Depends on the culture I guess. It's pretty tough to fail shodan for kendo in Japan but by the time you get to godan the pass rate is around 20% and keeps dropping each dan after until you hit the 1% pass rate at hachidan. People are impressed if you pass first time. People who fail just keep coming back year after year to try again.
i think it depends on the art and dojo quite a bit, i wasn't saying that it was like that in every dojo, just that i could see it being normal, based on some of my experiences there.