|This is the article on the kind of exams. If you are looking for the article on the story arc, head to Chūnin Exam Arc.|
To become a chūnin, a genin participates in a wide-scale examination, known as the Chūnin Selection Exams, with their team. Despite Kakashi Hatake claiming earlier that all three members of a cell are required to participate together, it may be assumed that a genin does not necessarily have to undertake the exam along with their team-mates under circumstances since Sakura Haruno succeeded in becoming a chūnin during the time-skip with her teammates Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha both being absent during the period, and because Shikamaru Nara was already a chūnin when Chōji Akimichi and Ino Yamanaka took the exam during the time-skip. The only exam seen in the series is a three-stage exam held in Konohagakure.
At least in Konoha, the Chūnin Selection Exams take part in three different stages, all means of testing genin in having the necessary skills and judgment required to become a chūnin and thinning out those who aren't skilled enough. The test can differ from year to year, so the specific details for each task may differ.
- The first stage (proctored by Ibiki Morino) is a written test, which includes difficult questions related to different ninja subjects, and it is designed to be too difficult to be answered by a normal genin. It checks information gathering and decision-making abilities, because, to pass, the participants must find a reliable source of information, then discreetly cheat off them without getting caught by the watchful sentinels. As such, the sentinels place chūnins within the mass to provide a reliable source to cheat off of. However, extremely intelligent ninjas can solve such questions without resorting to such, the prominent example being Sakura Haruno. During the first stage in the tenth and final question, the genin are told that if they fail the question they'll be forbidden to enter the exam again, but they can leave now and try another year. It tests their resolve and willingness to take risks, and if they decide to stay, they immediately pass. All three members of a team must pass this section of the exam in order to advance. In the anime, where it is stated that Ibiki Morino had proctored the exams before, it was revealed that he had selected different scenarios for the tenth question, with different solutions, such as giving the choice of either quitting and having the whole squad fail or continuing and having the lowest scoring member of the squad be forced to remain a genin forever (solution is to quit, rather than sacrifice squad members for personal gain).
- The second stage (proctored by Anko Mitarashi) tests the abilities of accomplishing a mission and real life survival skills without a sensei, as the participants are locked within a dangerous training area and asked to survive five days without outside help. They are also required to obtain two different scrolls: Scroll of Heaven (天の書, Ten no Sho) and Scroll of Earth (地の書, Chi no Sho) in order to move on to the third stage, forcing them to fight one another and hold on to their own. Kabuto also mentioned that it is possible for teams to gather multiple copies of scrolls to trade for information from other teams about the strength and abilities of other villages, to give them to other ninja from their own village, or simply to reduce the number of scrolls available, and thus the number of teams reaching the next stage. All three members of a team must pass this section of the exam in order to advance.
- The third and final stage (proctored by Genma Shiranui, originally supposed to be Hayate Gekkō) consists of tournament-like fights between those remainders who passed the previous two stages, observed by a council of daimyō and village ninja that decides who becomes a Chūnin and who does not. This exam takes place one month after the second phase, to allow the participants to prepare themselves.
While the winners are able to proceed to fight the next opponent, aptitude, rather than winning, is evaluated to determine whether a candidate is promoted; for example, Shikamaru Nara forfeits his first match but is still promoted because of his strategic aptitude. This way, anyone who makes it to the third stage of the Exams has a chance to become chūnin. However, it is also possible for none of the candidates to become chūnin if the judges believe that they do not have appropriate qualifications. Those who win and advance to the next round have more chances to show their aptitude.
Preliminaries may also be held if too many ninja teams reach the end. In the Chūnin Exam Arc, seven teams, an unusually high number, completed the second phase of the test. The losers in this extra round cannot participate in the final tournament and thus cannot be considered for promotion to chūnin. From this point on, team members no longer need to all pass their respective battles in order for their comrades to advance.
Originally in Konoha, the Chūnin Selection Exams went through three rounds, each similar to the current. The primary difference between the two is that the Second Round in the Forest of Death consisted of regulated matches, making it significantly safer. This is presumably due to the Chūnin Exam having only held ninja from Konoha as opposed to the other villages. The phases are also monitored by the Hokage and the competing team's jōnin leaders.
- First Phase: While nothing is known about the original first test, it is presumably similar to the written test used during Konoha's later examinations.
- Second Phase: Team Matches (proctored by Kurenai Yūhi's Father) The second stage consisted of regulated, pre-choosen matches in the Forest of Death.
- Third Phase: Individual Matches: The original third stage works nearly identically to the one used in the Chūnin Exam Arc except that it appears to follow a bracket style, meaning a competitor may have to defeat more than one opponent.
In the non-canon ninth Naruto OVA, Gaara hosts a Chūnin examination to help find more potential Chūnin candidates to take part in the Fourth Shinobi World War. It was commented by Temari that the examination style was irregular for this reason. Like Konoha's chūnin examinations, it appears to be stage based. Use of senjutsu was made against the rules during the exam due to it being an unfair advantage Naruto Uzumaki would possess.
- A preliminary stage is shown in which many genin are locked into a large empty and dangerous fenced off desert space known as Drill Area or the Demonic Sea for an unknown amount of time. The desert space's only known inhabitants appears to be large carnivorous bugs. Aside from this no known plants, animals or rocks are known to exist. The purpose of this phase appears to be similar to Konoha's second test, though it is unknown if one progresses from it in the same manner.
- The final stage of the exam consists of 1 on 1 Battles in which the winner becomes chūnin. The stage is held on the edge of the Desert Space in a large arena. This stage seems to follow similar rules to Konoha's optional preliminary stage while still remaining similar to their final portion.
In the past, each village held their own chūnin exam. After the Third Ninja World War, allied ninja villages agreed to hold the exams together at the selected village that would host the exam. This was done to improve relations between the villages and prevent war between them. Another advantage is that ninja that took the exam might attract clients who are interested in hiring them. Because of the growing number of ninja in each village, the exams are hosted twice every year. The exams are also used as a gambling device and during the Invasion of Konoha, Sunagakure and Otogakure used the exam to their advantage to declare war against Konohagakure.
- According to Kabuto, during the first Chūnin Exams seen in the anime and manga, the number of participants from different villages were as follows:
- In the first Naruto OVA, Kakashi mentioned that in the past, genin went to Akagahara with the dream to become the best ninja and those who returned safely were accepted as chūnin.
- Although there are Getsugakure ninja shown in the first stage, they are not mentioned.
- In the non-canon ninth Naruto OVA, use of senjutsu was against the rules during the exam due to it being an unfair advantage.
- In the Land of Tea Arc, during an escort mission, it is revealed that the first exam proctor, Ibiki Morino, failed his younger brother Idate Morino for risking the future of his squad.
- Years earlier, the Chūnin proctors were matched against each other; Anko was matched against Hayate and Ibiki.
- During the first Chūnin Exams seen in the anime, if you freeze frame on the machine that randomly picks names, the matchups that it flashes can be used to see who fights who before it happens.