The Scoutmaster Conference

Note that a Scout must participate or take part in a conference; 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 can provide a forum for discussing ambitions and life purpose and for establishing goals for future achievement, but work left to be completed may be discussed just as easily as that which is finished. Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference [Guide to Advancement]
The Scoutmaster conference is a visit between the Scoutmaster and a Scout held each time the boy completes the requirements for a rank. It is a valuable opportunity to discuss his activity in the troop and his understanding and practice of the ideals of Scouting. Together they can set goals not only in Scouting but also in his family, school, and community. A Scout taking part in a Scoutmaster conference will be able to determine if he is ready to go before the board of review. The Scoutmaster can also encourage a boy’s advancement in Scouting by reviewing with him the requirements for his next rank. The Scoutmaster conference can be used as a counseling tool at any time and for a variety of other reasonsThe Scoutmaster Conference [Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009]

Scouts will probably be a little apprehensive about something called a ‘Scoutmaster’s conference’. How would you feel if you were summoned to a ‘supervisor’s conference’ at work or a ‘teacher’s conference’ at school?

Put yourself in your Scout’s shoes: There’s a thing called “the Scoutmaster’s conference”. I’ll bet you are not looking forward to the conference in the same way you are looking forward to the other requirements – like building a fire. What’s going to happen? What is that old man going to ask you? What if you don’t know the right answers? Scouts will be nervous, so our first task is putting them at ease.

Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer – you may not get much more than yes or no but give it a go! Watch the time – ten or fifteen minutes is an eternity when you are a boy.


  • Establish trust and understanding between a Scout and Scoutmaster.
  • Reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
  • Allow the Scout and Scoutmaster to share ideas and ask questions of one another.
  • Set goals and outline steps for achieving them.


Tenderfoot through Life – 10 to 15 minutes. Eagle Scout – 30 minutes.

  • Give the Scout your undivided attention.
  • Invite the Scout to share.
  • Keep the setting relaxed. (Don’t sit behind a desk or across a table from the Scout.)
  • Conferences can be conducted during troop meetings, outdoor activities, or at the Scout’s home.
  • A conference should be a private discussion between the Scoutmaster and a Scout, but held in full view of other people.
  • Keep the tone positive. If there thing he needs to improve, be sure to bring up behavior and achievements you can praise, too.

Scouts don’t ‘pass’ a Scoutmaster’s conference, and they don’t fail them either. Once you have conducted a conference with a Scout the requirement is completed. If you and the Scout found something he needs to work on, (a requirement that needs to be signed off or a behavioral problem he needs to address) and you both agree on what needs to be done to remedy the problem schedule a time to talk again and follow up with the Scout.

Scoutmaster conferences are collaborative. The Scoutmaster does not simply evaluate and pass judgement. This is a discussion where the Scoutmaster can learn a lot about a Scout. It is reflection, a review, a look back at how thing s have gone thus far and what the future holds. It should be an overwhelmingly positive experience for the scout. Even if he’s found himself in a tight spot because his behavior or performance is causing him problems he ought to leave the conference encouraged, energized and happy.

The Board of Review

The purpose of the board of review is not to retest a Scout, but rather to ensure that he has completed all of the requirements, to determine the quality of his troop experience, and to encourage him to advance toward the next rank. Each review should also include a discussion of ways in which the Scout sees himself living up to the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life.
The Board of Review [Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009]
Though one reason for a board of review is to ensure the Scout did what he was supposed to do to meet the requirements, it shall become neither a retest or “examination,” nor a challenge of his knowledge. In most cases it should, instead, be a celebration of accomplishment. Remember, it is more about the journey. A badge recognizes what a young man is able to do and how he has grown. It is not so much, a reward for what he has done. Not a Retest or “Examination” [Guide to Advancement ]

Why is a board of review not a test or a challenge of the Scout’s knowledge?

The simple answer is he has any number of signatures as evidence that he has been tested and passed on the required skills and knowledge. Besides that the object of the board of review is far more important. The purpose of the board is not to determine the quality of a Scout’s work, it is to gauge the quality of his experience in Scouting.

We have one opportunity to determine if a Scout has the prerequisite skill to pass a requirement in the testing stage. A Scout’s knowledge or skill will certainly be challenged many times in the natural course of doing what Scouts do but he will only be tested and passed once. When he has successfully completed the test it is certified by a signature and he will never be tested on that particular requirement again. (see step 2, a Scout is tested)

The question of his qualification to advance is seeing that his book is signed, the question of the quality of his experience is discussing the journey he took to get there.

Think about it this way – the Scout has just arrived home from a journey. The signatures in his handbook are like an album of pictures he took along the way. If we look at the pictures we know where he went and what he did, but we don’t know much about the how he experienced the journey. We pose questions that ask about the journey;

  • Tell us about the camping trip when you were the patrol cook, how did that go?
  • Can you point out one thing that you think was the most important thing you learned on your journey?
  • Tell us about the people you traveled with, what is your patrol like? Do you like it?

A board that actively listens to the answers will learn how the Scout understands and experiences the journey, what could be causing him problems, and the strengths and weaknesses of the troop’s program. So the board of review is not so much a critical evaluation of the Scout, but a critical examination of the program that he has traveled through. Properly managed boards of review are a terrifically powerful look into how well the program is being presented.

A Scout will probably be nervous about a “Board of Review”, so it is up to the members of the board to put him at ease. The atmosphere should be formal, but relaxed.

The precise mechanics of the Board of review are discussed in detail in the Guide to Advancement section 8. Here are some of the rules about boards of review you’ll find there:

  • A Scout cannot be denied this opportunity. When he believes he has completed all the requirements, including a Scoutmaster conference, it is up to the unit leader and committee to assure a board of review is held. Scoutmasters, for example, do not have authority to expect a boy to request one, or to “defer” him, or to ask him to perform beyond the requirements in order to be granted one.
  • A board of review must consist of no fewer than three members and no more than six. Unit leaders and assistants may not serve on a board of review for a Scout in their own unit. Parents or guardians may not serve on a board for their son. The candidate or his parent(s) or guardian(s) shall have no part in selecting any board of review members.
  • It is preferred a Scout be in full field uniform for any board of review. He should wear as much of it as he owns, and it should be as correct as possible, with the badges worn properly. If wearing all or part of the uniform is impractical for whatever reason, the candidate should be clean and neat in his appearance and dressed appropriately, according to his means, for the milestone marked by the occasion. Regardless of unit expectations or rules, boards of review may not reject candidates dressed to this description; neither may they require the purchase of uniforming, or clothing such as coats and ties.
  • The unit leader may remain in the room, but only to observe, not to participate unless called upon. The Scout’s parents, relatives, or guardians may not be in attendance in any capacity—not as members of the board, as observers, or even as the unit leader. Their presence can change discussion dynamics.