How to Do a PMP Brain Dump

The term PMP Brain Dump is a little silly and maybe even a little dirty. But that’s what everyone calls it, so let’s start dumping.

PMP Brain Dump

Is this how your brain feels when you look at the PMP exam?

If you are not yet familiar with the term, the PMP Brain Dump is an approximately 15-minute way to write down all of the formulas, equations, and miscellaneous information you need to have memorized for the exam. In previous years on the PMP exam, you were allowed to do the brain dump during the pre-exam technology training, but you can no longer use this tactic. Instead, if you choose to use a brain dump, you must take time at the beginning of your timed exam to do so.

Sometimes folks ask if they should do the Brain Dump at all, especially now that it takes time away from the exam. The answer is that it depends on your particular way of studying AND how quickly you can take the PMP exam. You are allotted four hours for the exam, so if you routinely finish in three hours, you should definitely do a brain dump. Why not?

First, develop a brain dump strategy per the steps below, then review our sample brain dump for some ideas to get started. Remember, don’t just copy and paste our exactly. Do some research, and add items as you see fit.

How to Effectively Study for Your PMP Brain Dump

1. Research PMP brain dumps online. There are many PMP Brain Dump samples online, for free and for sale. Review what you can, and then consolidate and make it your own.

2. Develop your brain dump; don’t just memorize it. Memorizing a long list of formulas can be daunting. Instead, realize that many of the PMP formulas are related to each other. Take some time to review those relationships, and writing out your brain dump will come more naturally.

3. Write it daily, then check your practice brain dump against your master brain dump. Make note of the ones you get wrong, then emphasize those areas in your studies before you do your next brain dump.

4. Add & remove topics as necessary. Keep most of the formulas on your brain dump, but if you are having trouble remembering a particular area, then write it on there. You might include all of the conflict management strategies or risk management strategies, for example.

5. Use shorthand. When you review the sample PMP brain dump below, think about how you can abbreviate. Don’t write To-Complete Performance Index, write TCPI.

Sample PMP Brain Dump

Cost & Schedule
Cost Variance = Earned Value – Actual Cost, or CV = EV – AC
Cost Performance Index = CPI = EV/AC
Schedule Variance = Earned Value – Planned Value, or SV = EV – PV
Schedule Performance Index = SPI = EV/PV

Estimate At Completion (EAC) & Estimate To Complete (ETC)
Note: I like to do this one in a table format because the EAC & ETC formulas are closely related, and it is easy to complete the table by relating ETC to EAC and vice versa.

If there’s no variance at allBACEAC - AC
If there is variance and it is expected to continueBAC/CPIBAC/CPI - AC
If there was variance, but now it’s goneAC + BAC - EVBAC - EV
If your original estimates are fundamentally flawedAC + new ETCnew bottom-up estimate
If you are over budget and past due[(BAC - EV) / (CPI * SPI)] + AC[(BAC - EV) / (CPI * SPI)]

Additional Cost Formulas
(EV/BAC)*100% = % complete
Variance at Completion = VAC = BAC – EAC
To-Complete Performance Index (TCPI) based on BAC = (BAC – EV)/(BAC – AC)
TCPI based on EAC = (BAC – EV)/(EAC – AC)

PERT (Program Evaluation and Review)
P = Pessimistic, L = Likely, O = Optimistic
Beta: (P + 4L + O)/6
Triangular: (P + L + O)/3
Standard Deviation: (P – O)/6
Variance: ((P – O)/6)^2

Communication Channels
[n(n-1)]/2 — don’t forget to include the Project Manager!

Point of Total Assumption (for Fixed Price Incentive Fee contracts)
PTA = [(Ceiling – Target)/Buyer’s Share Ratio] + Target

Network Diagram/Scheduling
Activity Duration = EF – ES = LF – LS
Total Float (is ZERO on critical path) = LS – ES = LF – EF
Free Float = float on an activity = ES of following – ES of present – activity duration

Project Selection
Present Value = FV / [(1 + r)^n], where r is the rate of return and n is the number of years
Future Value = PV * [(1 + r)^n]
For NPR, ROI, & IRR, just pick the biggest value!

Straight Line: (Asset Cost – Scrap Value) / Useful Life
Depreciation Rate: 100% / Useful Life
Double Declining Balance (DDB): 2 * (100% / Useful Life)
Sum-of-Years’ Digits: Useful Life + (UL – 1) + (UL – 2) + …
SOYD Depreciation: fraction of years left / sum of digits, e.g. 1/10ths

Cost Estimate Ranges
Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM): -25% to +75%
Preliminary: -15% to + 50%
Budget: -10% to + 25%
Definitive: -5% to + 10%

Expected Monetary Value = EMV = ($ Impact) * Probability

Normal Distribution
1 sigma = 68.26%
2 sigma = 95.46%
3 sigma = 99.73%
6 sigma = 99.99%
Sigma = Standard Deviation

What do you think about the brain dump above? What questions do you have about the formulas above? Would you include any other formulas? Let’s discuss!

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2 Responses to How to Do a PMP Brain Dump

  1. Vernita February 17, 2018 at 10:27 am #

    Your brain-dump example is very useful. Thank you! I have one question though. Here you provide the formula for free float as “Free Float = float on an activity = ES of following – EF of present – activity duration”. But in this article, you provide it as “free float = ES of following activity – ES of present activity – present activity duration = 27 – 20 – 4 = 3.” The latter is correct, no? Thanks.

    • Rich Rinaldi
      Rich Rinaldi February 22, 2018 at 4:48 pm #

      Hi Vernita, I’m so glad this was useful for you! You are right and I will update this article.

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