Rank Advancement

Unit leaders and other Scouters often ask the same questions about the rank advancement program and board of review process. Here is a quick reference guide of answers to some of those frequently asked questions.

Question: What is advancement, and what role does it play in Scouting?
Answer: Education and fun are functions of the Scouting movement—as is the growth of our youth members—and make up the basis of the advancement program. As the Scout meets certain requirements, he may advance in rank. The Scouting program is designed to help young people have an exciting and meaningful experience. A quality Scouting program strives for the following:

  • Every young person achieves personal growth.
  • Each individual learns by doing.
  • Youth members progress at their own rate.
  • All young people receive recognition for their individual accomplishments.
  • Youth participants are encouraged to embrace Scouting ideals.

Question: Rank advancement requires a Scout to demonstrate Scout spirit. How is Scout spirit defined and determined?
Answer: Scout spirit applies to how a Scout lives and conducts his daily life. He shows Scout spirit by being a role model to his peers, living by the Scout Oath and Law. The concept of Scout spirit is not based on how many Scouting events or outings a Scout attends, but rather by how he helps bring out the best in others as a reflection of his own character and attitude in his daily life.

Question: In the Scout Oath, what does the phrase "duty to God" imply?
Answer: Scouting has an ongoing commitment to encourage moral, ethical, and spiritual growth. While the Boy Scouts of America remains a nonsectarian organization, in the Scout Oath, "duty to God" reminds everyone that a Scout is reverent, and Scout leaders are expected to be a positive religious influence. The BSA believes that, to be the best kind of citizen as possible, a Scout must recognize his obligation to God. However, religious instruction is the responsibility of the Scout's family and his religious institution.

Question: For the Star, Life, and Eagle Scout ranks, how is "Be active in your troop and patrol" defined?
Answer: A Scout is considered to be active in his unit if:

  1. He is registered in his unit (registration fees are current).
  2. He has not been dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons.
  3. He is engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (Scoutmaster conference, informs the Scout of upcoming unit activities, through personal contact, and so on).

The unit leaders are responsible for maintaining contact with the Scout on a regular basis. The Scout is not required to attend any certain percentage of activities or outings. However, unit leaders must ensure that he is fulfilling the obligations of his assigned leadership position. If he is not, then they should remove the Scout from that position.

Question: What is a board of review, and what is its primary purpose?
Answer: The troop committee conducts a board of review to periodically review each Scout's progress, from Tenderfoot through Life ranks, to encourage him, to learn whether he is enjoying his Scouting experience, and to evaluate the unit's effectiveness in conducting the Scouting program to benefit him. The review presents a good opportunity to monitor the Scout's advancement and keep him on track. It also gives unit leaders a chance to measure the effectiveness of their leadership. The troop committee appoints three to six individuals to conduct the board of review.

Question: How often is a board of review held?
Answer: Whenever a Scout completes all the requirements for any rank, from Tenderfoot through Life, he appears before a board of review. He does so after having a conference with his Scoutmaster. Note that when a Scout has completed all the requirements for a board of review and then requests to have a board of review, he may not be denied a board of review.

Question: What is an Eagle board of review?
Answer: The Eagle board of review is a bit different from other boards of review because it is the last major step for an Eagle Scout candidate. All his efforts peak at the Eagle board of review. It's akin to a job interview, but it allows the panel to determine whether the candidate is worthy of the recognition. The interview focuses on the Eagle candidate's attitude and his acceptance of Scouting's ideals.

Question: When must an Eagle board of review be held?
Answer: Once an Eagle candidate has fulfilled all requirements of tenure, Scout spirit, merit badges, positions of responsibility, the leadership service project, and the Scoutmaster conference, arrangements must be made for the Eagle board of review to take place within the following 90 days. With the exception of the Eagle board of review, all requirements for Eagle must be completed before the Scout's 18th birthday.
The board of review can be conducted up to 90 days after the Scout's 18th birthday. A board of review held between 90 and 180 days after that date must be preapproved by the local council; a board of review that falls after the 180 days have passed must be preapproved by the BSA National Council (Eagle Scout Service). When submitting the Eagle Scout Rank Application to the Eagle Scout Service, the candidate must include a statement by an adult explaining the reason for the delay.
Without this last important step, the candidate cannot advance to the Eagle Scout rank. To make this happen, it is important for unit leaders and others to get involved with this process and have a clear idea of what is required of the Scout to pass the Eagle board of review.

Exceptions (alternate rank requirements) are permitted in certain cases of Scouts with disabilities. See the chapter called "Scouts With Special Needs" in the Scoutmaster Handbook.

If extenuating circumstances exist, an Eagle board of review can be conducted after the six months following the candidate's 18th birthday. Special permission must be granted by the National Boy Scout Committee, through the Scout's local council. Extenuating circumstances are defined as conditions or situations that are totally beyond the Scout's control.

Question: Who decides how the Eagle board of review will be conducted?
Answer: Each local council decides at which level the Eagle board of review will be conducted (unit, district, council). Then the unit committee or the district or council committee responsible for the Eagle board of review decides how reviews will be conducted. The board of review for an Eagle candidate must have at least three members and no more than six members, all of whom must be at least 21 years of age. These members do not have to be registered in Scouting, but they must have an understanding of the importance and purpose of the Eagle board of review. However, the board must have at least one district or council advancement representative when conducted at the unit level. At the unit's request, this individual may serve as chair.

Question: How is the information from the Eagle Scout Rank Application assessed by the board of review?
Answer: The unit committee reviews and approves the Eagle candidate's record before his application is submitted to the local council. If a unit leader or unit committee member does not sign or approve his application, the Eagle candidate may still be granted a board of review. However, the failure to secure such a signature may be considered by the board of review in determining the Eagle candidate's qualifications.

Question: How are the references of an Eagle candidate checked?
Answer: The references on the candidate's Eagle Scout Rank Application are contacted by the council advancement committee or a designated representative either by letter, form (the local council may have one for this purpose), or telephone. The council determines the method(s) to be used. The Scout is not responsible for collecting or returning any completed reference responses to be used by the board of review.

Question: About how long does an Eagle board of review last?
Answer: While a regular board of review will take about 15 minutes, an Eagle Scout board of review may last 30 minutes or more. At the review, each board member should have an opportunity to share a meaningful discussion with the Scout about important matters such as his goals, personal growth, and living up to the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life.

Question: Is the Scout's unit leader allowed to attend an Eagle board of review?
Answer: Yes. The Scout's unit leader introduces him to the members of the board of review and may remain in the room, but he may not participate in the board of review. The board of review members may call on the unit leader to clarify a point in question. However, in no case should a relative or guardian of the Eagle candidate be allowed to attend the review, even as a unit leader.

Question: How many votes must a Scout receive from an Eagle board of review?
Answer: Because of the importance of the Eagle Scout Award, a unanimous decision must be reached when voting on the Scout's qualifications. If the board cannot reach a unanimous decision, the applicant, his unit leader, or the unit committee may request a new review.

Question: What happens when a Scout does not pass the Eagle board of review?
Answer: If the Eagle board of review does not recommend the candidate for advancement to Eagle, the board members tell the candidate why he has not met the requirements and explain why he does not qualify. They discuss with him how he might meet the requirements within a given period. If the Scout disagrees, they explain the appeal procedures to him. A follow-up letter is sent to the Scout confirming the agreements reached on the actions necessary for his advancement. If he chooses to appeal, he is provided with the name and address of whom to contact. His unit leader, parents, or guardian also may appeal the decision on his behalf.

Question: What is the appeals process for a Scout who is denied the Eagle Scout rank?
Answer: In ascending order, appeals are made at the unit, district, and local council levels. The final decision rests with the National Boy Scout Committee. Upon receipt of an appeal, the district or council advancement committee promptly reviews the request to determine the facts. This is done by interviewing all parties either individually or as a group. Any confrontation should be avoided. A written report containing all details must be prepared for the committee responsible for a decision or for forwarding to the National Boy Scout Committee, if necessary.

Question: What kinds of resources are there for more information about the advancement process?
Answer: A number of helpful items are available to anyone who wants to more fully understand the Boy Scout advancement process. Here are the most practical ones.

  • Every aspect of advancement procedures is discussed in the Advancement Committee Guide Policies and Procedures (No. 33088), which is updated and reprinted annually.
  • The Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook (No. 18-927) is required for completion of the Eagle Scout leadership service project. This workbook can be downloaded from the Internet (click here)in PDF format, to be printed and completed by hand, or in DOC or RTF format, to be completed on computer.
  • The Eagle Scout Rank Application (No. 58-728) is available online. (click here)The application must be printed and filled out by hand; it cannot be submitted online.
  • The Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges (No. 58-730) includes the guidelines for advancement to Eagle Scout rank for Scouts with disabilities. To download this publication online, click here.
  • Every troop leader should have a copy of the Scoutmaster Handbook (No. 33002). This indispensable resource is a Scoutmaster's and assistant Scoutmaster's best bet for guiding a Boy Scout troop and its patrols.