August 31, 2015
How to pass the CSC: Volume 1

I wanted to outline my  study plan for the Canadian Securities Course, Volume 1,  just to give anyone taking it a general idea of the hours involved. Everyone has different timelines/backgrounds and so this is just how I chose to study for it, not a recommendation for how you should do it. I passed my first time with a 77%.


Background: I haven’t taken math or business since grade 10 (over a decade ago). I have fairly good knowledge of stocks and currency exchange, but that’s it. I would say my starting knowledge was extremely low and weak, but I do have strong interest, in the material so wasn’t boring to me.   If you have a B. Comm or  took any business/economic courses in university, you will probably understand a lot more right off the bat.


Time: Nine study days (10 full days, with one day off).


Hours: I studied between 5- 10 hours a day. I would start between 10:30 am and noon, and finish at 8:30 pm.  This is the approximate equivalent to studying for 2.5 hours every night for a month.


Study plan per section: 


  • I read through and made study notes for one section per day.
    • The chapters on bond calculations and derivatives each took two days to understand
    • Therefore, reading and making notes on the entire textbook took a total of 6 days
  • I did the online module quizzes for each chapter, though not immediately after finishing each chapter
  • The last 3 days I re-read and re-did some notes on Sections 1 and 2 because they are weighted the heaviest. I also reviewed all my notes, and did more online module and practice tests- – it’s essential to get used to the way the course asks questions


How I took notes: 


  • My study notes involved making cue cards for keywords, calculations and acronyms as well as charts for derivatives and long-form notes for sections that were more conceptual.  When I did my review, I re-did most of my written notes  and charts to make them clearer and easier to understand. This helps greatly with really cementing the concepts in your mind. Don’t even consider typing your notes. Your brain doesn’t work that way.


What I would do differently: Pay way less attention to formulas and calculations. They are barely on the exam, (my test only had accrued interest and T-bill interest) and require so much more time to learn than everything else.


Focus on:  I found the CSC to ask bizarrely specific questions. You should focus mostly on understanding the material, not just memorizing it, because the questions are not simply fact-based, but scenario-based.  Research everything you don’t understand.


  1. Settlement dates
  2. Acronyms for all the organizations
  3. Economic indicators
  4. Employment types
  5. Financial statements (like actual headings on financial statements)
  6. Indirect/direct investment
  7. Different bond and share types


Exam thoughts: I did a paper-based exam. You get a separate bubble sheet, and an exam sheet with questions and some blank pages at the end for scrap paper. Arrive at least 15 min. early. Bring several pencils, an eraser and an approved calculator.  They take away the cover on your calculator, and even sweaters that you’re not wearing. You can’t go to the bathroom, so don’t drink too much before. It’s two hours long and that’s exactly how long it took me to answer all the questions. I had about two minutes to spare. If you don’t know the material well, you will probably run out of time.  There were 100 questions on my test, which means you have 1 minute and 20 seconds per question.


Exam strategy: As soon as I got the exam booklet, I wrote down all the formulas I could remember in the blank pages. Then went through the questions and filled in on the bubble sheet every answer I knew immediately.   I put a check mark beside each question I answered on the exam booklet. That took me one hour. I spent the next hour going back and going through each question I didn’t immediately know and working through them. They do try to trick you, so read each question carefully. I wouldn’t leave any question unanswered; might as well take a shot.  Just don’t get bogged down by questions you don’t know: focus on the ones you do know first, then go back.


Sample exam questions (2015): These are just random ones I remember (worded to the best of my memory). The questions are similar to the questions they give online.


  1. On what date does a Canada 3-year bond settle? (1/2/3)
  2. Which office of an investment firm is usually the biggest? (front/middle/back)
  3. What are three headings on a specific part of a financial statement (operating activities/financial activities/investing activities etc.,)
  4. What does the DEX Universe Bond exchange track (global bonds/Canada bonds etc.,)


Study materials

  • 200 cue cards
  • A notebook
  • Sharpies in various colours
  • A good pen
  • A ruler
  • A financial calculator
  • A laptop (for module quizzes and researching stuff that doesn’t make sense in the textbook)
  • The textbook (I had a hardcopy, if you only have online, I would definitely print it out and staple it)
  • Coffee
I want to improve my financial literacy without hating my life

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