Our club's ranking system (from lowest to highest level) is as follows:
A student starts at the level of 10th kyu as a beginner with no belt. Any level before black is called a "kyu", whereas any level of black belt is called a "dan". 1st level black belt is therefore called shodan ("sho" indicates 1st in Japanese). The number corresponding to the level counts down until black belt and then as the student progresses through different dan levels, the number goes up.
In total, a student must take 9 exams in order to earn their black belt. The exams start when going from 9th kyu (white belt) to 8th kyu (yellow belt) and from that point on an exam is given each time a student is ready to progress to a higher level.