The same question would apply to any of the other hunt test venues. I ask because I read post all the time where a newbie is told he should just train for Master. Perhaps the poster is recommending a newbie train to a higher standard then running the lower level, I would agree with that. My answer to my own question is that it depends. For more advanced trainers and handlers, folks who have titled dogs at the higher level, it probably makes sence to just train for Master and run that, but for newbies, I feel there is great value in working your way up the ladder.
I totally lucked out with my first dog, he was very birdy, a better than average marker and quite tractable, all without being so high powered he was prone to break. I went to my first hunt test without any idea what was involved, but I had trained with a local guy and hunted my dog quite a bit, so my dog Kimo knew to sit steady, mark a single, retrieve it and return to hand. Anyway the wife and I drove over to Spokane looking for some Polo field or open stadium where this "hunt test" would be held. Following the Eukenuba hunt test signs we ended up way out of town out in the boonies. As I parked my pick-up and walked up to a guy to see if we were in the right spot, they asked my name, found out I was dog #1 and told me to air my dog and get in the holding blind, yikes!
I guess the good news is I didn't have any time to get nervous, was totally nieve to all the pitfalls that could sink us and had a smart, steady dog who loved birds. We ran back to back singles and I remember Gary Erickson, the judge showing me my score card with a smile, two tens. We went on to earn two ribbons that first weekend and drove home on cloud nine. After that I was more dedicated to training and now knew what to expect. As I worked my way through NAHRA Started and AKC Senior, I gained "line time", watched a lot of dogs and between those dogs and my own, became more experienced in what can go wrong and what to do about it. I continued to advance my dog in training, so by the time I had titled in Junior I was ready for Senior. One huge advantage I had was training with Jim Mitchell who was a very good dog guy who knew what was involved at the higher levels.
We breezed through Senior in four straight, but hit a road block at Master. The step up to Master was a way-way bigger step than going from Junior to Senior. It took another year of training before we were consitant enough to pass Master test and Kimo earned that MH. My point is that for me the work-your-way-up-the-ladder approach was perfect. It allowed Kimo and I to experience success, earn ribbons and titles, believe me, a NAHRA Started or AKC Junior title and certificate is a big deal to the newbie, all in a step by step process.
Since Kimo I have switched over to field trails and have become a much better trainer. Now I probably would just jump to Master with a two year old dog fresh out of transition, but I would recommend the step by step process for the newbie dog guy.