Troop 880 Handbook

Section 3 - Advancement



A. Introduction


Advancement will be at each scout's own pace. The joining requirements and the ranks of Scouting, along with the requirements to advance through them, are described in the Boy Scout Handbook (pages 14-16 and 594-596).  Rank advancement is the responsibility of each individual Scout.  Most requirements can be met while attending troop and patrol meetings and participating in the programs, campouts, and other troop and patrol activities.


For the lower ranks (Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class), adult leaders are allowed to verify and "sign off" requirements.  Parents are not permitted to pass their sons on any requirement.


To attain the higher ranks in Scouting (Star, Life, and Eagle), a Scout must acquire certain merit badges.  Each of these ranks specifies a number of required badges and a number of optional ones selected from a list of over 100 merit badges.  The Scout is also required to successfully hold leadership positions, perform service projects, and show Scout spirit.  Much of the work required on merit badges will occur at campouts, summer camp, and outside of the regular meetings.  Parents are encouraged to serve as merit badge counselors.  If you have some skill or knowledge that pertains to one or more of the merit badges, please consider making a direct contribution to success of the troop by serving as a counselor.  You will have to fill out an adult volunteer application form and a merit badge qualification form both of which can be obtained from the troop that must be submitted to the District Advancement Chairman.



B. Rank Advancement Guidelines


BSA believes that a Scout should receive recognition for his achievements.


Advancement sets a pattern of setting positive goals and reaching them throughout life. Even though itís not one of the primary aims of Scouting, advancement is a natural byproduct when your Scouting experience is acquainting you with the BSA ideals, the patrol method, the outdoors, association with adults, personal growth, leadership development, and the Scout uniform. Itís easy to advance by following these four basic steps: Learning, Testing, Review, and Recognition.


First, the Scout learns

Much of his learning comes from other boys in his patrol or troop and by active participation in troop program. His patrol activities are directed toward the skills he needs. Every troop hike, camping trip, or other activity offers potential learning experiences. A Scout learns to pitch a tent by pitching one, to use a compass by finding directions, and to cook a meal by having to prepare and eat it.


Second, the Scout is tested

The specific requirements determine the kind of testing. Verbal testing is sufficient in some instances. In other instances, a Scout must demonstrate his skills by doing.


Third, the Scout is reviewed

The purpose of the review is to ensure that all requirements for advancement have been met. This includes a check of the Scout's attitude and practice of the ideals of Scouting, in addition to his Scout craft skills. The decision regarding whether a Scout has met the required standards to qualify for rank advancement begins with the troop and, for the Eagle Scout rank, is approved by the district, local council, and finally, the National Council.


Fourth, the Scout is recognized

The final step in advancement involves presentation of the badge, usually at a ceremony before the entire troop.




C. Rank Advancement


The requirements for the ranks of Tenderfoot through First Class prepare you to take full advantage of all that Scouting has to offer. Star, Life, and Eagle requirements focus on service to others and developing leadership skills.

Requirements for each rank are outlined in the Boy Scout Handbook. You can work on advancement requirements with your parents or other family members, with other Scouts and with adult Scout leaders. This can be done on your own, in patrol and troop meetings, and during other troop functions such as campouts.

Scout skills cannot be mastered by performing them just once. You will have many opportunities to practice each skill, and you will be thoroughly tested on each requirement before it is "signed off". In addition, expect to practice each skill repeatedly, even after it has been signed off.  As you progress, you will also have opportunities to teach these skills to less experienced Scouts, which will further reinforce your knowledge and skill.

As you complete each requirement, you will be tested and "signed off" in the back section of your handbook by the Scoutmaster or by someone he designates. This person may be an Assistant Scoutmaster, a Troop Committee Member, or another, more experienced, Scout. In Boy Scouts - troop leaders, rather than parents, sign off advancement requirements. In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, in most troops, troop leaders will not normally sign off rank requirements for their own sons. Infrequent exceptions may be made in the case of a leader who is teaching skills to several Scouts at once at a patrol or troop meeting or other Scouting function, but every effort should be made to have another leader sign off the instructing leaderís sons if possible.

Figure 1:

BSA requirements to be achieved to advance to your next rank.



It's up to you to take advantage of the advancement opportunities available to you, and to take initiative to ask for someone to test you when you are ready. You are responsible for keeping your own personal advancement record updated in your handbook. You should also record your service hours, campouts, troop activities, and leadership positions in your handbook.

You must earn the ranks in order, but you may complete any requirement for Tenderfoot through First Class at any time. (For example, you may complete a First Class requirement before finishing your Tenderfoot requirements, but you must earn Tenderfoot rank before you are awarded Second Class and First Class ranks.)

You will be meeting regularly with the Scoutmaster to discuss your activity in the troop and your understanding and practice of the ideals of Scouting. This Scoutmaster conference is also used to discuss your goals and accomplishments and is required for each rank advancement.

You do not have to wait until you have completed the requirements for a rank in order to ask for a Scoutmaster conference. You may talk with the Scoutmaster at any time that is convenient to both of you. However, for a Scoutmaster conference to count toward rank advancement it must take place after all other requirements are complete and before the Skills Test and Board of Review. At this required conference the Scoutmaster will also help you determine whether or not you are ready to take the Skills Test and go before the Board of Review.

Prior to a Board of Review, Troop 880 requires a Skills Test.  Possible tasks within each of the Skills Test are found in Figure 2 shown below.  The test is meant to insure you have mastered key skills of each rank. To assist each scout wishing to advance, we have published the key skills of which you will be tested.  This Skills Test is under the authority of the Scoutmaster.  It is performed by two BSA Trained adult leaders who must both agree to the mastery of the scout in the performance of required skills.  Since skill development is cumulative, scouts will also be tested on the skills that they have attained in prior ranks. Passing the skill test confirms that you have mastered key scouting skills and are ready to approach the Board of Review.


Figure 2:

Key skills to be mastered and tested on prior to requesting a Board of Review


After you have passed the Skills Test, the troop will arrange for your Board of Review following the procedures your troop has established. Boards of Review for all ranks except Eagle Scout, are normally held once a month, and are composed of three to six registered members of the troop committee. (Eagle Scout Boards of Review are arranged through your Council or District Advancement Committee and can have other members.) The Board of Review may not include the Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmasters, or your family members.

The purpose of the Board of Review not meant to re-test your skills but is to ensure that you have completed all of the requirements, to determine the quality of your troop experience, and to encourage you to advance toward the next rank. (Sometimes you will meet a Board of Review even when you are not ready for the next rank, in order to check your progress and to see how things are going for you in the troop and in your patrol. The troop Advancement Chairperson may schedule you for such a Board of Review when they feel that an extended period has passed since your last Board of Review.)

You need to have your Boy Scout Handbook and should be in your field uniform when you appear before a Board of Review. At the beginning of the review, the president of the board will bring you into the room, introduce you to the board, and invite you to be seated. During the review the board will discuss your development along your trail to Eagle, ask you questions about skills that were required for your particular rank, and evaluate you in terms of troop activities and readiness for the next rank. It is also a time for you to ask any questions you might have and to give feedback to the troop committee about activities and your Scouting experience in your troop and in your patrol. At the end of the review you will be asked to leave the room while the board discusses your qualifications. The board will then call you back into the room and inform you either that you have been approved for the next rank or what additional actions you must take to qualify.

After passing the Board of Review, you will be recognized in front of the troop as soon as possible. You will receive your new rank patch shortly after, usually at the next troop meeting. You will be formally recognized for your rank advancements and merit badges in front of family and friends during a ceremony at a Court of Honor. At this time you will be presented with your wallet-sized certificate card and, if your troop presents them, a rank pin ("parentís pin"). Most troops schedule four Courts of Honor each year. Your parents, other family members, and friends are invited and encouraged to attend all Courts of Honor.

After reaching the rank of Life Scout, you will meet with one of the adult leaders in the troop. At this meeting you will receive your Life to Eagle packet and discuss ideas and suggestions for your Eagle Service Project. This project must conform to special guidelines that have been outlined by the Boy Scouts of America. Your Scoutmaster, Troop Advancement Chairperson, and a representative of your District Advancement Committee, as well as the benefiting organization, must approve your project before you begin carrying it out.



D. Merit Badges


Earning merit badges allows you to explore many fields, helps you round out your skills, and introduces you to subjects that will perhaps become lifelong interests or a rewarding career.

There are more than 100 merit badges for you to choose from. You may earn any merit badge at any time, with Scoutmaster approval. Donít wait for someone to tell you when and which merit badge to work on. You donít need to reach a certain rank in order to be eligible. However, you should concentrate on achieving the rank of First Class before devoting a lot time to working on merit badges.

Donít overwhelm yourself by trying to complete too many badges at one time. We recommend that you actively work on no more than two at one time until you reach the rank of First Class, and no more than five at one time thereafter.

You can find information about merit badge requirements in the appropriate merit badge pamphlets and in the current yearís Boy Scout Requirements book. Some of these should be available in your troop library. All of them are available from your Scout Shop or Council Trading Post, or a store which sells Scouting supplies in your area. If you are finished using merit badge pamphlets that you own, many troops encourage you to donate them to the troop library.

Here are the steps to earning a merit badge:

  1. Get a blue merit badge card from the Advancement Chairperson, or Scoutmaster, fill in your name, address, and the name of the badge, and ask the Scoutmaster to sign it. Then get the name and phone number of a qualified counselor from the Advancement Chairperson or Scoutmaster.

  2. Call the counselor and set up an appointment. This can be at any place that is suitable to both of you. Along with a buddy (another Scout, a family member, or a friend), meet with the counselor. The counselor will explain the requirements for the merit badge and help you get started.

  3. Work on the badge requirements until you complete them, meeting with the counselor (along with your buddy) whenever necessary. You must complete the stated requirements and satisfy the standards of each merit badge. The merit badge counselor may encourage you to do more than the requirements state but he or she may not require it. YOU (not the counselor, Scoutmaster, or Advancement Chairperson) keep the merit badge card until you have completed the requirements and the counselor has signed the card. If you lose this card, you will have to start the badge over unless the counselor is willing and able to vouch for what you already completed.
    If you change counselors for any reason, it is up to the new counselor whether or not he or she will accept the work you did with the previous counselor. Normally the new counselor will ask you a few questions, and if the counselor is satisfied that you actually did the work that was signed off, he or she will accept it.

  4. After you complete the merit badge and the counselor signs your merit badge card, he or she will keep the counselorís section and return the rest of the card to you. Bring the rest of the card to the Advancement Chairperson, who will keep the troop section and return the Scout section to you. You will receive your merit badge shortly after you turn in the blue card (usually the next troop meeting). Your wallet-sized certificate card will be presented to you at the next Court of Honor.



E. Record-Keeping


Your advancement records are kept in three places ó your Council office, with the Troop Advancement Chairperson, and yourself. The Council office keeps records supplied to them by the troop Advancement Chairperson, who also keeps copies of these records for the troop. Many troop Advancement Chairs also maintain their advancement information on computers. You will receive three kinds of documents that you need to KEEP IN A SAFE PLACE UNTIL AFTER YOU TURN 18 (or receive your Eagle Scout Award, whichever is later)! These documents are: your Scout Handbook with requirements signed off, your portion of completed blue merit badge cards, and the wallet-sized certificate cards for rank advancement and merit badge completion. Make sure all of them are dated and signed or initialed by the appropriate Scout leader. All of the cards are the same size and can be safely kept in plastic protector pages (available commercially). IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT YOU KEEP THESE DOCUMENTS IN A SAFE PLACE AND DO NOT LOSE THEM!!! If it should happen that there is any discrepancy or missing records, your personal records are your most important ally in proving what you completed.




F. Court of Honor


A Court of Honor is the ceremony in which formal recognition of achievement is given to all the members of the troop who have advanced in rank, completed merit badges, earned awards, or otherwise distinguished themselves. Courts of Honor are usually held 2 to 3 times a year.  Parents are invited and expected to attend all Courts of Honor whether or not their son(s) are receiving any awards.  Your presence at the Court of Honor shows that you support involvement in Scouting.


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Troop Information


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Section 4



This page last modified: September 11, 2014