by By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP

How To Create Your PMP Exam Brain Dump Sheet

Feb 02, 2011
CareersCertificationsProject Management Tools

The Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam is a 'closed' book exam, the only reference material you are allowed to carry into the testing facility has to be contained in your brain. PMP expert Cornelius Fichtner explains how to create an exam brain dump sheet as an effective way of getting reference material into the testing facility with you.

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.

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 1: Assess Your Eligibility

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 2: Filling Out the Application

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 3: Build a Project Study Plan

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 4: Essential Study Materials

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 5: Study Tips and Techniques

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 6: Using Practice Tests to Get Ready

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 7: Exam Day Logistics

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Part 8: Getting Recertified

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. Dont 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.

Your PMP Exam Brain Dump is a great tool not that allows you bring your reference material into the testing facility, in addition knowing the information you need is on hand as you encounter questions that require it can significantly cut down the stress factor. Creating your personalized brain dump helps you learn the material as you study for your PMP exam which gives you an important edge in passing.

Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 12,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast and The PMP Exam Simulator.