International Judging System (IJS)
The information on this page is intended as a general overview of the international judging system (IJS) to help you understand the basics of the system. This information may, at times, not reflect any updates on usage, calculation and events of the IJS. This page was last revised July 19, 2016.
For more detailed information, please visit each specific discipline's section located on the left sidebar. These sections provide links to all U.S./ISU documents that delve deeply into the IJS, including grades of execution, levels of difficulty, etc. If you are interested in all ISU documentation, visit the ISU website at www.isu.org
Usage of the International Judging System
The international judging system will be used at:
- Regionals and sectionals - all qualifying levels and all disciplines (in all rounds)
- Synchronized sectionals - juvenile and above events including adult and collegiate
- Adult sectionals - championship, masters and gold levels of singles (qualifying and nonqualifying events)
- U.S. Championships - all events
- U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships - juvenile and above events including adult and collegiate
- U.S. Adult Championships - championship, masters and gold levels of singles and pairs, and the championship, masters, gold and pre-gold levels of dance (including masters open dance)
Internationally, usage of the IJS is mandatory for all ISU events and international competitions. ISU member nations are free to use the system (or variation thereof) of their choice at national events.
How the International Judging System Differs from the 6.0 System
The international judging system is based on cumulative points, which are awarded for a technical score and five additional program components - skating skills, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation of the music/timing (ice dancing). The exception to this is the pattern dance event competed at the juvenile, intermediate, novice and adult levels, which uses four components: skating skills, performance, interpretation and timing.
If a skater performs more than the defined "well-balanced program" elements, there are no deductions, but the values of additional elements will not be calculated into the skater's score. (The exception to this is ice dancing, which takes a 1.0 deduction for each extra element.) If a skater performs less than the required elements, they receive fewer points, not deductions.
Transparency of Judges Under the International Judging System
Judges names are linked to the scores they give at U.S. Figure Skating and ISU events using the IJS.
Snapshot of Officials and Scoring
At competitions scored with the international judging system, there are two panels of officials - the technical panel and the judging panel.
The technical panel is generally made up of five persons: technical specialist, assistant technical specialist, technical controller, data operator and video replay operator. This panel works in direct communication with each other as each skater performs a program. In real time as the skater performs, the technical specialist identifies the elements the skater performs. For example, for spins, they identify the type of spin and the level of difficulty of that element based on published pre-set criteria. The work of the technical specialist allows the judges to concentrate on marking the quality of each element. Technical specialists have to meet certain qualifications and pass written and oral exams to be appointed to the position. Most technical specialists are national and international skaters or coaches and are involved in skating on a regular basis. When an element is identified by the technical specialist it is also referred to as the "call".
The assistant technical specialist and the technical controller support the technical specialist to ensure that any potential mistakes are corrected immediately. The technical controller is the leader of the technical panel. Any element can be reviewed by the technical controller, the technical specialist or the assistant technical specialist. All final decisions made on elements and levels will be made from the majority opinion of the three technical positions. At the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, each of these people are recorded with an audio tape during each program, and video clips are available to verify the calls. The elements are available for review after a skater's performance, and calls can be changed accordingly. Calls and scores are final once they are posted, any protests for calculation errors resolved, and results are announced to the public. A technical panel error correction protocol outlining the types of calls that can and can't be changed and the timeline for making changes is posted on the U.S. Figure Skating website.
The video replay operator does exactly what it seems! If a video system is being utilized at a competition, this person tags each element on the video while a program is being performed. This allows the technical panel to go right to the beginning of an element during review without having to fast forward or rewind, speeding up the process significantly. The video is available to the technical panel for their review of any element to ensure that the correct assessment of the element was made. If there is video replay available to the judges, this videotape can be viewed by the judges for their analysis of the quality and/or errors made on any given element.
The data operator enters all the coding for the elements onto either paper or the computer as they are performed and the levels of difficulty are assigned.
The judging panel is made up of a referee and multiple judges. There can be as few as three (at nonqualifying competitions) or as many as nine (at championships) judges on a panel. At ISU and U.S. Figure Skating Championships, an assistant referee might also be assigned to the judging panel. The judges focus totally on scoring the quality of each element and the five program components. Their marks are based on specific criteria for each element and provide a comprehensive assessment of each skater's skills and performance. A computer is used to keep track of the elements and scores, record results and calculate totals to determine the order of finish.
The referee is the leader of the judging panel and is in charge of the event. In this role, the referee is responsible for making sure rules are followed, taking the time of the program as skated, and deciding on any protests with respect to the event. The referee is also responsible for taking certain deductions.
In the Technical Score, each element of a skater's program is assigned a base value. These element base values give the skaters credit for every element they perform. A group of experts, including experienced skaters and coaches, has determined the element base value of each technical element. These base values are published as part of the scale of values (SoV).
Some elements such as spins and step sequences have been assigned a level of difficulty. These elements are assigned their base value depending on their level of difficulty as determined by the technical panel. After results are posted, skaters receive a scoring detail for their performance (typically called a 'protocol') that shows the elements and levels called by the technical panel and the marks given by the judges.
During the program, judges evaluate the quality of the elements and give a grade of execution (GOE) to each within a range of +3 to -3. These GOEs are not necessarily worth 1, 2 or 3 points, but rather they are a quality "grade" that impacts the value of elements through the scale of values. To determine the point value of an element, the point value for the GOE is taken from the scale of values and added to the base value for the element.
Let's look at some examples:
- The technical specialist identifies a jump as a triple Axel. The judge grades the quality of the jump and assigns a GOE of +1. The base value for a triple Axel is 8.5 points, and a GOE of +1 for a triple Axel has a value of 1.0 points, so the point value for the element is 9.5 points.
- The technical specialist identifies a jump as a double Lutz. The judge grades the quality of the jump and assigns a GOE of -1. The base value for a double Lutz is 2.1 points, and a GOE of -1 for a double Lutz has a value of -0.3 points, so the point value for the element is 1.8 points.
- The technical specialist identifies a spin as a level 2 combination spin with a change of foot. The judge then grades the quality of the spin and assigns a GOE of +3. The base value for a level 2 combination spin with a change of foot 2.5 points, and a GOE of +3 for a combination spin with a change of foot has a value of 1.5 points, so the point value for the element is 4.0 points.
The sum of the point values for all the performed elements together (base value + GOE) is the Total Element Score (TES), aka the Technical Score.
In addition to the Technical Score, the judges award program component marks on a scale from 0.25 to 10 with increments of 0.25 to express the overall presentation and technical mastery of figure skating. The Program Component Score (PCS) is calculated and factored by specified percentages.
In ladies, men's, pairs and synchronized skating, the following five components are scored in the short program and the free skate. In ice dancing, these five components are scored in the short dance and the free dance. For pair skating and ice dancing, there must be equal demonstration of the criteria by both skaters:
Defined by overall cleanness and sureness, edge control and flow over the ice surface demonstrated by a command of the skating vocabulary (edges, steps, turns, etc.), the clarity of technique and the use of effortless power to accelerate and vary speed. In evaluating the Skating Skills, the following must be considered:
- Use of deep edges, steps and turns
- Balance, rhythmic knee action and precision of foot placement
- Flow and glide
- Varied use of power, speed and acceleration
- Use of multi directional skating
- Use of one-foot skating
The varied and purposeful use of intricate footwork, positions, movements and holds that link all elements. In evaluating the Transitions, the following must be considered:
- Continuity of movements from one element to another
- Variety (including variety of holds in ice dancing)
Involvement of the skater/pair/couple physically, emotionally and intellectually as they deliver the intent of the music and composition. In evaluating the Performance, the following must be considered:
- Physical, emotional and intellectual involvement and projection
- Carriage and clarity of movement
- Variety and contrast of movements and energy
- Individuality / personality
- Unison and “oneness”
- Spatial awareness between partners – management of the distance between skaters and management of changes of hold (pair skating, ice dancing)
An intentionally developed and/or original arrangement of all types of movements according to the principles of musical phrase, space, pattern and structure. In evaluating the Composition, the following must be considered:
- Purpose (idea, concept, vision, mood);
- Pattern / ice coverage;
- Multidimensional use of space and design of movements;
- Phrase and form (movements and parts structured to match the musical phrase);
- Originality of the composition.
Interpretation of the Music/Timing (Ice Dancing)
The personal, creative and genuine translation of the rhythm, character and content of the music to movement on ice. In evaluating the Interpretation of the Music(/Timing), the following must be considered:
- Movement and steps in time to the music (timing)
- Expression of the music’s character/feeling and rhythm, when clearly identifiable
- Use of finesse to reflect the details and nuances of the music (Finesse is the skaters’ refined, artful manipulation of music details and nuances through movement. It is unique to the skater/skaters and demonstrates an inner feeling for the music and the composition. Nuances are the personal ways of bringing subtle variations to the intensity, tempo and dynamics of the music made by the composer and/or musicians.)
- Relationship between the skaters reflecting the character and rhythm of the music (pair skating, ice dancing);
- Skating primarily to the rhythmic beat for short dance and keeping a good balance between skating to the beat and melody in the free dance (ice dancing)
Ice Dancing exception, pattern dance:
In ice dancing, the pattern dance(s) are scored on only four program components: skating skills, performance, and interpretation (see above), as well as a unique component: timing.
Definition: The ability of the couple to skate strictly in time with the music and to reflect the rhythm patterns and prescribed beat values of the pattern dance.
- Skating in time to the music
- Skating on the strong beat
- Skating the prescribed beat values for each step
Totaling the competition score
Totaling the Competition Score
Technical Score (TES) + Program Components Score (PCS) = Segment Score
Ladies, Men, Pairs & Synchronized
Short Program Segment Score + Free Skate Segment Score = Competition Score
Short Dance Segment Score + Free Dance Segment Score = Competition Score
Pattern Dance 1 (x 0.5) + Pattern Dance 2 (x 0.5) + Free Dance Segment Score = Competition Score
The Total Element Score is added together to the Program Components Score, which are factored differently for the different disciplines (see below). Deductions are taken for rule violations. The result is the segment score.
The sum of all segment scores (for example, short program plus free skate), is the Total Competition Score (TCS). In most events segment scores are not weighted; they are simply added together to obtain the competition score. The exception to this is in ice dancing when two pattern dances are included in the event. There are other exceptions for the lower divisions. The skater with the highest competition score is declared the winner. For all factors, visit Accounting Central (Forms, Charts & Procedures -> IJS Factor Tables).
Factoring the Program Components
Ladies, Men, Pairs, Ice Dance and Synchronized
In the events, the program components used are factored equally, then added together. In pattern dance, four program components are used, while five are used in the short dance, free dance, and all segments for ladies, men, pairs and synchronized. The factored sum of the program component marks is called the Program Components Score. The idea behind factoring is to make the Program Components Score level with the Technical Score, hence granting equal importance to each. Since the perfect Program Components Score is always 50, this number is factored to roughly equal what each discipline is capable of scoring in the Technical Score. For example, in the ladies short program, women today are capable of scoring around 40 in the Technical Score. So the program components are factored by 0.8, lowering the 50 down to a 40, leveling the importance of the Technical Score and the Program Components Score. In the men's free skate, men today are capable of scoring around 100 in the Technical Score. So the program components are factored by 2.0, raising the 50 up to 100, and again leveling the Technical Score and the Program Component Score.
The following chart illustrates how each discipline factors program components in the junior and senior divisions:
The international judging system allows for all the elements performed to have a score and a numerical value that is published. The particular value is impacted by the judges' evaluation of the quality of the element as performed. At the end, the entire performance is assessed through the five program components. The skater, at the end of the competition, is given a piece of paper which tells the skater exactly what the evaluation was on each aspect of the program - the technical elements and the program components.