yes, you are certainly entitled to know about testing, and considering the large percentage of folks answering the poll, you are not alone in valuing rank. personally, i really like testing--it shows me what i really know, and where my weaknesses are, so each test makes me better
. i would think each school is different, so asking a senior student at your dojo is the best way to know what to expect. Some schools just promote students without tests (a friend of mine came from one like that). Most i think have minimum time training (i.e., months since you started or last tested) and minimum hours of training (usually a day, no matter how many hours, counts as one, but some count each class hour as an hour). these minimums are good to make sure you are not just breezing through in search of rapid rank, but are putting some thought into what you are learning, processing it and making it part of you. i've never heard of a school that tested just in front of the sensei, but i suppose there are some. i think most test in front of the class, often at the end of a regular class, sometimes at a special time, or at a seminar. Some schools tell you (via senior student or sensei) when you are eligible to test, others won't test if you don't ask. some people get bad test jitters or stage fright, so this is what i tell people worried about that: that your sensei wouldn't test you if he/she didn't already think you could pass; you usually get the best ukes in the class for your test uke (what fun!), and you are testing in a room filled with people who care so much about you, and are really pulling for you to do well---how could you go wrong! besides, the worst thing that could happen, is you'd get to test again if you had trouble---in the big scheme of things, with all the terrible things that could go wrong in one's life, how bad is a second chance to show what you know (which, remember, your sensei thinks is a lot or you wouldn't get to test).