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 simple kunai and shuriken throws, are 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, Clone Technique, Exploding Tag: Activate, Cloak of Invisibility 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, and 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.
Graduation requirements vary from academy to academy. In Konoha, the graduation exam is comprised of some sort of written test, as well as knowledge of basic techniques. At one point, the exam in Kirigakure was a life-or-death battle between all male students, with the winners graduating. Zabuza Momochi murdered all of the graduating class before he qualified, thus this practice was suspended in favor of more acceptable (and less depopulating) methods.