How Does Figure Skating Judging Work?

Written By: Riedell | November 8, 2018

Stepping on to the ice for a figure skater can be exciting or overwhelming. Competitions are one of the best parts of the sport. Skaters finally get to perform the routine they’ve been practicing for months. As the audience watches, it looks as though the skater executed every part perfectly, but there is one thing that’s confusing – the score.

Figure skating judging is one of the most unpredictable things about the sport. The score may not always reflect what the audience saw during their routine, but judges pick up on things that others can’t. Judging figure skating can seem erratic, especially when a skater can have a fall during their performance, but still score higher than another skater with a seemingly perfect routine. Understanding how figure skating is judged can make competitions more enjoyable not only for the skaters and parents but fans and spectators, as well.

How Is Figure Skating Judged?

Under the International Skating Union, in 2002 a new scoring system was implemented and has several elements to it. At competitions scored with the International Judging System (IJS), there are two panels of officials – the technical panel and the judging panel.

The Technical Panel

The technical panel is composed of five officials: technical specialist, assistant technical specialist, technical controller, data operator, and video replay operator. Each of these officials works in direct communication with each other as a skater performs.

  • Technical specialist – Identifies the elements a skater performs.
  • Assistant technical specialist – Supports the technical specialist to ensure that any potential mistakes are corrected immediately.
  • Technical controller – The leader of the technical panel.
  • 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.
  • Video replay operator – If a video system is being utilized at a competition, this person tags each element on the video while a program is being performed.

The Judging Panel

In the judging panel, there can be a minimum of three judges or up to nine in higher level competitions. There may also be an assistant referee assigned to the judging panel, as well. Judges focus entirely on evaluating the quality of each element performed, otherwise known as the technical score, and the quality of the performance, the presentation score. The judges’ scores are based on specific criteria for each element and provide a complete evaluation of each skater’s skills and performance.

Technical Score

In a competition, each element performed has a base value. Along with the base value of each element, the judges assign a “Grade of Execution” meaning if performed well the value may increase or if performed poorly the value may decrease. A group of experts has determined the element base value of each technical element, as well as the level of difficultly for spins, steps, jumps, and more.

Presentation Score

In addition to the Technical Score, the Judges will award points on a scale from 0.25 to 10.00 with increments of 0.25 for the Presentation Score. There are five components to the presentation score including skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, and interpretation of the music /timing (for Ice Dance).

Components of Presentation Score:

  • Skating skills – The overall quality of skating. Balance, flow, edges, power, and multi-directional skating must be considered along with other components.  
  • Transitions – The varied and purposeful use of intricate footwork, positions, movements and holds that link all elements.
  • Performance – Involvement of the skater(s) physically, emotionally and intellectually as they deliver the intent of the music and composition.
  • Composition – An intentionally developed and/or original arrangement of all types of movements according to the principles of musical phrase, space, pattern, and structure.
  • Interpretation of the music/timing for Ice Dancing – The personal, creative and genuine translation of the rhythm, character, and content of the music to movement on ice.

Final Score

The final score is calculated by combining the total technical score and total presentation score. Any deductions are subtracted from the total score and the skater with the highest total wins the competition. At the end, typically a skater will receive a piece of paper explaining what each evaluation was for every aspect of the program.

Nail Your Routine with Custom Figure Skates

While hard work and practice are what will help you achieve higher scores in a competition, having the proper skates can make that easier. With custom-fitted figure skates, Riedell ’s talented master craftsmen will design and build your custom ice skates to your unique feet’s exact features and specifications. No more sore feet from boots that don’t fit properly. You can achieve a near perfect score with Riedell!