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The academy is where would-be ninja start; they are not actually considered ninja until they graduate. Academy students take formal and practical tests of all sorts and are taught the basics. Basic weapon usage, such as kunai and shuriken, is commonly taught. Elementary ninja techniques, though they vary from village to village, are also taught. These include the Transformation Technique, Rope Escape Technique, Body Replacement Technique and the Clone Technique.
Upon graduating, students receive a special band of fabric with a metal bar bearing the symbol of their village (which can be worn in many ways). It is commonly referred to as a "forehead protector" or hitai-ate. Some villages also have an additional test given by the Jonin sensei of each three-man squad to see if they are truly ready to graduate. To ensure that only truly qualified ninja are promoted. The test for determining which three teams may become Genin are administered by each team's respective Jonin commander, and vary depending on the Jonin. Those who fail their test are sent back to the academy.
What is required for graduation varies from academy to academy. In Konohagakure, the graduation exam is comprised of some sort of written test, as well as knowledge of basic techniques. Kirigakure for it's male students once had a life-or-death duel as its graduation exam, but following an unfortunate incident in which Zabuza Momochi murdered all of the graduating class before he qualified, this practice was suspended in favor of more acceptable methods.