Canadian Securities Course (CSC) Review: How to Pass the Exams & My Experience

I honestly didn’t think I would be able to write this post. Because I honestly didn’t think I would pass the Canadian Securities Course (CSC®) my first try. But here we are and thank god for it!

Let me give you some context. I’ve been in the personal finance world for almost a decade now, starting out as a hobby personal finance blogger in 2011. That hobby blog evolved, and 4 years ago I left my corporate job to work for myself as a content creator, speaker, money expert in the media, and financial counsellor.

After I became an Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada (AFCC®) at the start of 2018, I thought I was done with formal financial education. It took me a year to get those credentials and I felt wiped out by the end of it.

Cut to 6 months later and I got a bit restless. Although I really enjoyed the AFCC program (maybe I’ll write about that in a future post), it didn’t go in-depth on topics like investing. Moreover, although I’ve been able to bring more awareness to the program with my platform, most people have still never heard the term “financial counsellor” before.

You know how annoying it is when someone asks you about your credentials, you tell them, and they look at you blankly because they have no idea what an Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada is or if it’s even “legitimate”. It is by the way. It’s just not as popular a program in Canada compared to the U.S. where it originated. Typically most people who do the program pursue a career as a credit counsellor for a credit counselling agency. But I digress.

The Canadian Securities Course through the Canadian Securities Institute, on the other hand, people have heard of. Almost every other Canadian personal finance expert I know, not to mention journalists and financial planners, have taken it.

So to me, it was the natural next step to take. However, now that I’ve checked it off my list, I’ve set my sights even higher. I’m slowly pursuing the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. I’ve even signed up for Financial Planning 1 through the Canadian Securities Institute to continue down that path. But I’m not here to talk about the CFP or the AFCC. I want to share with you my experience and my study tips for passing the Canadian Securities Course.

How Long It Took Me to Pass the Canadian Securities Course

From cracking open Volume 1 of the CSC coursebook to passing the Volume 2 exam, it took me 3 months to complete. Would I suggest this as a reasonable timeframe for doing the Canadian Securities Course? Absolutely not! My heart starts to race just thinking of the stress and pressure I put on myself to do it so quickly.

In the course, it does provide a study planner for 3, 6, 9, and 12-month windows. To me, 3 months isn’t really enough time to let all the content truly soak in and for you to do all the interactive quizzes, watch all the videos, and take all the practice exams.

So…why on Earth did I try to do it in only 3 months? Money. That’s why. I signed up for the course in 2018. I paid to renew it in 2019. And in 2020, I had to take it otherwise be forced to pay the full fee once again (you can only renew it once). Thankfully, because of the pandemic, my course license was extended. It was set to expire in July 2020, but it was extended to the end of October. This little saving grace motivated me to get serious about studying. Still, I didn’t leave myself much time. I started studying in mid-July, had my first exam Sept. 23, and my second exam on Oct. 14.

Although the course provides a study planner, since I was in a time-crunch, I just did my own thing. If I was smart and left myself more time, I probably would have opted for the 6-month plan. Instead, here’s what I did:

  • 2 Weeks: Volume 1 has 12 chapters, so I studied a new chapter every day, which also included me watching all the accompanying videos and doing the interactive quizzes.
  • 2 Weeks: Volume 2 has 13 chapters, so I studied a new chapter every day to replicate my process for Volume 1.
  • 3 Weeks: I went back to Volume 1 to study since that was the first exam I booked to take. I re-read the entire textbook, highlighted sections, wrote notes and terms on flashcards, re-watched a few of the videos, then did both practice exams. I passed both practice exams, which gave me confidence that I’d pass the real exam.
  • 1 Week: I needed a break from studying (and my mental health!), so I took one week off from studying.
  • 3 Weeks: In the final 3 weeks, I studied Volume 2 again, which included re-reading the entire textbook, highlighting sections, and making flashcards. I only did one of the practice exams because I felt a bit burnt out from all the studying, but I passed it, and thankfully I passed the real thing too!

So yes, I read both textbooks twice! And I can honestly say I have never studied so hard for anything in my life! But I’m glad I did. Not just because I passed, but also because that information is very much ingrained in my mind now and for the future.

Don’t Cheap Out on Study Materials

One thing I was worried about was that my textbooks were a few years old since I’d signed up for the course 2 years prior. I have no idea what’s different in the updated textbooks, but if I were you, I wouldn’t try to save money by buying someone’s used textbooks. Just play it safe and get the new ones.

Moreover, there are a few different options for enrollment.

I opted for the most expensive package because if you’re going to cheap out on something, maybe it shouldn’t be on study materials for an exam you hope to pass. I bought the Canadian Securities Course (CSC®) Value Pack Combo and I’m so glad I did.

Texas Instruments CalculatorI found the videos super helpful and the practice tests invaluable. But, the package also included a Financial Investment Calculations Toolkit with a calculator, Financial Statement and Ratios e-Tutorial, and Macro and Microeconomics e-Tutorial which I didn’t use at all. Also, the free calculator you get isn’t great. Instead, I bought the Texas Instruments BA-II-Plus BAII Plus Financial Calculator since I wanted a calculator I could find YouTube tutorials on how to use. It’s also the calculator used in course videos.

What Sections You Should Focus On When Studying the CSC

The course gives you the break down of the exams, and they are pretty on-point for what you should focus on.

As you can see for Volume 1, 23% of the exam focuses on fixed income. The exam made it feel like it was closer to 35%, but maybe that’s because I hate doing bond calculations. Fixed income was definitely my weak point, so I spent more time studying those sections. And yes, you do unfortunately have to memorize mathematical formulas. They don’t provide them for you. So make some flashcards and memorize them.

For me, my strong points were the Canadian Marketplace and, to my surprise, Derivatives. As you study and take the practice exams, you’ll find your strong and weak points too. What fun!

For Volume 2, overall I found the study material easier to digest and generally more interesting. But if you were to look at my test marks, you would have no idea! No joke, I marked 1% higher on the Volume 2 exam compared to Volume 1.

Although fixed income was the big focus of Volume 1, with Volume 2 I didn’t really feel like one section took over. Looking at the exam section weightings, Investment Analysis and Portfolio Analysis are the heaviest weighted, but when taking the exam it really feel like it. I personally struggled with Investment Analysis. Although I enjoyed the content, I found it difficult to memorize, but it could have been because of study fatigue or a number of other factors.

What the Exam Is Like During Covid

I never thought I would take an in-person exam during a pandemic, but now I can say I’ve done two! I thought it was weird that the Canadian Securities Institute didn’t offer the CSC exams online using a virtual proctor. That was the setup for my financial counselling exams and I really appreciated the convenience of being able to do the exam from home.

I’m not sure if that’s something the CSI is working on for the future, but hopefully they are, considering how long you now have to wait to find an open slot to book your exam (the backlog is insane!). I booked both my September and October exams in late July, and they were the last slots available. I also recently looked to see when was the soonest I could book my exam for Financial Planning 1, but it’s booked solid for the rest of 2020.

For my exams, I opted for the computer-based exams instead of paper-based. I prefer doing exams on a computer, plus the big benefit is once you finish you find out instantly if you passed or failed. You just have to wait a day or two to find out the exact percentage you got. But keep in mind it does cost $75 to do the computer-based exam, whereas paper-based is free.

In terms of what to expect at the exam centre, I mean, we are in a pandemic. But the CSI gives you clear instructions on safety protocols, and here’s what that looks like:

  • You must have a mask on the entire time upon entering the exam room and taking the exam.
  • Your temperature will be checked before being allowed to enter the exam room.
  • You must bring your own pencils, eraser, non-programmable calculators and government-issued photo identification. If you do not have any of above, you will not be permitted to write your exam. If you’re doing a computer-based exam, you are allowed to use a pen, but for paper-based exams you must have pencils.
  • You must take off the cover of your calculator for the exam, as some covers have programming instructions on them which is not allowed.
  • You must arrive at the exam centre 30 minutes in advance of your exam. If you arrive earlier, you’ll be turned away because they cannot offer a waiting area.
  • Upon entering the building where the exam centre is located, follow signage, social distancing protocols, and instructions that the exam proctor will provide.
  • Washroom breaks and food are not permitted during the exam. You can however use the bathroom before and after the exam with permission.

One thing I also didn’t realize before taking the first exam is you’re allowed to bring flashcards, your phone, and textbooks with you into the exam centre before the exam. So you are allowed to do some extra studying before taking the exam. You’ll just be told to put all of your belongings away into your assigned cupboard near the entrance 5-10 minutes before the exam starts.

Also, the exam proctors can’t really help you. Unless you have a technical problem, they don’t allow you to ask any questions specifically related to the exam. Lastly, not everyone in the exam room will be doing the same exam. Some people may be taking the CSC, or Wealth Management Essentials, or other exams offered by the CSI.

What I will say is I thought the CSI did a very good job in terms of safety protocols. I felt safe the entire time. There was clear social distancing and overall it was very efficiently run.

Why You May Want to Take the Canadian Securities Course

I want to end this post off with explaining why you may want to take the Canadian Securities Course. Initially, my goal was simply to pass the CSC and move on with my life. And somehow only a few days after passing, I enrolled in yet another course with the intention of now completing the CFP exam in a few years.

Is the Canadian Securities Course worth taking just on its own? In my opinion, yes. Because I think knowledge is always worth it. That being said, the CSI does offer the CSC at a lower price point called Canadian Securities Course (CSC®) for Investors. Although it’s half-the price, it doesn’t include the exam or the certification after passing. So if you just want the textbooks to learn on your own, that is an option. But what’s the fun of studying without the motivation of an exam or reward of a certificate? But that’s really up to you.

If you want to take the CSC to further your career, here are some of the different paths you can take.

Personal Financial Planner (PFP®)

You could become a Personal Financial Planner (PFP®). Not to be confused with the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation, the PFP is a designation that many people pursue working as financial advisors at financial institutions. Honestly, outside of the financial industry bubble, most people have never heard of the PFP. That’s not to say that it’s bad or not worth getting, but I would suggest doing some research to see if it makes sense for your personal career path.

Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®)

If you want to become a Portfolio Manager, Advising Representative, Associate Advising Representative or to be able to conduct discretionary portfolio management services for clients with an IIROC member firm, this might be a designation you want to pursue after passing the Canadian Securities course.

MTI® Estate and Trust Professional

If you aspire to manage estates and trusts with affluent clients, the Canadian Securities Course could lead you to earn the MTI® Estate and Trust Professional designation.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP®)

And lastly, there’s the route I plan on taking, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. Although there are different paths to become a CFP, such as through Advocis, since I already did the CSC it only makes sense to continue taking courses through the CSI instead of another institution.

I’m going to be taking Stream 1, and as you can see, I’ve got 6 courses to take before I can take the CFP exam. My estimate is that it will take me two years to get exam-ready, so wish me luck!

Final Thoughts

One thing I found helpful was going on forums like Reddit to see what other people’s experiences were like. Well, sometimes I found people’s responses helpful. What I didn’t find helpful was anyone saying that the exam was easy or it’s a beginner course. Sure, it’s a foundational course to achieve a certain designation or credential, but calling it a beginner course makes it sound like the learning material and exams are easy.

It’s not. Far from it. On the CSI website, you’ll see that it estimates that it will take you between 135-200 hours of study time depending on your background and level of comprehension. That is definitely accurate. Although I’m quite experienced when it comes to personal finance and didn’t have to much trouble with comprehension, I estimate that I spent at least 200 hours studying. And the reason for that is because there is just so much content to understand and memorize. No one can just breeze through the textbooks and expect to pass (unless you have a photographic memory or have done similar courses before).

If you want to pass, I would suggest giving yourself at least 6 months to study. I would also suggest focusing on Volume 1, then taking the exam, then cracking open Volume 2 to study. Don’t try to do both simultaneously. If I could do anything differently, it would have been to focus on one volume at a time.

Also, because I was considering doing this but am glad I didn’t, I personally don’t think it’s necessary to spend any extra money by buying practice exams or study notes from other organizations. You’ll be just fine with the resources provided directly from the CSI. But also, do what you need to do to pass! This was just my experience and worked for me.

Got any questions for me? Let me know in the comments, I’ll be happy to answer!

Disclosure: Nothing on my website or affiliated channels should be considered advice or an endorsement, and some content may include affiliate links in which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Please read my disclaimer to learn more.
Showing 48 comments
  • Sarah
    Reply

    Hey Jessica, thanks for this! Would you recommend someone try taking this if they are terrible at math — like, failed gr. 11 math and never took it again, bad? I’m a financial journalist but don’t have much confidence that I could handle equations. I know there’s the investor option but, like you said, doesn’t come with a certificate.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Oh definitely! I stopped taking math after grade 11, so the equations in the course aren’t that complex. They are fairly basic formulas like (A-B/Bx100). I’d say the biggest challenge is just mental. When you think you’re “bad at math” for so long, you have zero confidence when it comes to memorizing formulas. But just watch some of the videos, I also watched some YouTube tutorials, then practice with your calculator, and you’ll be able to memorize in no time. As a reference, I didn’t start memorizing the bond equations for Vol. 1 til two days before the exam and it was fine. So don’t let that be the reason you don’t do it! If this gal who has a fine arts degree can pass the CSC, you can too!

      • Sarah
        Reply

        Thanks! I appreciate the insight! Hopefully I can start next month!

        • Jessica Moorhouse
          Reply

          That’s one of the silver linings of this pandemic. Since we’re all stuck at home, there’s never been a better time to hunker down and study. Good luck!

  • Vidya
    Reply

    Why dint you look at taking up ific against csc, as with both you can take up CFP. Cost wise ific is cheaper as well.Any particular differentiating factor between csc and ific??

  • Vidya
    Reply

    Hey Jessica,Thanks for the reply , I meant csi themselves offer Ific course . As per the career path chart listed in their website People who pursue that also can take the cfp path (correct me if I am wrong) , Wanted to know what the key difference between the Canadian securites course and investment funds in Canada course offered by csi .Your views and advice on the same would greatly help.Thank you

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Oh I see, I thought you meant the IFIC organization, not the Investment Funds in Canada (IFC) course. Typically, the people who take the IFC want to become mutual fund dealers. As you’ll see in the description of the course page (https://www.csi.ca/student/en_ca/courses/csi/ifc.xhtml), the course’s focus is heavy on mutual funds. It even says at the bottom of the page to consider taking the CSC as an alternative path because it’s more comprehensive. But for me, the big deterrent from taking the IFC instead of the CSC is it limits you. For instance, if you want to become a Chartered Investment Manager (CIM) or MTI Estate and Trust Professional, you require the CSC.

  • Vidya
    Reply

    Thanks Jessica, your inputs were valuable

    • Morgan Tiana Proulx
      Reply

      Hi Jessica,

      I completed my CSC this year as well and I’m now about to write the Conducts and Practices Handbook, can you explain why your next course of action isn’t the CPH?

      • Jessica Moorhouse
        Reply

        Because I have no plans to become a licensed investment advisor, I’m instead working towards becoming a CFP.

  • Amy
    Reply

    Hello Jessica, it’s really nice that you detailed posted all the information about CSI and I am really thankful for it (: I am a fresh graduated diploma and I am interested in Finance industry, so I am considering about CSI, any recommendation or suggestion for a freshman like me? Thank you again (: Hope to see your response

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Hi Amy, all I can share is my experience studying and passing the exam, not with entering the finance industry workforce. I’ve never worked in the traditional financial industry, have always been self-employed. But my suggestion would be to connect with people who have roles you aspire to get and ask about their path. Good luck!

  • Brian
    Reply

    Hi Jessica,

    From your experience, how similar would you say Exam 1 was in relation to the Practice exams (in terms of difficulty. I completed both practice exams, with a result of 80% on both, and write my actual exam tomorrow. Was hoping you can help me get a better idea on what to expect.

    Thanks

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      The real exams I found to be more difficult, though it could also be due to the setting (the exam centre, especially during Covid, was more high stress than doing it on my laptop in my living room). I did much better on the practice exams than the real thing, but you should be fine scoring that high on the practice exams. Remember, the goal is to pass. Anything above that is just gravy. Good luck, you’ll do great!

      • Brian
        Reply

        Appreciate the quick reply Jessica and thank you for the insight.

      • Dan
        Reply

        Jessica, congrats on your passing the CSC and good luck with your career path. I finished my Volume 1 exam in October and my Volume 2 exam is slated for end of Jan in Mississauga. I totally agree with your assessment on Practise Exams/ Chapter Quiz vs the Exam questions. If I remember correctly there was only a few (less than 5, if that) Practise Exam questions came up in the actual Exam. They actually had a couple questions from Volume 2 thrown in in the Volume 1 Exam. One that I can remember was on the “Buy Side” which was in Volume 2 !!
        Question for you Jessica, can I expect more of the same; ie Practise/Chapter exams vs the actual Volume 2 Exam?
        Thanks in advance.
        Best regards
        Dan

        • Jessica Moorhouse
          Reply

          Congrats on passing Vol. 1! I feel like when I went through the exams, I didn’t really notice too much if any replication of the questions from the practice exams (then again, I wasn’t really focused on that I was so focused on just passing haha!). But yes, expect more of the same. There may only be a few similar questions, but otherwise it’s really a completely different exam. Personally, I enjoyed Vol. 2 more than Vol. 1, plus having the confidence going into the exam knowing you passed Vol. 1 also helps when taking the Vol. 2 exam.

  • Kevin
    Reply

    Hey Jessica , thanks for providing your experience with the CSC exam. I’m pretty much on the same path as you as far as finishing In 3 months . I’ve passed volume 1 already in Dec and planning to take the exam for volume 2 at the end of January 2021 . I agree not ideal but so far so good but lots of studying lol .
    I had a quick question concerning your next steps in your learning for the CFP designation . Why did you Choose steam 1 vs stream 3? Is there a big difference ? I

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I chose stream 1 for the CFP because I was genuinely looking forward to taking both Financial Planning 1 and 2 courses. And so far, I’m not disappointed!

      • Kevin
        Reply

        Thanks for your reply and glad you’re enjoying the courses.

  • Rachel
    Reply

    hi Jessica , happy new year. thanks for your sharing . I think it was very useful. I am ready to apply for the csc because I want to work in bank.

  • Kerri-Ann Thomas
    Reply

    Ive enrolled in CSI course and bought the combo pack!!! Videos??? Where??? And are there practice exams available in package or do you have to pay extra???

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      You’ll be able to find all materials when you log into the Student Login on the CSI website, then click on “Access Online Courses”.

  • chris
    Reply

    Hey Jessica – thanks for taking the time to blog. Just wrote the first test and passed. You’ll be pleased to know that the exam is now done remotely! Onward to volume 2!

  • Sandra
    Reply

    Thank you so much for the valuable input. I want to know whether taking the Canadian securities course from a college will help to have better chances and pass this certification?

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      If it’s instructor-led then it may be easier than self-paced with the textbooks. I personally prefer self-paced so I can do it in my own time (I’ve always hated lectures).

  • Sumitra Sridharan
    Reply

    Hey Jessica, Thanks for the helpful insights about the exam. I am scheduled to write exam 2 in a couple of weeks. The only thing which is bothering me is the Investment Analysis section where I just don’t know any method to remember all those ratios. Any inputs on this would help. Hope I am able to clear it. TIA

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      From what I remember, that wasn’t a big section of the exam. But since you still have some time to study, if there are any areas you feel are your week points, make sure to go through the exercises again and just keep going through those sections until you feel it makes more sense.

  • Brian
    Reply

    Hey Jessica,

    I’m in the process of studying for the CSC 2 exam and was curious how many calculation based questions there would be. Do you recall roughly?

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Not a lot from what I remember especially compared to exam 1. I spent a lot of time memorizing formulas for Vol. 1 and not much time for Vol. 2. It’s more about concepts than calculations I found.

  • Sweetie
    Reply

    I studies for almost 7 months gave exam 2twice dnt clear, really felt many questions were out of syllabus

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Not sure if I understand. You studied for 7 months, didn’t pass, and you felt like most of the questions were not related or outside of the course content? If so, sorry to hear about your struggle but I’d have to disagree. Best of luck on trying the exams again and don’t give up!

  • M
    Reply

    Hey Girl,

    i really appreciate coming across your blog as i’ve been trying to seek some help in terms of a guide on how to study more efficiently. My exam 2 is in the beginning of the first week of April and I’m currently working 9-5 which sometimes end ups going to 6-7. How would you recommend to studying efficiently for a dry material course like this? A friend mentioned she would read it 3x (first to briefly read, second to highlight and third to summarize). I’m struggling to read it simply haha. Looking forward to your help!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Ya I read both textbooks twice. Once to just absorb the info, the second to highlight and make flashcards, and I’d highly recommend that. If I were you, I’d make a clear schedule to study and stick to it. This exam is no joke!

  • Rishu
    Reply

    Hello Jessica,
    Thank you for making this blog. It is really informative. I would like to ask one question: I am not finance student or have any mathematics background, would it would be hard for me to take the course. Would you recommend any basics that i should study before taking the course?
    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      If you have zero investing or finance background, it might be worth it to read some finance books beforehand and listen to some podcasts just to get familiar with it all. I’ve got a list on my recommendations page to check out.

  • Dony B
    Reply

    Hi Jessica,
    I tried on IFIC exam and I failed on my first attempt which I know I used the wrong method to study.So I am planning to write exam on next month that I saw IFIC Check 2019, a kind of study material which helpful in the exam.Cost $150.Do I have to buy that one or use the different method to study and get the pass mark? I am so down and confused.Please let me know any suggestion which I can improve ?Thank you

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      So the IFIC course (Investment Funds in Canada) is a different course than the Canadian Securities Course so I can’t really speak on that since I haven’t taken it. If you’re asking whether it’s worth it to buy the IFIC Online, interactive version for the course, I did for the CSC and found it very helpful for studying.

  • Rishu
    Reply

    Hello Jessica,
    I have couple of questions. Do we have to enroll for the csc course in order to give the exam? As i got material from my friend so i am thinking to study on my own without enrolling and just give a exam. My second question is if we fail volume one or vol 2, do have to give both exams again?
    I really enjoy the recommeded podcasts as well. Thank you

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Yes you have to register for the course in order to take the exam. If you fail one of the exams, you just need to retake that exam. You don’t have to retake both if you passed one since they are completely separate exams.

  • Vanessa Punzalan
    Reply

    Hi Jessica, which institution you Can recommend I Can enrol With The course.. I Did My Canadian incestment finds course With IFSE . However, they Dont have CSC course.
    Any recommendation ?
    By The way, Thank you So much for sharing Your Experience

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      You can only do the Canadian Securities Course through the Canadian Securities Institute.

  • Tony
    Reply

    Thank you for the information, are you aware if all this info is applicable for someone planning on working in Quebec?

  • Amy Zhang
    Reply

    Thanks Jessica!!! The CSC exam can at first glance seem daunting. The materials are thick with small font, and the language can seem deep and convoluted. The best way to study is to separate the actual learning objectives by chapter, from the extra and unrequired examples and repeated points.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search