What is Brain Dump for the PMP Exam?

Brain Dump for the PMP Exam

Most successful PMP exam takers have mentioned the use of “brain dump” as one of the most useful tactics for passing the exam. What exactly is a “brain dump” and how to create one? You will get the answers in this article.

What is brain dump?

A PMP Exam brain dump is a technique employed by many aspirants to help them memorise important facts, concepts, formulas, etc. for the exam.

Since the exam is a close book exam, exam takers will need to answer questions with knowledge drawn from their memory. Studies have shown that people under stresses tend to forget things. And that’s why writing the brain dump is helpful.

During the beginning of the exam for computer-based test (CBT), candidates will have 15 minutes to go through an on-screen tutorial to familiarise themselves with the operation of the computer interface (e.g. how to scroll down and how to call and use the calculator). Even if you have attended a PMI exam for the first time, you will need no more than 5 minutes to go through the tutorial. You will then have to option to end the tutorial and begin your exam for 4 hours.

Wait! You can better utilise the remaining 10+ minutes to get competitive advantage to pass your PMP Exam! The secret is to make your own PMP Exam brain dump during this time – that is to write down the most important facts and formulas for the PMP Exam from your memory on the paper provided by the exam centre. This will take you around 5 minutes so that you won’t need to take the time out from the 4-hour PMP Exam period. There is no loss on your side!  (writing during the tutorial time is not allowed now)

You may wish to begin your exam and make use of the first 5 minutes or so to write down  your exam brain dump to help you unload your brain.

The benefits of writing brain dump are:

  • You can free your short term memory by dumping all the important facts on the paper so that your “processing” power would be increased (think about having more RAM for your computer)
  • You can worry less about forgetting important facts or mixing things up during the course of your exam time
  • You can perform better under the exam stress
  • You feel more confident
  • By putting all the important facts in one sheet, you may be able to figure out answers to some more difficult questions by association

No worry that you will be treated as “cheating” as thousands of exam takers have take advantage of this technique and not even one candidate was caught cheating by simply writing the brain dump!

Note: You may find that “brain dump” is a term also used by some ill-purposed computer-based test takers. To them “brain dump” is a collection of the real examination questions obtained through illegal measures. By practicing the “brain dump” only, the test takers will be able to pass the exams with excellent ranking without having to going through all the exam resources and textbooks. The PMP Exam brain dump is NOT such.

Steps in creating a brain dump

The brain dump should contain just enough amount of important concepts, theories, formulas, easily confused facts, etc. You will surely not able to dump the whole PMBOK® Guide onto the several pieces of paper provided in the remaining 10 minute of the tutorial session. Since the brain dump is very personal, every PMP aspirants will have different areas they want to focus on. Therefore, it is not advisable to just copy others’ brain dump sheet and blindly follow what are written by others. You are recommended to develop your own brain dump sheet during your exam prep period.

The following outlines the steps to create your own brain dump sheet.

1. Prepare a notebook

From the very beginning, you are advised to get a notebook dedicated for your study. Keep the notebook close to you whenever you are studying and preparing for the PMP Exam.

2. Add contents to the notebook

Gradually add contents to the notebook that you found important or useful as you proceed in your exam study. It is advisable to add anything you find important during this stage. The following are particularly essential to add to the notebook:

  • Facts and concepts that you always forget even if you have read them several times
  • Important concepts highlighted in your exam prep books
  • If you are not strong in mathematics, you may add all the formulas and their interpretation
  • Practice questions that you always get wrong
  • You weak areas or knowledge gaps

3. Filter and condense the notes into 1 page

The brain dump is NOT everything about the PMP Exam. Since the tutorial time is short and your memory limited, it is advisable to turn all your exam brain dump into a page’s content (i.e. you can comfortably put down all the brain dump on a single side page). There is no need to use complete sentences or full-spelling words. Shorthands, point forms, charts and diagrams are much better to help you memorise the brain dump contents.

4. Practice dumping the brain dump

Practice, practice, practice. Remember you only have 10 minutes to dump your brain dump. It will take you much longer at the beginning as you will take some time to remember your brain dump. But with practice, the whole process of dumping the knowledge will soon become second nature to you and you will be able to create the brain dump very fast.

After each practice, remember to check your brain dump created against the original one to see if you have missed anything or you have mis-interpreted something. Some Aspirants make it a habit of practicing brain dump once every day.

5. Bring the brain dump sheet to the exam centre for last minute revision

Every candidate is advised to come to the exam centre at least 30 minutes earlier. What is the best thing to do during the waiting period? Yes, it is taking a look at the brain dump sheet the last time. Your brain dump sheet will double as your last minute revision note. By going through the brain dump, you will feel prepared and confident that you will pass the exam!


What typical content a brain dump contain?

The following are typical content of brain dump sheet for aspirants:

  • The project management process and knowledge area matrix of the PMBOK® Guide
  • Formulas (earned value formulas, PERT, float and slack)
  • Common acronyms found in the PMBOK® Guide, e.g. TCPI, CPI, SPI, EAC, etc.
  • Conflict resolution methods and sources of conflict
  • Herzberg’s motivators: satisfaction (motivators) vs dissatisfaction (hygiene factors)
  • RACI chart / RACI matrix: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed
  • Tuckman Model: Forming – Stroming – Norming – Performing – Adjourning
  • Theory X, Theory Y and Theory Z leadership theory
  • Organization types: Projectized, Matrix, Functional, Composite
  • Work Performance Data vs Work Performance Info vs Work Performance Reports

Click here of the sample of PMP Exam Brain Dump created by Edward Chung.

Conclusion: Create your own brain dump now

What is the best tip for the PMP Exam? It is to act on the tip that you find useful. If you consider having a brain dump for your PMP Exam beneficial for you, begin doing it now!

Wish you PMP success!


Most Popular PMP Certification Exam Articles

Support website running for FREE, thanks!

If you find this post helpful and if you are thinking of buying from Amazon, please support the running cost of this website at no extra cost to you by searching and buying through the search box below. Thank you very much for your help!

Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Responses

  1. Brent says:

    Hello Edward,

    I’m looking to get into IT Project Management. Not a lot of experience with Project Management concepts, but have been a IT Manager as of recently. I want out of the administration side of things and more into Management and or project related responsibilities. Is CAPM the place to start for me? I do have a 4 year degree in Information Technology and 15 years of experience in the IT world.

    • Edward Chung says:

      Hi Brent,

      I would highly suggest you to tackle the PMP Exam which is a more prestige and advanced certification. All you need now is to accumulate enough project management experience. At the same time, you may need to take a course in PMP Exam for the 35 Contact Hours.

      The PMBOK Guide 6th Edition has just been released. And the PMP Exam will be updated in the 1st quarter of 2018 to be based on PMBOK 6. Without your profound experience in IT project management, you will have an edge in the new PMP Exam as Agile is first introduced in the new exam syllabus.

      Wish you PMP success!