How to clear CDCS exam

In this post, we will discuss how to clear CDCS exam along with various details about CDCS exam, the CDCS exam pattern, cdcs exam format, the syllabus of CDCS exam etc.

What is CDCS exam?

CDCS stands for Certificate for Documentary Credit Specialists. This is a professional qualification for letter of credit practitioners and is recognized across the world.

CDCS is a professional exam for letter of credit practitioners and for people willing to move into letter of credit practice. It is observed that majority of the exam takers are working professionals working in trade finance department of banks or financial institutions. Passing the CDCS exam helps to demonstrate a certain level of competence in letter of credit practice.

CDCS exam pattern

The CDCS is a 3 hour 15 minutes long exam with a total marks of 100.

The 100 marks are divided into two parts as given below:

Part A – 60 marks

Part B – 40 marks

Part A consists of

  • 60 multiple choice questions with 1 mark each.

Part B consists of

  • 10 multiple choice questions with 1 mark each.
  • 3 simulation exercises with 10 marks each. In these three exercises you are required to identify 5 out of 10 listed discrepancies. 2 marks are awarded for each correct discrepancy.

There is no negative marking in the exam.

CDCS exam pass marks is 70.

It is important to note that there is a sectional cut-off of 60% in part B. This means you need to score a minimum of 24 marks in order to clear this exam.

Let’s say you score 60 out of 60 in part A and 23 in part B. Your total score will be 83 which is well above the required passing marks of 70. However you will still not clear the exam since your score in part B is below the required cutoff of 24 marks. You should always keep this in mind while preparing for the CDCS exam.

CDCS exam syllabus pdf

The CDCS exam syllabus consists of the following:

All of these are publications of the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC). Once you register for the exam, you will be provided with a core text. This is a book called “Guide to Documentary Credits” by Gary Collyer. This 500 pages book covers the complete syllabus for the CDCS exam including the above publications.

How to apply for CDCS exam?

The CDCS is an online exam and is available on demand. The CDCS exam registration is now open throughout the year. ( Earlier it was held twice a year – in April and in October). It is conducted by LIBF (The London Institute of Banking and Finance).

You can book your exam at any designated test centre and for any date according to your convenience.

Click here to Register for CDCS Exam

CDCS exam fees

The CDCS exam registration fee is GBP 655. This price includes cost of study materials and exam entry.

CDCS Exam date 2024

Earlier CDCS exam was conducted in pen and paper mode twice a year in April and in October. The CDCS exam dates were declared well in advance. But now-a-days the CDCS exam is conducted online and is available on demand throughout the year in designated centres. So there is no fixed CDCS Exam date for 2024. You can fix your exam date as per your convenience.

CDCS exam centre in India

In India, you can book your CDCS exam centre at a designated Pearson Vue centre.

How to clear the CDCS exam – 15 Important tips

Tip No. 1: Start your preparation early

This is the no. 1 tip and undoubtedly most important of all the tips, specially for working professionals. One of the major challenges working professionals face is finding time to study for the exam. Demanding jobs, long working hours leave one with no time and energy to concentrate on studies.

In order to beat this, you need to start your exam preparation early, the earlier the better. LIBF recommends a minimum of 6 months study to prepare for the exam. However the time may be different for different persons depending upon various factors like prior experience, number of hours devoted daily etc.

Tip No. 2: Register for the exam early

Do not wait till the last day to register for the exam. Register for the exam as soon as the registration window opens. You will experience a considerable change in your motivation levels once you have paid the money and booked for the exam. Paying the registration fees upfront shows your commitment towards clearing the exam.

Tip No. 3: Know the syllabus well

Before you jump into the preparation for the exam, it is important to know the syllabus. Please note that officially you are supposed to read only a book called “Guide to Documentary Credits” by Gary Collyer, which is provided by LIBF/BAFT. The cost of the book is included in the exam fees. However you also need to refer to other important ICC publications like UCP 600, ISBP 745, eUCP 2.0, URR 725, ISP 98 and Incoterms 2020.

Out of the above you need to read and understand all the articles UCP 600 and ISBP 745 without fail. Even though all of these texts are referred to in the various chapters of the book, you need to read all of them separately to have a better understanding of the rules.

Tip No. 4: Read UCP 600 and ISBP 745

Read the UCP 600 and ISBP 745 and understand all the articles. There is lots of dense information packed in the contents of UCP 600 and it will take multiple revisions to grasp all the concepts.

When you read any UCP article and where there is a corresponding article for ISBP, you should read both together. It will be easy to understand for you. For example if you read the article for Bill of Lading, which is the UCP article no. 20, you should also read the corresponding article for Bill of Lading in ISBP which is article E.

Tip No. 5: Read the core text thoroughly

Read the book provided by LIBF thoroughly and from cover to cover. By this I mean read from page 1 and continue serially till the end. Do not skip any chapter. If you read from page 1 you will know your progress on any given day.

Accept the fact that you will not understand everything completely on the first reading. A lot of things will get clear on the second and subsequent readings. You will discover a lot of new things on every reading.

Target to read the book a minimum of five times. Read slow when you read the book for the first time. You may read faster while revising.

Tip No. 6: Read a little everyday

It will not be possible to read properly everyday. However you will need to stay in touch with your preparation. If you are not having any time on some days, try to read just one page. This is a must. When you do this, you will realize that you will not need any separate motivation to open your book on the weekends or on a holiday. You need to use your weekends and holidays wisely and study as much as possible.

Tip No. 7: Track your progress

Tracking your progress is very important. I recommend maintaining an excel for your study routine. Below is an actual image of my progress during the exam preparation.

The numbers that are in red are the starting pages of a chapter. (There are 25 chapters in the book and total number of pages is 500)

Two colours are used – green and blue. A colour change represents a different day.

Let me explain a few points from the image below.

Pages read on 11 Aug: 1-6
Pages read on 12 Aug: 7-16
Pages read on 13 Aug: 17-30
Pages read on 14 Aug: 31-39
No study at all on 15 Aug, 16 Aug and 17 Aug.

and so on…

The benefit of doing this is that you will easily know how much progress you have made. You will also know how much more efforts you need to put in to finish the book at the earliest.

CDCS exam preparation - track your progress

Tip No. 8: Analyze your practice questions

Make it a habit of analyzing the answers when you attempt cdcs exam questions. You need to do an analysis of all the questions whether you got the answer correct or wrong.

If you got an answer wrong, go back to the topic in the book and check why it went wrong.

If you got an answer correct, find out whether you were confident while answering the question or whether you got it right by luck. In either case, have a look at the three incorrect options and try to find out why those options are wrong. This knowledge will help you in other questions which may test a particular concept from that wrong option.

Read our post on CDCS sample questions with answers for several practice questions and answers with detailed explanations.

Tip No. 9: Take the practice tests seriously

You will receive 3 online practice tests in your LIBF account. These tests are a true reflection of the actual exam. Attempt the practice tests with the same seriousness as you would do for the real exam.

Once you finish the tests, you should follow the process mentioned in Tip no. 8 to analyze the answers for all the questions in the practice tests.

Tip No. 10: Do some documents checking practice

Documents checking play an important role in clearing the CDCS exam as there is a sectional cut-off in the part B of the exam. In part B there will be 3 case studies where you will be required to identify 5 discrepancies out of 10 listed discrepancies.

If you work in a trade finance dept of a bank where LC documents are received and processed, you may easily follow the below process:

(1) Read the LC and amendments if any
(2) Check the documents and list the discrepancies you have found
(3) Now compare the discrepancies you have found with the discrepancies that the actual doc checker had found
(4) Analyze what you missed

Tip No. 11: Find a study partner

Making your preparation with a serious study partner helps in multiple ways. It increases accountability. If you are in no mood to study some day, and your partner wants to discuss something, you will definitely end up studying even if you did not want to.

So please find a genuine, serious study partner.

Tip No. 12: Ask for help

Ask for help whenever you are stuck somewhere or you are unable to understand something clearly. You may ask for help from people who have already cleared the exam or your seniors at office. You may also post your doubts and queries in Trade Finance group in LinkedIn.

You may also post your doubts and queries on the CDCS Exam Forum on this blog. We will be happy to help.

Tip No. 13: Make your study interesting

Focusing on studies is the most difficult thing for adults and working professionals. So in order to keep the momentum going you need to make your study interesting in your own ways.

Here is an example of a method I used. Whenever I used to revise any UCP article, I did not go serially from 1 to 39. Rather I would open a random number generator app or a website and punch in the numbers 1 to 39. Then I would go and read the article whichever number the random number generator will generate.

Tip No. 14: Do not fall prey to this myth

Since most working professionals do not get much time to prepare for CDCS exam during working days some exam takers plan to take leaves for a week or two just before the exam to prepare. Please note that this is a myth that you will be able to finish the syllabus in two weeks just before the exam.

If you have not prepared well earlier, it is less likely that taking leaves for two weeks just before the exam will create much difference. It is because the course contents is pretty dense and it is difficult to learn something new and remember in such a short span of time. If you are able to take leaves, then it will be helpful for you to revise what you have already studied, but do not keep anything new to learn during that period.

Tip No. 15: Aim high

Aiming high is very very important. One of the mistakes most people do at the start of the preparation is to ask “how much is required to pass?” and to aim for that score in the exam.

Well, you need to know what is required and what are the sectional cut-offs, but beyond that you need not think about the scores at all. Rather, you should focus of having clear understanding of the concepts and aim to get every question correct. The scores will take care of themselves. If you do so, even you do not get the score you aimed at, you will not have to worry about clearing the exam.

In the image below, I’ve detailed a best case scenario and a worst case scenario. Always aim for the best case scenario, but be aware of the worst case scenario.

CDCS exam preparation - best case and worst case scenario

I hope you liked this article. Please do provide your views on the comments section below.

And if you have any doubts, please feel free to ask. I would be glad to assist.

All the best for you preparation.

Our E-book: “CDCS Exam Notes for Quick Revision”

We have published an e-book called “CDCS Exam Notes for Quick Revision“. As the name suggests, this book provides short and the most important points to remember for the exam. The notes are arranged chapter wise and will be helpful for a quick revision during your preparation and also as a last minute revision just before the exam.

Please click here or on the blue button below to buy this e-book.

CDCS Exam Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the validity of CDCS?

A: The CDCS designation is valid for 3 years. At the end of 3 years you may apply for Recertification or retake the exam.

How do I apply for CDCS Recertification?

A: In order to apply for CDCS Recertification, you will require 36 CPD learning hours during the period of 3 years since you passed the CDCS exam.

What is a CPD?

A: CPD stands for Continuing your Professional Development. One hour of learning related to International Trade Finance is equivalent to 1 CPD.

How much is the CDCS Exam fees?

A: CDCS Exam fees is GBP 615.00

What is CDCS Exam fees in India?

A: CDCS Exam fees in INR is approximately INR 62,500/- (It may vary from time to time depending on the GBP/INR exchange rate).

Where will I get CDCS certification study material?

A: The cost of CDCS certification study material is covered along with the CDCS exam registration fees. Once you pay the registration fees, you will be provided with access to the below:

  • Unit syllabus
  • Student handbook
  • Study text
  • Specimen paper
  • Exam simulation exercises
  • e-Quiz and,
  • A student-led forum

What are some of the CDCS certification benefits?

A: CDCS certification benefits include your ability to understand complex issues associated with letter of credit practice and ability to apply the knowledge in your workplace effectively. The CDCS certification enables you to demonstrate a certain level of expertise in letter of credits which is recognized all over the world.

Suggested readings

Please click here to visit our CDCS Exam Blog to read posts about various topics related to CDCS examination. Or you may directly visit the relevant article by clicking on the links provide below. And don’t forget to offer your views in the comment section.

44 thoughts on “How to clear CDCS exam”

  1. Thank you. Your Blog cleared my mind, however I am a housewife. Can you suggest some more case study sites/tips for me to get further prepare.

  2. Hi
    Is there any coaching available for the same to be more regular in following your study pattern and creating better discipline?

  3. Fantabulous writing.
    It will definitely be motivational & fruitful for the CDCS Aspirants.

    Best wishes for your Benevolent Initiative.

  4. its been more than a year I am working in Forex department in bank so will you please help me to know whether can i go for CDCS?

  5. Hi,
    Interested in getting more sample questions and solved papers or study materials . Planning to write this year.
    Preparations ON. Seems like the procedure for application/registering for the exam has changed a lot, I think….earlier they were conducting exams twice a year…now we can register anytime of the year and after making the payment we will have access to choose venue and date is what I understood. Any idea on this ?

    • Yes now you can book your exam throughout the year. It is conducted online.

      The study text provided by LIBF is the main study material. Once you pay for the exam, you will receive 3 full length practice tests which mimics the real exam.

  6. I have made payment online for 69 pages ebook for cdcs exam still I did not get on mail copy .kindly sent the link
    9929050397 payment made via mobile

  7. Hi very helpful. I have few questions like can I modify my test centre or date once registered? Will they sent hard copy of study material after registration?

  8. Hi I am 42 years old. I have experience in Trade Finance Company for over 4 years. can i get Job in bank after clearing CDCS exam.

      • Hi, I’d like to know how much value CDCS certificate adds to salary working in a bank job. What are the other routes available to increase value having the certificate.

        • As per as I know, it may not directly result in salary increase at your job. However, you may highlight this as your learning and development in your annual appraisal and ask for appropriate increment. Having the CDCS certificate may help in your next job search as well.

    • Yes, you may use a calculator in CDCS exam. This is the official guidelines – “Candidates may use a scientific calculator but it must not be programmable, nor have a wireless-communications capability, nor be capable of storing textual information.”

      From my personal experience, I find it easier to solve case studies using hard copy since it is convenient to turn the pages. However, if you practice solving such questions online, you will get used to it too.


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