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Are Project Managers Mathematically Challenged?

8 x 9 = 74, right?


I got your attention with that bad math. That said, who would get that kind of multiplication wrong?

Over 15 years of helping people evolve their project management careers, I have heard many people claim they knew this item or that item. I would then ask them to tell me the item, or items. Then insert the awkward pause. The test taker then realizes they don’t know the information as well as they had thought.

Early in our lives, we are taught the basics of math including multiplication tables from memory. I see my kids do it with a program called Fast Math. It forces them to do as many multiplication questions as quickly as possible. It tests their instincts.

The brain dump for a certification exam like the Project Management Professional (PMP)® from PMI® helps with those instinct items on the exam.

During the first 15 minutes of sitting down to take the test, the computer runs a tutorial that shows you things “like this is a window” and “this is a mouse/cursor” etc. I suggest you begin copying your brain dump on one of the sheets of provided paper when you first sit down. Forget about starting the tutorial. Complete the brain dump and before doing the tutorial. The clock does not begin counting down until you launch the tutorial.

The Crosswind Quick Reference Guide is a two-sided document that is downloadable from our website for free. It’s also part of our Bootcamp Manual and Study System. The Guide contains a wealth of information that ensures you have all the essential items that can be helpful on the PMP Exam. For example, key formulas, process names, etc. Ask yourself this. Do you know the five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? If you paused before answering, then it should be on your brain dump.

The brain dump is challenging at first. You look at it and think about how you are going to get to 15 minutes or less in copying it as a reference on the real exam. You will get out of your comfort zone in doing this. That’s the main way we grow, is to stretch that comfort zone.

In our PMP Exam boot camp, evening and weekend classes, I often show students how I can copy from memory all 47 processes in about one minute and twelve seconds. I do not care if I can read your brain dump, and I do not care if you can read mine. I care if the person that created it can read it. For example, I write Ch, PMP for the processes Develop Project Charter and Develop Project Management Plan. I write SS for Define Scope, which creates a scope statement.

You will likely start out copying down full words and sentences. The more you do it, you will get to the point of determining shortcuts that work for you. That is when you will pick up speed and start to know what is there. We commonly hear from students that they either never looked at their brain dump during their real exam, or they rarely looked at it. In either case, it’s because they had the information bouncing around in their head from doing their brain dump.

Remember, you know that 8 X 9 is NOT 74 because you did the brain dump in learning those multiplication tables. Now it’s time to start your brain dump and get ready for that test.


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