Karate ranks are divided into two sets, kyu (ranks below black belt) and dan (black belt ranks).
There are eight kyu ranks, eight being the lowest and one being the highest. There are nine dan ranks, one being the lowest and nine being the highest. On rare occasions, an individual of exceptional merit, ability, and achievement may be awarded the rank of tenth dan.
Provided one has practiced sufficiently, one can take a kyu exam every three months. Upon attaining the rank of first kyu, one must wait (and practice!) at least a year before attempting the first dan exam. Not passing an exam is not considered failure in the usual sense. One is simply expected to practice harder and take the exam again. Every serious student has failed a number of exams in his/her career.
Kyu exams are usually given every three months at the Shotokan Karate Club of Maryland, in Randallstown, MD.
Dan exams are given twice a year at the ISKF headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. Exam and rank registration fees must be paid before the date of the exam.