I haven't read this entire thread yet...I'll go back sometime today and do that. But I did notice the following:
In the same way, I think it reasonable that if someone feels "performance anxiety" for their first exam, they shouldn't feel the same degree of anxiety for their fifth exam. If they do, I suspect there is a coaching problem.
I'm not sure I follow this. Each test should indeed make you more and more comfortable with the testing process in general...but each test should also be progressively harder. More material required, different material required (weapons, paired weapons, more uke, etc.), a higher standard for the techniques, even the shite waza. So, for instance, while the general nervousness of testing itself becomes easier and easier to handle, the amount of specific material and the level of overall difficulty should be increasing enough to keep the preasure on.
In my experience, there were certain tests where a lot of focus was placed on increasing that preasure, just to be sure I was ready for that level. Now, I know that some dojo rarely if ever fail students in the testing environment. That was not the case where I came up...I failed one of my tests, and know many others who did as well. In fact, I was with someone this weekend who failed his shodan exam twice. 'course, he came up under an old school yoshinkan instructor, one who was known for being extremely picky about dan examinations.
There is the veiw point that the instructor shouldn't put the student up unless they know they will pass...but somehow that (to me) lets the student off the hook a bit.