Brain Dump - The Secret to Pass Your PMP Exam on the First Attempt

The PMP Examination

The PMP exam is an arduous, long examination. The exam is four hours long and there are 200 questions, which on average amounts to a minute and twelve seconds for each question. The average would drop if you take out time for breaks - which you probably will - given the duration of the exam.

PMP exam is a closed book exam - which means that you will not have any reference material to aid you with your exam. This will put your memory to the test. It is possible that you may hit a blank or jumble up what's what. Is there a way to get past this?

Yes, but before we get into that, let’s quickly talk about what happens on the day of the exam, at the Prometric center.

The instructor checks you in and hands you 4 or 6 A-4 size blank sheets and 2 pencils, takes you to your seat, and confirms with you that the computer and other facilities provided are functioning properly. Once that is done, you will have 15 minutes to go through the exam instructions and tutorials. For a well-prepared candidate, this would normally take 5-7 minutes, leaving 8-10 minutes to start your exam.

A Better Approach

As mentioned earlier, it might quite be difficult to recall the formulae or other key points during the exam. You are juggling between comprehending what the question is, recollecting the relevant points to correctly answer the question, and keeping track of how much time is left on the clock. It is easy to make a mistake. You could misunderstand the question, fail to recollect a vital piece of information, or find yourself running out of time.

The pmp exam is changing. Here is what you need to know about it.

Is there a better way to go about the exam? Thankfully, yes and I’m going to show you how. Remember the pre-test 15 minutes we spoke of earlier to acquaint yourself with the exam instructions? You can use those left out 8-10 minutes to create the brain dump.

What is a PMP Brain Dump sheet?

It is a reference material you've created for yourself in the time allocated before the exam. Essentially, creating a brain dump involves putting everything you know onto paper. This includes keywords, formulae, PMI-isms, headings, theories, etc. Creating one before the exam begins will save you the exercise of recalling things later.

Whenever you identify what section the question requires to be answered, you could refer to your brain dump.

What should you put into the PMP Dump Sheet?

Let me list down a pretty exhaustive list of key concepts and other things you’d benefit penning down in your brain dump.

  • PMBoK Knowledge areas matrix
  • Project Management Processes
  • Project selection methods
  • Understanding scheduling relationships ( FF, SF, SS, SF)
  • Estimating techniques
  • EVM formulae, communication management, and EMV formulae
  • Float, Slack, PERT formula
  • Quality and Total quality management, cost of quality, etc.,
  • Quality control tools
  • Theories of Motivation
  • RACI chart
  • SWOT analysis
  • PMBoK acronyms (TCPI, CPI, SPI, BAC, PV, AC, etc.,)
  • Conflict resolution methods and sources of conflicts
  • Tuckman’s team building model: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning
  • Leadership theories: X, Y, and Z
  • Types of Organisation: Functional, Projectized, Matrix and Composite
  • Sigma values: 1 to 6
  • Power of project manager
  • Procurement management terms, contract types, negotiating skills and keywords (sole/single source, IFB, Quote, RFP, etc.,)

The above list should be customized based on the individual’s difficulty in understanding and remembering the information. Include everything that might feel difficult for you.

Why should you create a PMP brain dump sheet?

The PMP brain dump is a very useful tool as far as the PMP exam preparation is concerned. It not only helps you in bringing your memory onto the test desk but also releases your stress during the test. Some of the questions could be very direct in that you would be able to solve a few problems and gain grace marks by directly using that kit.

Guidelines for creating your custom Brain Dump

Since it's not possible to transfer the entire PMBoK guide into the dump sheet, you will have to pick and choose what your sheet will content. Different candidates have different issues in understanding the PMP exam content and have different difficulty levels, hence each PMP aspirant focuses on different areas while preparing the dump sheets. Copying or referring to other candidates' dump sheets would not be advisable as it is not helpful.

Here are some guidelines that might help you in preparing a dump sheet for your needs : 

  •  Prepare a study plan
  •  As you study, jot down the key highlights and points.
  •  Transfer the facts and concepts from the key content that you find difficult to keep in mind into a notebook kept. 
  •  Enter the highlighted points from the PMBoK. 
  •  Write down key concepts from areas you're weak at as they would be harder to recall. 
  •  Summarise your list and condense to fit into one or two sheets
  •  Start practicing the dump sheet so that you would be able to jot it in 8-10 minutes
  •  Make the dump sheet perfect with timings a week before the exam
  •  Bring the dump sheet to the test center for the last-minute revision so that you can re-dump it on the blank sheets during your pre-exam time. 
  •  As there is no specific pattern or standard, the aim is to write as much as possible within the available time. This would help the candidate to test his/her memory and feel confident.

How to study the dump sheet?

Here are some tips on how to study the dump sheet even as it undergoes additions from what you're learning as per your study plan.

  • Keep a separate time slot (either morning or evening) for practicing the brain dump sheets.
  • Keep practicing those notes/key points regularly according to your study plan, until you feel perfect and can write down the entire dump sheet/s in 8-10 minutes.
  • Continue to dump until the last week of your study plan.
  • Practice a few times the previous day of your exam to test your memory.

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Sanjeeva Nagmoti