First Look: PMP Brain Dump & the Virtual Whiteboard in the Online Proctored PMP Exam

Updated: May 11

Recently, the PM-Pros interviewed 7 PM-ProLearn graduates who are now newly minted Project Management Professionals, to get their thoughts about the new Virtual Whiteboard in the OnVUE Online Proctored PMP Exam. Here’s what we learned from them:



  1. The Virtual Whiteboard is arguably the biggest and scariest change in testing procedure if you want to take advantage of the online virtual PMP testing option. When taking the online exam, you are not allowed to have any paper, pencils, or calculator out on your desk or within arm’s reach, and the test proctor glaring at you through your webcam makes sure of that. This makes writing the traditional PMP “Brain Dump” a bit more difficult at best, or at worst, an insurmountable obstacle for anyone not savvy with technology. Of the PMPs we interviewed, three of them created a modified brain dump on their virtual whiteboard, but two of them abandoned it altogether. The ones that abandoned it did so in the interest of conserving time to answer questions rather than trying to figure out the whiteboard controls. Regardless of their chosen method, all of them managed to pass the exam.

  2. At PM-ProLearn, we have interviewed hundreds successful PMPs, and even some testers who did not pass, and we noticed something interesting from these 7 interviews: These test-takers only felt the need to write something down for just a few questions. They were able to pass the PMP Exam without mapping out numerous Project Schedule Network Diagrams, working out multi-step Earned Value math calculations, or deciphering the number of communication channels on a project after a scope change increased the team by 20%. So, we are starting to question if the Project Management Institute (PMI) has lowered the complexity of those types of questions to mitigate the loss of access to paper and pencil. It is too early to tell if that is the case, but the first several data points from online testers are starting to trend that way.

  3. The virtual whiteboard came as a surprise to most of these initial virtual test-takers, and several of them only found out about it when they logged into the OnVUE testing environment. Not a cool way to start a very stressful exam! So, since you are reading this article, you don’t need to worry about that one because you will be expecting it.

  4. The idea of having a touch-screen and stylus to write directly on the virtual board is great! Only, the testing proctor will not allow you to have a stylus. So, the only way to work with the virtual whiteboard is with your mouse and keypad.

  5. To actually write text on the whiteboard, you can drag and create a text box with your mouse and then type into it with your keypad. The “notepad” application on most computers is a similar interface, and one of our interviewees practiced with that several days prior to his PMP exam. He said it was a “95% resemblance to how the text will appear on the exam virtual whiteboard”. Using the notepad, he was able to figure out how to use the spacebar to line things up for recreating the process framework chart that most PMP testers are familiar with from page 25 of the PMBOK 6th Ed.

  6. All of them recommended practicing your full brain dump on paper in order to remember the information from repetition, and then use the virtual whiteboard for just the very important items you may still want in front of you on the exam.

  7. The virtual whiteboard, calculator, exam questions, and your self-video all appear on the same screen. You can move those items around and access them all at the same time in one application. The windows do tend to cover each other up, and so you may want to close them out of view for efficiency when not needed. If you close out the virtual whiteboard window, it will remain there whenever you reopen it throughout the exam.

  8. One of the testers we interviewed had a technical issue that reset his connection in the middle of the test. When the proctor was able to get the test going again, his whiteboard was blank and everything he had written there was gone.

To see the full video interview, click here


While the virtual whiteboard is a big change to the PMP Exam in the online testing format, it is something you can overcome just like Project Managers do – we solve problems and relentlessly pursue success!


For more discussion on this topic visit our Forum New Best Practices for "Digital" Brain Dumps and get involved in the conversation and register to talk live with these interviewees on May 14th during our webinar event How to Do the PMP Brain Dump Using the Virtual Whiteboard


The PMPs who we interviewed for this article:


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