Facts and suggestions on leading effective boards of review

Few parts of the advancement program confuse Boy Scout and Varsity Scout leaders more than the board of review. Here’s a primer on keeping a key step in the advancement process from becoming a stumbling block. Advancement FAQs Board of Reviews

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE BOARD OF REVIEW? To determine the quality of the Scout’s experience and decide if he is qualified to advance to the next rank. Boards of review are also used when awarding Eagle Palms.

WHEN IS THE BOARD OF REVIEW HELD? When a Scout believes he has completed all the requirements for a rank or Palm, he must be granted a board of review. Ideally, boards should be scheduled at least monthly so Scouts aren’t delayed in beginning time-oriented requirements for their next rank. A unit leader can’t “defer” a board for a Scout he or she thinks isn’t ready, nor can he or she ask a Scout to perform beyond the requirements in order to be granted a board.

WHO SITS ON THE BOARD? The board consists of three to six unit committee members (or, for the Eagle Scout rank, three to six adults who understand the rank, purpose and importance of the review). A candidate’s unit leader, assistant unit leaders and parents or guardians may not sit on his board, although the unit leader may attend as an observer. If three or fewer unit committee members are available, the unit may use knowledgeable parents or other adults who understand Scouting’s aims — but this must be the exception, not the rule.

HOW LONG SHOULD IT LAST? For Tenderfoot through Life, approximately 15 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes; for Eagle, 30 to 45 minutes.

CAN THE BOARD RETEST? The board should ensure that the candidate has completed the requirements, but members may not retest him. It is not acceptable, for example, to ask a candidate to tie knots.

SO WHAT CAN MEMBERS ASK? Members might ask the candidate where he learned his skills, who taught him and what he gained from fulfilling the requirements. Other good questions would explore how he has lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law in his home, unit, school and community. The Troop Committee Guidebook, No. 34505, has examples of appropriate questions.

DOES THE SCOUT HAVE TO APPEAR IN UNIFORM? Full field uniform is preferred. However, if appearing in uniform is impractical, the candidate should be clean and neat in his appearance.

HOW DOES THE BOARD MAKE ITS DECISION? Typically, the board will ask the candidate to leave the room at the end of the meeting while they discuss his responses. It is appropriate to call the candidate back if additional questions may provide clarification. After discussion, the board takes a formal or informal vote. The board must agree unanimously. To approve awarding a rank or Palm, the board must agree unanimously.

WHAT ABOUT APPEALS? The Guide to Advancement (No. 33088) outlines the process by which a Scout or his parent or guardian may appeal the decision of the board of review. Only adverse decisions for Star, Life and Eagle may be appealed. The local council handles Star and Life appeals; the National Council handles Eagle.

HOW DO EAGLE BOARDS DIFFER? In addition to the slight differences noted here, the council advancement committee determines whether Eagle boards are held at the unit, district or council level. (If held at the unit level, at least one district or council representative must serve on the board.) Also, an Eagle board may not be held until after the council has verified the candidate’s application with the local council service center.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, see the 2013 Guide to Advancement (No. 33088), which is available online at bit.ly/guidetoadvancement.


    • CAN THE BOARD RETEST? The board should ensure that the candidate has completed the requirements, but members may not retest him. It is not acceptable…

        this is an incorrect statement as the board of review is not a testing session but a review session.

      • See my response below. Meantime, I agree about the board not retesting as a decision point. Reminding scouts of basics is not retesting. We are there to make sure his book is correct and jives with his troop records. Further we are trying to be sensitive enough to hear when something is out of order (YPT)always vigilant.

  1. The Scoutmaster through the SMC should have already vetted out all concerns before a Board of Review. No, you cannot re-test a Scout. If the Scout is lacking and he does not pass that board, give him immediate reasons why and what he can do to pass next time he comes before the board.

    If the Board finds a trend in the lack of skills or other areas, then something is wrong within how the Troop trains and signs off on achivement. You will have a larger issue than just that one Scout.

  2. The Board of Review is also used to evaluate the unit’s program. As we are all aware, advancement is a natural by-product of the unit’s quality program. A unit that promotes Scouting skills through experiential learning, using the EDGE method, then providing opportunities through outdoor activities and events, reinforces the notion of the four stages of Boy Scout advancement:

    * The Scout Learns (and not in a classroom setting but during interpatrol games, on that hike, or campout!!!)

    * The Scout is Tested (in the field, on a campout, on a hike, interpatrol competitions, but not mimicing the skill back in a classroom setting!),

    * The Scout is Reviewed (Scoutmaster Conference not by retesting him, but asking him how Johhny Instructor did in teaching him the skill, leading to passing the requirement, and the board of review asking him about his overall experience in the troop and how he acquired the skills resulting in passing the requirements)

    * The Scout is Recognized (immediately at the end of the troop meeting, then presenting his cloth badge at the next meeting, then presenting his card(s) and possibly pin(s) at the next court of honor).

  3. We also use the BOR as an opportunity to get feedback from individual scouts as to how they feel the troop is operating, whether there are any issues that need to be addressed, what we can do to make the experience better, etc.

  4. Such wishy washy politically correct language does an injustice to our volunteersand the Scout… We should seek to change the language a bit.. Instead of “cannot re-test”. what we should state is the following. The purpose of the board of review is to ensure that the requirements for the rank are met. The Scout should explain how he completed each of the requirements and if he felt they were done to the best of his abilities. The Scout will be expected to know and understand the requirements as stated for the rank. The Board of Review should not be conducted in manor that would be considered a lengthy technical deep diave, but ensure that the Board is satisfied that the requirements were met. Likewise, I would also encourage National Advancement Committee to add a requirement to each Rank where the Scout passes a Senior Patrol Leader Skills Review (TF for TF Rank, TF SC for Second Class, First class for First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle).
    This generation lacks standards and measures for success, lets all work together to help them, not find loop holes that confuse and frustrate everyone.

    • Mike,

      You seem to be under the impression when we were younger and working on Eagle the standards were different because “this generation” of scouts are earning ranks without remembering everything they were ever taught. Sorry, but that’s been part of the program for a long time. The skills from the first 3 ranks will need to be taught and re-taught throughout a scouts career. The knowledge they gained in first aid at age 10-1/2 is not going to be at instant recall at 18 unless it has been practiced and perfected again and again.

      Signing off a requirement and conducting a Scoutmaster’s Conference are adequate checks the scout has learned what they were supposed to for the rank. The board of review is not the “last line of defense” for keeping an unprepared scout from wearing a patch on their shirt. It’s a way for the committee to check on the state of the program and to encourage future participation and advancement on the part of the scout.

      • How true, I know knots from tying and teaching them over and over again over forty years. My morse code is a bit rusty. Also teaching is the best way to learn a skill.

  5. I don’t understand this statement “A unit leader can’t “defer” a board for a Scout he or she thinks isn’t ready”. It’s the unit leaders (Scout Master) to make sure that the scout has met all the requirements for the rank during the Scout Master conference. If the Scout has not completed all requirements in a satisfactory manner, the Scout Master does not sign the scout’s book. So, what does it mean that “A unit leader can’t defer a board for a Scout he or she thinks isn’t ready” ?
    BTW, this is a great topic.

    • I believe it means that a scout could have achieved tenure and been awarded the proper badges, etc. Earning a merit badge or having a skill signed off does not indicate that the scout earned the skill or knows the subject of the merit badge. A scout could “technically” be ready for a board of review but not actually know the material. It is up to the Board to determine whether to advance the scout even though the Scoutmaster may have reservations.

    • I don’t send any scout to a bor unless that can demonstrate every requirement for the rank during the SM conference. We had too many boys reach the rank of star or life scout who can’t tie any knot or a build a fire. Many of these boys have not developed into troop leaders due to a lack of confidence in their skills. If I’m supposed to send a boy to a bor just because he has completed time in rank and had a rank requirement signed off by the SPL ASPL or TG, it’s just a bad idea. We promote and encourage a boy led troop, but still maintain oversight on rank advancement. This is part of the youth leadership performance review. If too many scouts are being sent for SM conferences without being truly prepared then I have a SM conference with the youth leadership to determine why this is happening.

      • Actually, if the Scoutmaster Handbook and Advancement Guidelines cover this. It isn’t a test and the conference isn’t a pass/fail. The signature only indicates that the conversation takes place. We as unit leaders really aren’t in a position to deny the boys from moving on.

        That being said, if Scouts are making it to a conference and BOR and don’t know or aren’t learning the skills, then the failure is earlier on. Unit leaders need to be addressing these items with the boy leadership and working to improve the program so that they boys are learning and retaining what they know. The conferences and BORs are great ways to find out if that is happening.

        Also keep in mind that the requirements say that the boys learned and performed the skill. If they don’t know it 6 months later, perhaps they didn’t have opportunities to reinforce the skill so it isn’t something they forget easily. Even though we all want the boys to retain all the skills we teach because they are important, that isn’t what the requirements in the book say they have to do. As long as they knew it when they got it signed off, we have to accept that.

        “ Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference

        The unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009. Note that a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a “test.” Requirements do not say he must “pass” a conference. While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review.”

        “The conference is not a retest of the requirements upon which a Scout has been signed off. It is a forum for discussing topics such as ambitions and life purpose, goals for future achievement, and also for obtaining feedback on the unit’s program.”

      • You don’t really have a choice. You don’t pass or fail a SMC. If you meet with him, he has participated,and whether he learns the material you test him on, once he has participated in any fashion he is on to BOR. They can pass or fail him, but cannot re-test him. And you as the SM can’t withhold a BOR (or a SMC) from a boy without adding to the requirements….a clear no-no under the GtA.

  6. “The board consists of three to six unit committee members (or, for the Eagle Scout rank, three to six adults who understand the rank, purpose and importance of the review). A candidate’s unit leader, assistant unit leaders and parents or guardians may not sit on his board, although the unit leader may attend as an observer. ”

    This is accurate for Boy Scouts, but not for a Varsity Team. On a Varsity Team, the Coach (unit leader), Advancement Manager (youth), and Advancement Coordinator (committee member) conduct Boards.

  7. Most of the requirements don’t express what level of proficiency must be reached. So if a scout demonstrated how to tie a knot after 20 attempts and then is never able to tie it again, he has still met the requirement.

    If he explains how to treat a first aid scenario and then is never able to remember it again… he has met the requirement for his rank or merit badge.

    The proficiency for any of his scout skills comes later as he uses those skills and later teaches those skills to other scouts.

    Scouts have a handbook for a reason. He should refer back to it when he needs to. It’s not just a place to note his rank advancement.

    The Scoutmaster Conference is not the setting for testing or retesting either. The scout should only have his Scoutmaster Conference after completing all his rank advancement and I would expect that our older scouts have helped him with learning and testing.

    • Linda,

      Section of the Guide to Advancement: Mechanics of Advancement: In Boy Scouting and Varsity Scouting

      “Both adult and youth leaders approve Boy Scout and Varsity Scout advancement.” … “As Scouts work with one another, learning takes place on both sides of the equation as they play teacher and student in turn.”

      Youth leaders can sign that advancement has been completed,and teaching give the older scouts the opportunity to practice and maintain those skills.

  8. As the advancement chair in my troop, I put together a handout for all the ranks except Eagle. It contains the rules for a BOR and the approximate time for each along with sample questions. This has helped to get more adults involved and less fearful about what they are to do at a BOR. And I stay available during boards if they have questions.

  9. The purpose of a Board is introspective. Clearly you want to encourage each Scout to speak their mind (e.g. Does this troop meet my needs).
    I respectfully disagree about not tying knots during a board of review:
    1) That activity should be familiar enough to calm a nervous Scout down by giving them something to do with their hands.
    2) Occasionally a Scout may decide that basic scouting is not important to him. This is not correct thinking because the basics of leadership means a senior scout should be able to pass common skills along to a younger scout. Being tasked to perform a basic scout skill like a knot is a reminder of the duties of leadership. Just as the square knot is the Friendship Knot. Clearly the Board President should see that it is not overdone. I’m good with everything else.

  10. So for a board of review member, what would the causes for denial of advancement be??? I feel like were losing the value of the rank for social promotion purposes… Eagle Scout will have no value if it is not earned through hard work and dedication… Doesn’t the Scout Law and Scout Oath come into play here???

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