In a futuristic dystopian Chicago, society is divided into six factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intellectual) and Captive (the industrious). The remaining population are the Factionless, who have no status or privilege in this society. When children reach the age of 16, they undergo a serum-induced psychological aptitude test which indicates their best-suited faction, though they are allowed to choose any faction as their permanent group at the subsequent Choosing Ceremony.
Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) was born into Abnegation, which runs the government. Her father, Andrew Prior (Tony Goldwyn), serves on the ruling council along with the head of Abnegation, Marcus Eaton (Ray Stevenson). Beatrice takes her test with a Dauntless woman named Tori Wu (Maggie Q) as her proctor. Her results show equal attributes of multiple factions, meaning she is Divergent. Her divergence includes Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. Tori records her results as Abnegation and warns her to keep the true result a secret, saying that because Divergents can think independently the government cannot control them and they are considered threats to the existing social order.
The next day at the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice’s brother Caleb Prior (Ansel Elgort) chooses Erudite. After some indecision, Beatrice defects to Dauntless. After the ceremony, Beatrice meets Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Al (Christian Madsen), and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), three other initiates from other factions who also chose Dauntless. Christina and Al are from Candor, and Will is from Erudite. The initiates’ commitment and fearlessness are immediately tested, and Eric Coulter (Jai Courtney), a brutal Dauntless leader, makes it clear that anyone not meeting Dauntless’ high expectations will be expelled from the faction to become Factionless. Beatrice is the first to volunteer for a leap of faith from a tall building into a dark hole, landing in a net. When Four (Theo James), a transfer initiates’ instructor, asks her name, she shortens it to “Tris” leaving her Abnegation childhood behind.
Tris initially struggles in Dauntless training, ranking far below the cutoff after the first evaluation, but with Four’s help slowly improves. Eric matches her against her nemesis — Peter (Miles Teller) in a fight. Tris is soundly defeated and wakes up in the infirmary. Informed that she will miss the most important test, Capture The Flag, Tris leaves the infirmary and joins the other initiates, secures her team’s victory, and makes the final cut.
In the next phase of training, the initiates face their worst fears in psychological simulations. Divergents are resistant to serums and simulations, so Tris excels at these tests, solving them in peculiar ways, but Four warns her to solve the challenges as a normal Dauntless would in order to hide her abilities.