I was well prepared for the exam in March. Then Corona came. The IHK midterm exam was cancelled and postponed to September. Motivation lost or motivation gained?

The IHK midterm exam for mechatronics trainees

From the very first day of training we knew: The IHK midterm will take place in March 2020 and perhaps separate the wheat from the chaff. The midterm exam is an important milestone for us mechatronics trainees. We can prove ourselves as apprentices, but the fear of failure or a poor final exam always lingers. So from the very beginning, our training was divided into two phases – before the midterm exam and afterwards.

Accordingly, I prepared intensively for the theoretical part of the midterm exam, although I have long working days. I get up at five o’clock in the morning because my working day begins at seven o’clock and I have almost an hour’s train ride and walk from my home to Cologne-Poll. Every working day – except Fridays – I am on the road for eleven hours. In the evenings I am therefore often too tired and exhausted to study and focus.


The intensive learning phase – no pain, no gain

About four months before the exam in November 2019 I started using the weekends. I set up a comfortable workplace at home where I could leave everything. With enough coffee and enough sleep, I reworked the theoretical topics we had covered in the training workshop on Saturday and/or Sunday and marked them in our textbooks with sticky notes. Over time, the textbook became more and more colorful and thicker because of all the markings.

In addition, I have summarized the topics in my own words and systematically filed them in a learning folder. During the week I used the morning train rides to memorize the summaries. I always have the feeling that I have to do a bit more, because especially the technical language is difficult for me as a Syrian.

There are real “word monsters” like “Automatisierungstechnik” (automation technology). In addition, the training as a mechatronics technician covers the fields of metal technology, electrical engineering, security technology, and information processing. A lot of material, many tables, many formulas…

Goodbye motivation: Everything over because of Corona?

The practical part of the midterm exam, on the other hand, caused me less headaches. Before I started my training at TÜV Rheinland, I was able to complete a six-month introductory qualification in the TÜV training workshop.

An introductory qualification is an internship that is subject to social insurance contributions and prepares for an apprenticeship. Here I was already introduced to the corresponding training contents.
The introductory qualification showed me that the training suits me because I have the practical skills and interest in the profession. I was able to try out many things before the training even started. I still benefit from this today.

Due to the continuous learning since November, I was really motivated for the midterm exam. I wanted to show myself and also our trainers that I really understood what we had worked out together in practice and theory. But then came Corona. And shortly after that, the message to us trainees: the midterm exam in 14 days cannot take place because of the high incidence of infections. The exam was postponed until September. That was a real slap in the face. Of course I understand that we were not allowed to be exposed to the risk of infection. And of course health always has priority. But my examination schedule was ruined. And my motivation was pretty much nonexistent.


Misfortune rarely comes alone

As a compensation, the practical work during the TÜV operation was really good for me. What being worked on in the various departments provides interesting insights. Also for the time after the training.

Back in the training workshop, we continued with the training plan and learned new things. I tried to put aside the mid-term exam and the feeling of having learned for nothing.

Little by little I realized that what I had once learned could be brought out again. After I had retrieved my notes, the things I had learned also came back to me. In July I started my learning routine again on the weekends and during the morning train rides. And so the motivation returned bit by bit before the next setback came: My backpack with all my books, all my markings and all my notes was stolen. For a moment I thought: I can’t handle this. Without my notes I won’t be able to pass the theoretical exam in three weeks. But after a minor panic attack, I had to get back on track. Carry on.

Feeling motivated: We tackle it together

In September, the exam was finally due. We were all a bit nervous during the theoretical exam. Time was short. And I was a bit annoyed afterwards because I had made a stupid mistake. But the practical exam one week later was a complete success. In the final result I got 82 out of 100 points. My trainee colleagues and I all made it. We are all satisfied. If you had asked me beforehand what I wanted from the midterm exam, I would have said: that we all made it. And for me, I would have hoped for a good performance in the two-point range. All my wishes have come true.

At this point I would like to thank our trainers. And here I speak for our entire class of trainees: Your support is really great. I have the feeling that I always have someone to talk to about my problems and concerns. That’s certainly not a given, but at our training workshop it is. And yes, of course – meticulous and precise work pays off. Our systems during the practical test looked perfect.

Keep moving on – large steps towards the final examination

The first thing I learned after the exam was that the time afterwards was really good. We celebrated, ate cake and laughed about many things during the two weeks of the exam. On the weekend I woke up and was relieved not to have to sit at my desk.

But soon a new phase for our apprentice year began: AFTER the intermediate exam is BEFORE the final exam. One step has been taken and the next challenge is already coming. But I am sure: We will manage. All together. And despite Corona.


Kutaiba Brghol

Kutaiba Brghol

Mechatronics Apprentice

Kutaiba Brghol fled from Syria to Germany in 2016. After completing his language and entry qualification, he has been an apprentice mechatronics technician at TÜV Rheinland since summer 2018. Good food is important and nobody cooks as well as Mom. My career tip for you is: No one is born a master.

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