The PMP Exam Brain Dump
By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP
There’s no better catalyst for self realization than taking the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam. I’m kidding you, of course, but there is some truth in that the PMP exam day will illuminate that “you don’t know what you don’t know.”
The PMP Exam is a ‘closed’ book exam. That means the only reference material you are allowed to carry into the testing facility has to be contained in your brain. But during your exam, your brain is going to be very busy interpreting the exam questions and trying to apply all of the knowledge, skills and principles you’ve accumulated in your studies and work experience.
If you haven’t already, you should go for a visit to the local testing facility where you’ll take your exam and confirm what to expect. Most likely, on your exam day, the exam monitor will check you into the testing facility, hand you six or so sheets of scratch paper and two pencils, then show you to your seat and confirm that your PC is working. Then you’ll have about 15 minutes to go through a tutorial that really only takes about 5 minutes to do. Then you begin your exam.
During the test, recalling what you do know can be daunting. Quite frankly, some of your ability to access that knowledge is going to seem misplaced amongst your grey cells. So how do you create the best opportunities to pass the PMP Exam that day? You can use the 10 minutes you don’t need from the tutorial time to do a Brain Dump!
What is a Brain Dump?
A Brain Dump is a technique used by many students on closed book exams to create their personal mini reference table. Brain dumps are abbreviations of components and concepts, which you have committed to memory and are then spilled out on to sheets of paper prior to the exam for reference.
Brain dumps contain just enough key concepts, theories, formulas and content, which will jog your memory. By having the information on your Brain Dump, your mind can focus on the question at hand instead of trying to remember the formula needed to answer the question. It helps you to be in the the right frame of mind specific to each question.
What goes into a Brain Dump?
Brain Dumps are only as good as the quality and quantity of information that you can spill out on the piece(s) of paper just before you begin your PMP Exam. They contain the formulas, theory, concepts and PMP-isms that you might otherwise forget for a moment at the very moment when you need it most.
Here is what you can generally find as part of a PMP Exam Brain Dump:
- Table 3-1 of the PMBOK® Guide 4th Edition
- Formulas, such as earned value, PERT, communication channels, procurement, probability, project selection and depreciation
- Values, such as 1, 2 and 3 sigma and estimate ranges
- Acronyms, such as BAC or TCPI
- Powers of a project manager
- Conflict resolution (best to worst)
- Sources of conflict (order of priority)
- Herzberg’s motivators
- Project closing check list
And of course: you must include all the items that you personally have trouble remembering during your studies and that you feel need to go onto your sheet. The list above or using a Brain Dump that someone else created can be a good start but you really need to customize it to your needs. Don’t study what others are having trouble remembering. Instead, include what gives you the hiccups.
How do I Study a Brain Dump?
Brain Dumps are pure memorization. As part of your exam preparation, exercises and studying, go ahead and practice committing the content of your Brain Dump to memory and then writing them out onto a blank sheet of paper on a daily basis.
Every morning, practice your brain dump until you’re satisfied with your progress. By the end of the first week you should be able to write out your brain dump in its entirety on the first go.
Then continue dumping it on a regular basis, going back to the daily routine in the two weeks leading up to your exam.
So what is the secret of creating my PMP Exam Brain Dump Sheet?
Creating and studying your very own, personalized PMP Exam Brain Dump Sheet is a means to an end in itself. It all begins with creating the content that goes into it by getting to know your weak areas as you prepare for the exam. Then you memorize, you dump and you repeat. Pretty soon what seemed too complex to remember is at the forefront of your knowledge.
So the secret is that you will accelerate your studies and knowledge simply by going through the motions of creating, studying and knowing what’s on your personalized Brain Dump.
Last but not least, your PMP Exam Brain Dump is a great tool not only to help you bring your reference material into the testing facility, but also providing stress relief knowing it’s there as you encounter questions that require it. You’ll help yourself to learn the material as you study for your PMP Exam and give yourself an important edge in passing.
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is the host of The Project Management Podcast™ at www.thepmpodcast.com and The Project Management PrepCast™, the first true PMP® Podcast at www.pmprepcast.com. Cornelius worked as a Project Manager in his native Switzerland, in Germany and in the USA for the last 17 years. He received his PMP credential in April 2004. He has led projects for a management consulting company, a national retailer and an internet startup company. Currently, Cornelius works as a project manager for one of the oldest financial service providers in the USA. His passions are project management methodologies, PMOs and helping others pass the PMP Exam. In addition to hosting the PrepCast™, he is an instructor for the PMP Workshop and the 2007 Chair of his local PMI chapter. He currently lives in Silverado, California, USA with his wife and their two computers.