Re: Poll: Was your chief instructor present for your last aikido exam?
For our Dojo. The Senior instructor has to be present and grade for 1st Kyu + gradings, which for us includes 2 gradings before you take Shodan and 4 more before you can take Nidan. Sensei not only does the gradings he gives you individual feedback on the (numerous) things you need to work on.
For the Junior grade gradings their is a great failsafe in that the grading instructor has to be able to explain to Sensei why he graded X