Great to hear from you both how gradings are conducted in other dojo, given the freedoms with grading in our organisation its good to hear of the rigour and various sensei's thoughts on examination day.
Given the grading syllabus is completely freestyle after 2nd Kyu its not so surprising that sensei might like to see individualism emerge, as well as to request some techniques that haven't been demonstrated in the freestyle tanninzugake.
Probably the only real concerning aberrations are in the interpretation of weapons Kata, that can get a bit on the fruity (or static) for that matter.
I remember Sensei Williams saying something along the lines that he liked how peoples individual Aikido personality starts to come out in the Ni/Sandan test.
As for the weapons kata I must say I have noticed a lot of variation, "fruity" now there is a good word. Its one area I've tried to get a handle on (I even remember chatting to you a little about it one time you were in Melbourne). I spent a day at seminar where Mruyama sensei called me out for a lot of weapons demonstrations, I learnt a lot that day, even if mostly what I learn't is how much more there is to learn.