Preparing for and sitting examsin the Wholesale and Foreign Trade sector

February 25th, 2021


What is it like to complete an apprenticeship as an Assistant in Wholesale and Foreign Trade, including an additional qualification in International Business Management, at Rutronik?

“When I started my apprenticeship, I first received my individual training schedule. So, I basically knew which departments I would become acquainted with during my training. The actual apprenticeship is divided into working and discovering all about the various departments of the company and attending lessons at the local vocational training college. In the various departments, you get to know the teams, learn what Rutronik’s business model is and actively work on projects. The overall aim of attending college is to pass the final exams at the end of the course. To get an impression of what the final exam situation might look like, you have to sit mid-term exams halfway through your course. In the end, you sit the written final exam in Business Administration, Management and Controlling and General Economics. And seeing as I completed an additional qualification in International Business Management, I also had to learn for the subjects English, Spanish, Controlling and Foreign Trade. In Business Administration, I had to engage in a proper discussion on the topic, and for the additional qualification I had to prepare a talk on foreign trade in English and present it to the examiners.”

How did you prepare for the exams?

“When it came to the mid-term exams, we were basically thrown in at the deep end! In principle, they can test you on anything from the whole three years, but at the time of the exams we were still in our first year of training. That’s why it’s impossible to prepare for it 100% and you should see the result more as an indicator of your current strengths and weaknesses.

We all bought an exam revision book for the college lessons and also went through some of the exercises in the book with our teachers. Preparing for the exam also meant doing a lot of revision at home by yourself; and seeing as I chose to do the two-and-a-half-year course, I had to learn more theoretical knowledge in a shorter period of time. In addition, things were made even more difficult by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as we had no college lessons at all for quite some time and the teachers had trouble giving us things to do. That said, they did everything they could to provide us with links and old exam papers to ensure we still had a chance to revise properly. Personally, I started going through all my notes four months before the final exams and watching revision videos. Luckily, I’d also been able to gain a lot from the college lessons, and this allowed me to work quickly through the units again at home.

I found the IHK preparatory course really beneficial! We met up a total of fourteen times during which we gradually worked through the various topics and main subjects. This course enabled us to ask specific questions, as the number of participants was much smaller than in a normal college class. It definitely helped me to improve in certain areas where I lacked a bit of confidence and to also overcome some of my fears about the exams. In the last lesson, we focused on the actual exam situation and how to deal with any black-outs and nervousness before exams. The course gave me an idea of what I’d be facing and this obviously helped calm my nerves before the exams.”

To what extent did the knowledge gained in the various departments help you prepare for the exams?

“In addition to the support from the preparatory course and the college, working and discovering all about the various departments of the company definitely helped me to prepare better for the final exams. For instance, I frequently came into contact with foreign trade topics in the Import/Export department and was thus able to directly link the theoretical knowledge from the college lessons with my practical experience, especially when preparing customs documents. Assignments in the Sales and Product Marketing departments helped develop my understanding of Rutronik’s business model and to internalise business administration topics. Working in the Accounts department definitely prepared me well for the Management and Controlling exam.”

Did the whole exam procedure go the way you had expected it to?

“Our teachers at college had more or less explained to us how the exams would be conducted. We therefore knew what to expect and were also able to prepare for it with the help of textbooks and old exam papers. The additional qualification didn’t go the way I’d hoped, basically because I was a little vague about its structure and I was the first to be examined and thus extremely nervous. I thought they’d ask us about the topics we’d also discussed at college, but in the end, I had to talk about tourism and not a business-related topic for which I would’ve been better prepared.”

How did you feel before the exams?

The nearer the exams were getting, the more anxious I was becoming about everything I’d learned. I was becoming more and more nervous as each day passed, going over everything in my mind and thinking about whether I’d forgotten anything for the exam. The excellent team spirit among the Rutronik apprentices meant that nobody felt alone with the situation, but rather that they could master it together!”

To what extent did coronavirus impact your exam preparations?

“Unfortunately, only three of us were able to meet up at any given time to revise for the exams, when in fact, we would’ve preferred to study as a group of six. When the restrictions became even stricter, we started meeting up via Webex with the six of us splitting up into three teams of two going through the exercises and explaining the topics to each other. If someone understood a topic better, they explained it to the others who still had questions.

Due to coronavirus, we didn’t have any proper lessons at college for three or four months and therefore had to learn a lot of things on our own. Furthermore, if you just stare at a screen all day, your motivation levels drop and it’s obviously harder to motivate yourself to study.”

Tips for future apprentices:

  1. Communicate openly with your colleagues and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear.
  2. Start revising and preparing for your exams in good time.
  3. Have a flexible approach to situations and always keep a cool head, even in difficult situations.