In the gurukulam i.e Vedic pAthashAla in this case, there is a sequential method of learning vedas. The focus is mainly on chanting/reciting them as per the proper siksha (part of vedAnga).
Periodical exams are conducted at the paathashaala in order to ascertain the progress of students. After checking the fluency in chanting they are promoted to the next level of chanting and so on.
The various pathas or recitation styles are designed to allow the
complete and perfect memorization of the text and its pronunciation,
including the Vedic pitch accent. Eleven such ways of reciting the
Vedas were designed - Samhita, Pada, Krama, Jata, Maalaa, Sikha,
Rekha, Dhwaja, Danda, Rathaa, Ghana, of which Ghana is usually
considered the most difficult.
The students are first taught to memorize the Vedas using simpler
methods like continuous recitation (samhita patha), word by word
recitation (pada patha) in which compounds (sandhi) are dissolved and
krama patha (words are arranged in the pattern of ab bc cd ...);
before teaching them the eight complex recitation styles.
A pathin is a scholar who has mastered the pathas. Thus, a
ghanapaathin has learnt the chanting of the scripture up to the
advanced stage of ghana. The Ghanapatha mode of chanting is so called
because the words are repeated back and forth in a bell shape. The
sonority natural to Vedic chanting is enhanced in Ghana. In Jatapatha,
the words are braided together, so to speak, and recited back and
The samhita, pada and krama pathas can be described as the natural
recitation styles or prakrutipathas. The remaining 8 modes of chanting
are classified as complex recitation styles or Vikrutipathas as they
involve reversing of the word order. The backward chanting of words
does not alter the meanings in the Vedic (Sanskrit) language.
Apart from this they also have other lessons like purAnas and vedAngas including vyakarana (grammar). So those not able to chant vedas could learn other shastras where chanting is not necessary.
Even today the vedic gurukulas have exams and they have topper (gold medalist) etc. I know a person in Bombay who was topper in his class while learning samhita. After completing the studies they are awarded the respective certificates.