Re: Quick Test vs Slow Test
When I was testing for kyu ranks, having the test coming up really helped motivate me to get to the dojo and rack up my training days on the mat. I don't think I would have pushed myself as hard if I weren't working towards a test. After tests, I would generally slack off a little, but not too much.
After my shodan test, with nidan uncountable years in the future, I wound up taking some time off to do things I'd been wanting to do for years, but had put off in part because I needed to get to aikido regularly (a longish saililng trip, travel to lands of no aikido, etc.). Getting back into regular practice was tough, and I'm not even quite sure I've done it yet. There have been some changes in my dojo and the organizational structure outside of the dojo, and my relationship to aikido has definitely changed, and is still in a bit of a limbo.
That was a bit of a digression, but I guess the point is that for me, working towards tests was a good structure which seems to have pretty much outlived its usefulness. Sure, the nidan and sandan tests might still be ahead of me, but I'm not really feeling driven towards training for them, they're so far off in the future, and to me they seem less specific in their goals than the earlier tests.