Whether you’re a new skating fan, or an old pro who can name all the elements in a program, how things are scored in competition may still be causing you big problems.  The ISU Judging System is still fairly new, annually updated with refinements and improvements to eliminate the guesswork out of judging and to build and strengthen the integrity and credibility of our sport.

How does this system work, you ask?

Here’s a basic description of the general principles using the proper terminology, followed by an easy step-by-step guide for how you too can learn the scoring system and discover how it’s revolutionized and inspired our sport to become better than ever.

Step 1: Establish the element’s Base Value

As the skater performs, a three-person Technical Panel identifies each element, at which point a Data Specialist will tell the computer to assign a base value in points pre-set by the ISU – the Scale of Value can be seen here. All Jumps have a specific point value, whereas other elements like spins, lifts and footwork can have their base values increased depending on four defined “levels of difficulty”, extra things the competitor does that make the element harder. The higher the level of difficulty, the higher the base value! Remember though, points are based on what the skater actually performs, not what they have “planned” in their program.

Step 2: Establish the element’s Grade of Execution

Once the Technical Panel has identified the elements and the base value points have been assigned, the Judging panel must decide how well or how poorly the element was skated. This is the GOE – Grade of Execution – based on a scale of points from +3 for “fabulous” to -3 for “horrible”, points that are added to or taken away from the base value.

Step 3: Assign marks for Program Components

The Judges are each required to assess the overall performance of the skater by providing marks out of 10.0 for five different Program Components. These different categories capture aspects of performance – skating skills, movement between elements, performance, and chorography and how well they tell the ‘story’ of the music. Keep your calculator handy!! To arrive at each Program Component mark, there's another step you must take to maintain a balance between technical and artistic marks: you multiply each Program Component by a factor. Don't panic, it's easy, just check your Skatebag for the numbers, look at each Program Component score and multiply it by the appropriate factor. (In Senior competition, for Men Short, multiply each Program Component by 1.0, for Ladies and Pairs Short multiply by .80. In Free Skating, for Men multiply each Program Component by 2.0, and by 1.6 for Ladies and Pairs.) Are you with us still?!  Let’s have a look at how these are calculated.

Step 4: Determine the Final Points score

To find the TOTAL ELEMENT score:

  • throw out the highest and lowest point score for each element
  • determine the “mean” (add up all the scores and divide that by the number of scores there are) of the remaining element scores to find one final point score for each element
  • add all final element point scores together

To find the PROGRAM COMPONENT score:

  • determine the “mean” score of each Program Component
  • multiply each "mean" Program Component score by its factor (see Skate Bag)
  • add all factored PC scores together

To find the DEDUCTION(S):

  • subtract falls and other violations (i.e. timing, undone skate lace etc.)
  • complete falls constitute a -1 point deduction from the final score


Skating is a difficult sport – and as you can see, scoring it isn’t easy either, but don’t be discouraged. A little time invested in learning the language and studying the process and you’ll be an expert quicker than you can say “Triple Axel” – base value of 8.2! Check out the new Skate Canada Skate Bag for some handy skating terms - It’s worth it to do your homework!

With this new ISU Judging System, the skating world has clearly defined what constitutes “good skating”: judges are more educated, skaters are more empowered to control their result, coaches can strategize more fully and as a result fans are seeing results that reflect what was actually done on the ice.

By understanding the scoring system, your own skating experience will be enhanced.  To help you in this journey of knowledge, Skate Canada is developing a pilot program which will give fans access to different elements of the scoring system so you can follow along in-venue or at home!

Keep an eye out for the second installment of this series, Scoring 102 next week and be ready to score the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.  Click here for a complete media broadcast schedule http://www.skatecanada.ca/en/events_results/events/calendar/tv_schedule/index.cfm

Join in the scoring fun!


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