respective case study as use it as a source of focus for the next couple of weeks.

Final Weeks of CIMA Case Study Preparation

Not only should you be digging into the top 10 issues and most likely examinable topics, but you should be practicing your exam technique and have a strategy on how you answer your questions.

Exam Answer Planning

I would recommend that you plan your answers before jumping straight into answering the question in your case study exam.

When passing my OCS and MCS exams first time – I used to spend 8-10 minutes reading the question and planning my answer on the exam script with brief bullet points and my structure of the answer and what I wanted to cover.

Here is a summary on how I approached answering case study questions.

  • Identify the questions requirements.
  • Make headings and sub headings on your answer script.
  • Add relevant points relating to pre-seen and new materials.
  • Finish your answer by drawing conclusions and give reasons why you have come to your conclusion.
  • Don’t forget ethics!! (where relevant – don’t include it for the sake of it)

Here are the Top 10 Issue videos for the November exams.

CIMA OCS Nov 18: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on GymFit here.

CIMA MCS Nov 18: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on Grapple here.

CIMA SCS Nov 18: Top 10 Issues

You can find the full set of videos on Novak Pharmaceuticals here.

Hot Topics for the CIMA OCS

The pre-seen materials were released for the CIMA OCS November GymFit exam a few weeks ago, so your attention should be turning towards mock exam practice and revision of the syllabus areas that are likely to come up on exam day.


With this in mind, our good friends at CSSC Tutition have put together some words of wisdom on what it takes to pass the CIMA operational case study exam.

Passing the OCS Exam First Time

Passing the Operational Case Study requires solid technical knowledge combined with the ability to demonstrate good business and people skills. These need to be appropriately applied to the question details and answered within the context of the case-study scenario.

Good candidates need to be able to assimilate new information and communicate their answers in a timely and well-presented manner.

Exam technique is key here and practice makes perfect in this respect.

In conclusion, it is only mastery of the technical competencies and successful demonstration of the above skills that can result in the ‘strong’ answers which OCS markers are looking for.

So… with that in mind – we can agree that passing is not about question spotting… but surely it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the most examinable topics for the CIMA Operational Case Study exam!!

For example, we all know that P1 is the lead paper – but what are the lead topics?

CIMA OCS Most Examinable Topics

As a matter of research and interest here at CSSC Accountancy Tuition in Staffordshire we have tracked the top most examined Operational Case Study areas from each of the 3 operational level papers.

Our analysis is based on the last 12 Operational Case Study sittings.

For example, we can reveal that 12 out of 12 of the sittings included a question on the topic of P1 variances (traditional cost variances – material, labour etc. and/or Advanced Variances – e.g. mix & yield/planning & operational etc).

This is not to say that every variant of every exam sitting included this topic – but that it was covered by at least one of the five variants in each exam period.

Other favourites were F1’s working capital and E1’s marketing mix.

In addition to this, students must not overlook P1’s budget approaches (especially Zero Based Budgeting that has featured in 8 out of the past 12 sittings). Quality costing is another key area having featured in 10 out of 12 past OCS sittings.

More details on the most examinable areas are below – but please use this information wisely and to refine your revision rather than making it your focus!

Its important that you refresh all of your syllabus areas, undertake mock exam practice and also have a careful read of the most recent OCS examiner’s report. Don’t forget to also make use of other resources available on CIMA connect & TheCIMAStudent website.

Other OCS Highly Examined Areas

  • Activity Based Costing
  • Environmental Costing
  • Government Grants
  • Time Series Analysis
  • Inventory EOQ
  • Outsourcing
  • TQM
  • Payoff Table/ Maxi Decision Rules
  • Relevant Costing
  • Breakeven CVP
  • Uncertainty & Risk – Decision Trees
  • Linear Programming

CSSC Classroom Tuition


For those living near to Staffordshire & Cheshire – CSSC Tuition offer Operational Case Study Tuition for all four sittings. We also offer evening tuition for all CIMA objective test papers -including Strategic level starting January 2019.

Prices start at just £350 per paper and instalment options are available. Enquiries welcome! Please contact

Investment Appraisal Techniques

The CIMA P2 paper introduces some basic investment appraisal techniques, that are later expanded on in the P3 Risk Management paper with some more advanced techniques.

But first, let’s look at the logic and calculations behind these more basic investment appraisal techniques.

NPV – Net Present Value

This calculation and methodology will become a staple in your P2 and P3 studies.

NPV is used to evaluate long term investment decision making and the financial viability of a proposed project.

It considers the time value of money in an investment project i.e. receiving $100k in two years’ time won’t be as valuable as it is today.

Therefore, a discount rate is applied based on the company required rate of return (also known as cost of capital). The result will be the future cash flow will be converted to its present value to aid the investment decision making process.

The sum of the initial investment cost is offset by the future discounted cash flows to give a final result – the Net Present Value of the project.

If the figure is negative then the incoming cash flows associated with the investment are not enough to cover the initial costs – and the project will not go ahead.

If the figure is positive then the project will be accepted.

The NPV values represent the final result in monetary terms and is a great way to aid the decision making process. Rather than evaluating a project based on a percentage or ratio.

What’s more, and this is important, that a project with a positive NPV will maximise shareholder’s wealth whereas if a project is evaluated based on profit margins or other ratios, this is no guarantee to increase shareholder wealth, unlike NPV.

Let’s look at an example.

  • Company XYZ have the opportunity to invest in a project that will cost $120,000
  • The company will see cash returns of $30,000, $50,000, $35,000 and $30,000 in the following 4 years.
  • The cost of capital for XYZ is 9%
  • Calculate the NPV of the project and advise if it should go ahead.


On the face of the initial set of figures, you’d expect the project to go ahead as the project brings in $145,000 and costs only $120,000 but if we consider the time value of money and discount the inflows using the discount rate (cost of capital of 9%), then the total inflows over the four years would only be worth $117,870, therefore giving a negative NPV and rejecting the project.

IRR – Internal Rate of Return

The IRR is the discount rate at what point the NPV of a project breaks even (becomes 0). Why do we need to calculate the IRR? Well, it’s usual for several reasons.

For one, it will tell you exactly at what point you will break even – so if the project has an IRR of 11.76% and the company’s cost of capital is 13% then we know that the NPV will be negative and the project should be rejected – on the other side of the coin, if our cost of capital is 8% then the project will result in a positive NPV and should be accepted.

To calculate the IRR, we use a formula that requires two different discount (cost of capital rates) to then find the IRR. The official formula is here:


Let’s use the original NPV example above to calculate the IRR of a project.

We already have calculated the NPV using a cost of capital of 9% and it’s resulted in a NPV -2130, so let’s also use a cost of capital of 7% so we are in a position to work out the IRR – remember, this is point at which the NPV is zero or breaks even.


A quick look at NPV of both scenarios, we can see the IRR is somewhere between 7-9% – as 9% results in a negative NOV and 7% gives us a positive NPV, let’s find out exactly.

Using the IRR formula, we can plug in the numbers.


Therefore, giving us an IRR of 8.19%.

Which means if the IRR is higher than the cost of capital, then the project should be accepted.

But if the IRR is lower than then cost of capital then it should be rejected on the basis it will have a negative NPV

i.e. 8.19% IRR Vs 9% Cost of capital = 2130 NPV LOSS in above example

MIRR – Modified Internal Rate of Return

Now we understand NPV and IRR, we have the foundation to look at the Modified Internal Rate of Return (MIRR).

The problem with the IRR calculation is that it is assumed that the positive cash inflows are re-invested at the same rate of the IRR.

However, the reality is that cash inflows will more than likely be invested at the company’s cost of capital. So MIRR was developed around this more prudent approach.

Therefore, the MIRR will always be lower than the IRR – but the same logic would apply. A reminder of;

If the MIRR is higher than the cost of capital, the project should be accepted.

If the MIRR is lower than the cost of capital, the project should be rejected.

The formula for calculating the MIRR is;


Let’s take a look at the steps involved to calculate the MIRR.

  1. Calculate the terminal value of the cash inflows
  2. Calculate the present value of cash outflows
  3. Calculate the MIRR using the formula


  1. The terminal value of the cash inflows is calculated by multiplying the cash flow by the cost of capital over the years invested. i.e. in year one, the 30k inflow will benefit by 7% interest for the next three years – 30,000*1.07*1.07*1.07=-36,751


  1. The present value of the cash outflow, is simple. It’s the initial outflow in year one which was 120,000


  1. Now we can enter the numbers into the MIRR formula.

2018-10-05 10_54_49-Start


  • the 4th root of (161,446/120,000) -1 means;
  • the 4th root of 1.3453858 -1 = 0.851677
  • which means we have an MIRR 8.52%

As we can see, the cost of capital is 7% and the MIRR calculated is 8.51% so we should accept the project on this basis.

CIMA P3: Reflections on Failing

2018-10-01 11_18_28-Start

If you follow me on twitter you would have seen that I failed the CIMA P3 Risk Management exam last week.

P3 Exam Initial Thoughts

Failing the exam was a bitter pill to swallow as I was full of confidence although there were nerves given the fact it was my first objective test at strategic level.

When I saw the FAIL on the paper printed out from the exam centre I was disappointed although not surprised as the exam itself felt really tough and full of wordy questions, a couple of which I felt I was just guessing at.

So when I got my final result confirmed the score of 95 was just as much as a relief as it was frustrating.

I was probably two or three correct answers from passing the exam, so I know it was borderline on getting a pass mark and it gives me something to build on heading into the resit. I honestly felt I had scored around 80 or so after leaving the exam and I felt I may need to resit the whole syllabus in detail but 95 gives me hope!

P3 Lessons Learnt

Having had almost a week to get over failing the CIMA P3 exam, I’ve had time to reflect and draw up an approach to ensure I pass it next time!!

Focus on Weak Areas

I know it sounds obvious. But I had a few questions come up during the exam which I knew immediately I would struggle with. The P3 syllabus felt so broad, it was difficult to cover all areas in the detail I wanted to, however, that’s just a sign to work harder!

Interest Rate swaps was a key one, as i had a couple of questions on this and just had to take a guess at the answer.

Revise the Theory behind the calculations

I sometimes find myself guilty of practicing the calculations too much without understanding all of the logic behind the approach and what it means. Being able to articulate what you’re doing and why is needed!!

Stay Calm in the Exam

I used the exam approach of skimming through all 60 questions and answering the short “easier” questions in first 10/15 minutes to get some confidence and some time in the bank. However, when I saw the length and detail of the questions I did begin to panic inside.

I was worried about the time pressure, so I felt I was trying to read the questions quickly but ended up in some cases having to re-read the question which cost me more time.

The ironic thing is I finished the exam with 6 or 7 minutes left!?

In hindsight, I should have stayed calmer in the exam, used my time more carefully and perhaps I wouldn’t be writing this blog post now!

CIMA P3 Resit Approach

I don’t want to rush the resit attempt, even if I was close to passing with my score of 95.

Instead, I plan to get some more exam practice questions and go through the official CIMA syllabus and make sure I can am comfortable with the learning outcomes in whole P3 syllabus.

What’s more, I plan to really go into detail with Interest Rate Swaps and also look back some topics from P2 exam, as I recall two questions that mentioned IRR and I’m sure I covered this in P2 rather than P3 so my mind went blank during the exam.

Hopefully I will be 110% ready to take and PASS the P3 Risk Management by the end of October.

CIMA SCS Nov 18: Novak Pharmaceuticals

SCS Nov Dates

SCS November Important Dates

The relevant CIMA SCS milestones for the November 2018 exams are listed above. As you can see (at the time of writing this blog post) there are still a few weeks until the pre-seen materials are released for the exam, so it’s a great time to start planning how you will pass the SCS first time and become CGMA qualified!

However, if you are reading this after the pre-seen materials have been released, don’t fear! You still have enough time to get exam ready and I hope the advice and resources below will see you on your way.

SCS Tuition Videos

One way to get prepared for strategic case study scenario is to understand;

  • What does it take to pass the exam?
  • Exam planning and writing
  • How to score how marks on the pre-seen materials

As you should have the required level of technical knowledge from all of the E3/P3/F3 exams, now it’s a case of having the required technique and structure for laying out your answers.

I also believe there is a great benefit from learning from other students mistakes to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap. Below is an example of the Astranti SCS tuition video that goes through a students SCS exam answer on what was good and not so good!

Approaching the CIMA SCS Exam

I want to start this section with a look at what the examiner is looking for in terms on the competency displayed in the SCS against the other CIMA case study exams.

The SCS exam is a perfect split of 25% in each category, which, on comparison is very different to what CIMA expect from OCS students where the emphasis is on technical knowledge (i.e. syllabus content).


What does this all mean?

Well, it’s clear that the SCS exam requires a well rounded answer script that addresses the four areas that make up the CGMA competency framework.

The below diagram taken from CIMA website paints a clear, brief picture of each competency.

The general trend from the OCS, MCS to the SCS exam places less weighting on the technical knowledge with a stronger focus on the business, people and leadership skills that is required at strategic level.


With this in mind, when giving your answers in the SCS exam you should remember that your role as Senior Finance Manager has to;

  • Think long term and sets the strategy for the business.
  • Be able to demonstrate leadership skills (especially with change management)
  • Has the ability to influence people.

What’s more you’ll also need to remember the audience you will communicating to the exam.

Unlike the operational or management case studies, you will be giving your answers and recommendations to the CFO, the board of directors, the senior management team and other senior non financial staff.

Pre Seen Materials: Novak Pharmaceuticals

SCS Nov18

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for the November 2018 strategic case study on Friday 5th October and you can download them from the CIMA website here.

SCS Astranti Course


The full SCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources;

Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)

  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study texts
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee


CIMA MCS Nov 18: Grapple

MCS Nov Dates

The CIMA MCS exam builds on the knowledge you have gained from the P2/E2/F2 papers, not too mention the experience you have from the operational level and in particular the OCS you have already passed.

CIMA Gateway Students

The only exception would be those students who are taking the Gateway route and this will be your first taste of a CIMA case study!! 

If you are reading this blog post as a CIMA Gateway student then I would suggest to read this interview we done with a gateway student who passed her MCS exam first time.

CIMA Code of Ethics

I’d thought I would kick off this blog post with a focus on the CIMA Code of Ethics.

It’s a subject that you might neglect or forget the importance of, but the MCS case study exam is the perfect time to roll out your knowledge on ETHICS!


If you are struggling to remember the fundamental principles behind the CIMA Code of Ethics I have my own acronym to help me remember – OPPIC.

It’s very close to the word OPTIC which reminds me of the device used for measuring out whiskey or gin, which is usually quite close to my thought process after studying for a case study exam and ethics.

Anyhow, before I digress even further, here are the key principles that OPPIC stands for.


Professional Competence and Due Care

Professional Behaviour



Each and everyone of us as CIMA students/professional accountants must comply with the above fundamental principles of the CIMA Code of Ethics. And it’s a great framework to apply to your answers in the CIMA MCS exam if you are faced with an ethical issue.


“… It appears the CEO of the company has agreed the appointment of a new board member who is a close family friend with very little experience in the fashion industry.. ”

If faced with this type of ethical issue in the MCS exam, you can point to the fact there is an ethical issue with the appointment made to the board, quoting the CIMA code of ethics as an example of the framework professional accountants should adher to. Also adding to your answer that;

  • the CEO failed to follow Objectivity with the appointment of the new director as it’s a clear conflict of interest due to his relationship with the new director.
  • meanwhile, the new director doesn’t have the right skills to fulfill the role which breaches the Professional Competence and Due Care part of the ethical framework.

I’m sure the examiner will always appreciate students quoting the CIMA Code of Ethics in the case study exam, so don’t neglect it!

CIMA MCS Masterclass

Distance learning students should take advantage of any video tuition or interactive online tuition you can get your hands on for the MCS November exam. It’s especially important when trying to pass the CIMA case study exams.

Below is an example of the MCS masterclasses offered by Astranti;

Both masterclasses are 8 hours long with the first masterclass focusing on the keys how to pass the MCS exam, while the second masterclass is a full day revision on the subject of the case study for the November exam.

I found it a great way to hear other students opinions, test my own knowledge with the example questions we went through as a group and ask the tutor questions directly.

Below are are the dates for the upcoming Astranti MCS masterclasses.

2018-09-13 09_07_11-Start2018-09-13 09_07_24-Start

The CIMA Student MCS Advice

Here is a summary of my top tips to pass the CIMA November 2018 MCS exam.

Plan, plan and plan

Start by planning your time and the resources you need, dedicate set times when you will study and what you expect to cover.

And don’t worry if don’t stick to them 100% – no body every does. A plan is there to guide and ensure you tick the boxes you need to pass the exam.

Mock Exams

It’s a drum I keep banging, but I can’t stress enough the important of Mock exams. So I will leave it at that!

Produce a Balanced Script

You need to make sure you give balanced answers.

Include pre-seen analysis, unseen analysis, industry analysis and of course technical knowledge. AND OUR GOOD FRIEND MR ETHICS!

(where applicable – always be relevant with your answers)

And don’t forget to use your judgement and conclude with recommendations and the reasons why you are making them!

CIMA MCS Astranti Course


The full MCS course from Astranti is really packed full of resources

  • Complete pre-seen pack (pre-seen, strategic, industry analysis and top 10 issues)
  • 3 x Full tuition videos
  • 2 x Study texts
  • 2 x Live Masterclasses (the keys to passing and revision masterclass)
  • 3 x Full Mock Exams (based on Nov 18 scenario)
  • Detailed marking and feedback
  • Ethics Pack
  • Pass Guarantee

Pre-Seen Materials: Grapple

MCS Nov 18

CIMA released the pre-seen materials for the November 2018 management level case study on Friday 28th September.

It’s based around a company called “Grapple”.

You can find the official pre-seen materials from CIMA here.