Re: How ready should you be for a test?
This is a good topic of discussion, often debated throughout many martial arts organizations. Of course, no responsible teacher should allow a student to test if they are only going to embarrass themselves. I also feel it beneficial for students to understand they must actually work, prepare, and execute to a certain standard for their shinsa. Putting people 'on the spot' and making them perform are key elements that develop one of the more practical benefits aikido has to offer its students...one's self.
If a student is freaking out about testing to the point where s/he can not function during the test and asks the teacher, or is given, a private testing (or the well-known 'secret test during class'), I find that does the student a serious disservice. If a teacher is putting students, with some level of consistency, in difficult situations and forcing them to deal, then that student can potentially let that aspect of their aikido bleed into their real life (where we all live most of the time). I feel testing is a great opportunity to employ this concept. Additionally, it acts as a level of quality control for that particular school, organization, and art. I've found schools where students can actually 'fail' a test often produce some of the best technicians, as well as students who actively apply lessons learned in the dojo, off the mat (I'm talking daily living, not self defense).