It seems a silly question, but there are lots of GD organisations out there which are carrying out initiations which cannot have had more than a psychological effect on candidates.
1. Were you present for the initiation? For a long time there was a scam where a group made you a distance member by conducting “an astral initiation.” It meant that a team of officers initiated your name on a list. There is absolutely no tradition of this in the GD and those who have been “astrally initiated” show no signs that such a ritual has taken place.
2. Did the initiation take place roped together with a group of other candidates? While the AO did this, it is not possible to seriously initiate a candidate alongside another. The ritual requires elements representing the candidate to be moved and other things to happen to the sphere of sensation which are impossible during a group working.
3. Did the ritual involve Godforms? It might be hard to tell but many Golden Dawn groups do the ritual masonicaly ie without God forms or an inner temple. The 0=0 ritual without an astral layer makes no sense at all. Golden Dawn hierophants were given a manual which contained the basic visualisation for the 0=0 and Mathers wrote a bare outline for the grade initiations for groups to effectively write their own. However, few modern GD groups place any emphasis on the Godforms and even fewer have plans for the elemental grades.
4. Were you given a 5=6 grade in a vault? A vault is the hardest item of equipment for a group to make. However, without it there is no 5=6 GD initiation. Further, if your Hierophant has not been initiated into a vault, they have not been given the necessary magical current to initiate into the outer order so their outer order is suspect.
5. Was the ritual complete or did it lack some vital components? There is a myth that you can pass on any grade by only performing part of the ritual. Again this was done by the AO and I spent the best part of my Mather’s Last Secret book pointing out that Mathers should have known better. The Z documents describe an alchemical recipe for initiation which must be followed. It is possible add sections to the initiations but they cannot be cut.
6. Did the group do the elemental grades? Israel Regardie did not understand the elemental grades and when he trained people he said they were not important. He thought that you just needed to do the elemental pentagrams instead. Unfortunately no one who ever bypassed the elemental grades went on to become a GD magician of note (and some were outright crazy). The elemental grades when done properly are hugely powerful and form the basis for all serious magical work later in life.
7. Where there others in the room? While Self Initiation in the Golden Dawn is a tremendous book and can help people obtain impressive results, you cannot initiate yourself into the Golden Dawn. What you have done is use the golden dawn symbolism and versions of the rituals to get a similar effect. You are not connected to any order or group and the effects will depend on your personal ability and experience as a magician. You cannot claim any grade in any group and if you join an order you will have to start from the 0=0. It is better than nothing and very often will attract you to a real order but it still will not make you a member of the Golden Dawn.