I originally 'grew up' in Seidokan. There, our first (5th kyu) test required simply that we 'demonstrate one technique from each of the following attacks: katate dori, katate kosa dori, ryo katate dori, ryo te muchi, kata dori, ryo kata dori, shomen uchi, yokomen uchi, munets ski, and an ushiro attack of choice.' Each student was allowed to select the techniques he or she felt most comfortable with, and the tests were always an interesting exercise in individual expression. (Subsequent tests just required that you demonstrate two, three, four, etc. techniques from the same attacks.) The interesting thing is that it forced you, at the level of 5th kyu, to put order into your understanding.
In general, the structure of AiKiDo is that there is a limited number of attacks and a limited number of techniques and then different ways of connecting each attack to each technique. Thus, you can get a lot 'conscious understanding' mileage by asking yourself "how do I get from attack X to technique Y." If you can answer this question for all X and Y, you have internalized a lot of the structure. I didn't get there until well past 2nd kyu, and sometimes I wonder if I'm there yet.
When watching demonstrations, this is what you probably want to watch for. First, decide what the attack was. Then, decide what the technique was (Sometimes this is hard than it might seem). Finally, and this is the tricky part, how did the sensei get from X to Y. For that question, the most useful sub-questions involve the legs and hips. Specifically, what steps did he/she take and and which walls was he/she facing. In all, this may not be more than 5 things to remember after you stand up. That may be too much, of course. Like someone else said, make sure you work with advanced students.
As far as randori goes: don't try to do techniques; don't worry about doing the same thing over and over again. Treat it like an extended pushing hands where you are just interested in sensing and feeling your partners and not in making them fall down. The falling part and the techniques will happen on their own, or else they won't but who cares.
Sorry to prattle on.