So I am just curious to know if most dojos expect students to spend time outside of class to prepare for testing.
Well, I cant tell you the intent of our instructor - but I can give you a perspective from my experience.
Interestingly enough there is not really any structure, per say.
Not that this is good or bad - but as far as preparing for an exam and knowing what material will be covered on your test...it can be frustrating.
As I pointed out in my thread on Yokomenuchi, there were many techniques for my past test that just were not covered in class, at least not till the last moment. And even then, there was not a high concentration on preparing for the examine.
I will say that I am thankful that he gave me the opportunity to have a private session videotaped, covering material for my exam, otherwise I would not have known the techniques for my exam.
Of course, the other problem is training - one thing to have it on tape, but how do you go about getting used to a new technique without a partner and just in pure kata?
Luckily for me, I have 4 kids - one of them is about tall enough to practice shihonage on, etc.
(I thank my kids for their enthusiasm and willingness to help their pappa - without them, I would not have passed the exam...)
A lot depends, on the end, on your goal.
Some people are fine learning 2 techniques in 2 years... to 'perfect them'. Others like the spontaneous nature of not knowing what is next, even if you only cover 1 or two moves - and they believe testing is useless, for the most part.
For me, testing is used for my own behalf as a means of rewarding myself at different levels that Im am happy to be at. This training in Aikido is a personal journey, as is life.
Personally, Im the guy that likes to see the outline, and set up a goal to reach. So, I have had to adapt a bit to how things are done at my dojo - also, learning in a language that is not my own, Hungarian, has been a challenge as well. (Im learning about ego and martial arts.)