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ISU Judging System

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File:ISU Judging System.jpg
A demonstration of how skaters are scored under Code of Points.

The ISU Judging System (also called Code of Points (CoP) or the International Judging System (IJS)), is the scoring system currently used to judge the figure skating disciplines of men's and ladies' singles, pair skating, ice dancing, and synchronized skating. It was designed and implemented by the International Skating Union (ISU), the ruling body of the sport. This system of scoring is used in all international competitions sanctioned by the ISU, including the Olympic Games. The ISU Judging System replaced the previous 6.0 system in 2004. This new system was created in response to the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal, in an attempt to make the scoring system more objective and less vulnerable to abuse.[1]

Previous judging system

Main article: 6.0 system

Figure skating was formerly judged on a 6.0 scale. This scale is sometimes called "the old scale", or "old system". Skaters were judged on "technical merit" (in the free skate), "required elements" (in the short program), and "presentation" (in both programs). The marks for each program ran from 0.0 to 6.0 and were used to determine a preference ranking, or "ordinal", separately for each judge; the judges' preferences were then combined to determine placements for each skater in each program. The placements for the two programs were then combined, with the free skate placement weighted more heavily than the short program. The highest scoring individual (based on the sum of the weighted placements) was declared the winner.

Scandal and response

In 2004, after the judging controversy during the 2002 Winter Olympics, the ISU adopted the New Judging System (NJS), or Code of Points, which became mandatory at all international competitions in 2006, including the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Technical details

Technical panel

Under the ISU Judging System, technical marks are awarded individually for each skating element. Competitive programs are constrained to have a set number of elements. Each element is judged first by a technical specialist who 'calls' the specific element for marking by the judging panel. The technical specialist uses instant replay video to make final verifications; e.g. the exact foot position at take-off and landing of a jump. The decision of the technical specialist determines the base value of the element. The Technical Specialist and his assistant work alongside the Technical Controller who verifies their decisions and inputs technical deductions such as falls, extra elements or illegal elements.

Judging panel

The Judging panel is composed of nine judges and one referee. Each judge gets elements sent to their computer by the Technical Panel for marking. The panel then award a mark for grade of execution (GOE) that is an integer from -3 to +3. The GOE mark is then translated into a value by using the Scale of Value (SOV) Table published regularly by ISU Communications.[2] The GOE value from the nine judges is then averaged using the "trimmed mean" procedure, discarding the highest and lowest values and averaging the remaining seven.[2] This average value (which can be positive or negative) is then added to the base value to get panel's score for the element. Judges also mark the Program Components — Skating Skills, Transitions/Linking Footwork, Performance and Execution, Composition and Choreography and finally, Interpretation and Timing. These Components are marked on a scale of 1-10 with 0.25 increments and averaged using the same "trimmed mean" procedure. Judges also have the power to input majority deductions such as Music Violations, and Costume/Prop Violations. The Referee inputs other deductions such as Time Violations, Interruption in Excess and Costume Failures.


The number and type of elements in a skating program really depends on the event and on the level of competition. At the senior international level, single and pairs short programs contain eight technical elements. The actual eight elements are detailed for single skaters in ISU rule 310. Each skater must attempt one combination jump, two solo jumps, three spins, and two skating sequences. The eight elements required for a senior pairs short program include two lifts, one side-by-side jump, one throw jump, one side-by-side spin, one pair spin, one step sequence, and one death spiral (ISU rule 313).

Senior level free programs have 14 elements for pairs, 13 elements for men, and 12 elements for ladies. The details of the elements are given by ISU rules 520 and 521 (2008 version). Pairs do 4 lifts, 4 jumps, 3 spins(including 1 death spiral), 1 step sequence, and 1 spiral sequence. Men do 8 jumps, 3 spins, 1 step sequence, and 1 choreographic step sequence. Ladies do 7 jumps, 3 spins, 1 step sequence and 1 spiral sequence. NOTE: Beginning with the 2010-2011 Season, the choreographic step sequence and spiral sequence was replaced with the choreographic sequence.

Component factoring

The panel's points for each Program Component are multiplied by a factor depending on the event. For singles and pair skating, the factor is uniform for all components:

Short program Free skating
Men 1.0 2.0
Ladies 0.8 1.6
Pairs 0.8 1.6

The factors in Ice Dance are different for each component and depend on the dance type.[2]

Protocol details

Following an event, the complete judges scores are published in a document referred to as a protocol. There are specific notations used on the protocols.

If a skater attempts more than the allowed number of a certain type of element in a program, then the element is still described and called as such by the technical controller, but receives a base value of 0 as well as a GOE of 0, regardless of how judges may have marked it. On ISU protocol sheets, elements that have been nullified by this are denoted by an asterisk ( * ) next to the element name. In free skating, for jumps executed twice as solo jumps, the second jump is marked as +REP and receives 70% of its base value. Jump elements performed after the halfway point of a program are marked with an x and receive a 10% bonus added to their base value. If a jump has been called as having an unclear take-off edge are marked with an ! and should receive a -1 to -2 GOE depending on severity; a jump that has been called as having an incorrect take-off edge (for example, an inside edge on a Lutz jump take-off), that jump is marked with an e and should receive a -2 or -3 GOE depending on severity. Jumps that are underrotated are marked with a < or << depending on the degree of turns completed on the ice instead of mid-air. < indicates that a jump had more than a ¼ turn completed on the ice, which reduces the base value to 70% of its original value. << indicates a severe underrotation (½ turn or more), and the jump is valued as if it had one less rotation (e.g. a triple would receive the value of a double)[3]

Jumps done in combination or sequence are marked as a single element, with a base mark equal to the sum of the base marks for the individual jumps. However, a combination or sequence can be downgraded (marked with +COMBO or +SEQ), in which case the sum of the base values of the jumps is reduced by 80%.

Base values and abbreviations of common elements

The following is a list of the common elements.[4][5][not in citation given]

Abbreviation Full name Rotations in a Jump Base Value
A Axel jump single 1.1
double 3.3
triple 8.5
quad 15.0
Lz Lutz jump single 0.6
double 2.1
triple 6.0
quad 13.6
F Flip jump single 0.5
double 1.9
triple 5.3
quad 12.3
Lo Loop jump single 0.5
double 1.8
triple 5.1
quad 12.0
S Salchow jump single 0.4
double 1.3
triple 4.2
quad 10.5
T Toeloop jump single 0.4
double 1.3
triple 4.1
quad 10.3
Throw jumps
ATh Throw axel
FTh Throw flip/lutz
LoTh Throw loop
STh Throw salchow
TTh Throw toe loop
CSp Camel spin
CCSp Change foot camel spin
CLSp Change foot layback spin
CSSp Change foot sit spin
CUSp Change foot upright spin
CoSp Combination spin
CCoSp Combination spin with change of foot
FCSp Flying camel spin
FLSp Flying layback spin
FSSp Flying sit spin
FUSp Flying upright spin
LSp Layback spin
PCoSp Pair combination spin
PSp Pair spin
SSp Sit spin
USp Upright Spin
Step sequences
ChSt Choreographed Step Sequence
CiSt Circular step sequence
DiSt Diagonal in hold step sequence
MiSt Midline in hold step sequence
NtMiTw Not Touching Midline Sequential Twizzles
NtMiSt Not Touching Midline Steps
SeSt Serpentine step sequence
SlSt Straight line step sequence
Choreographic Sequences
ChSq Choreographic Sequence
Spiral sequences
ChSp Choreographed Spiral
SpSq Spiral sequence of any pattern (no longer in use as of 2010)
Pair lifts
ATw Axel twist lift
1Li Group one lift
2Li Group two lift
3Li Group three lift
4Li Group four lift
5ALi Group five axel lasso lift
5RLi Group five reverse lasso lift
5SLi Group five step in lasso lift
5TLi Group five toe lasso lift
LzTw Lutz/Flip twist lift
TTw Toeloop twist lift
Dance lifts
CuLi Curve lift
RRoLi Reverse rotational lift
RoLi Rotational lift
SeLi Serpentine lift
StaLi Stationary lift
SlLi Straight line lift
Death spirals
BiDs Backward inside death spiral
BoDs Backward outside death spiral
FiDs Forward inside death spiral
FoDs Forward outside death spiral
Dance elements
STw Synchronized twizzles

The level of a spin or footwork sequence is denoted by the number following the element abbreviation. The number of rotations on a jump is denoted by the number preceding the element abbreviation. For example 3A denotes a triple axel, while SlSt4 denotes a level four straight line step sequence. ChSt and ChSq are step sequences and spiral sequences that have no level and a fixed base value.

In ice dancing

Ice dancing judging is similar to pairs and singles, but uses a separate set of rules and table of values. In the compulsory dance, steps are specified and "elements" are defined for each dance as subsets of the prescribed steps. For compulsory dance only, there is no program component score given for transitions and choreography. Instead there is a timing (TI) program component that is exclusive to the compulsory dance, leaving only four program components in the compulsory dance. In the original dance there are 5 marked technical elements. In the free dance, there are 9 marked technical elements. Unlike singles and pair skating, the different program components are weighted differently in each segment of the competition. The highest factored component(s) in each segment are skating skills and timing in the compulsory dance, interpretation in the original dance, and transitions in the free dance. The exact values of these factors are listed in ISU Rule 543.1k.

High scores

ISU Personal Best

Under the ISU judging system, the highest score a skater earns in a career is known as a personal best. An ISU Personal Best is a score set at a competition run under the auspices of the International Skating Union. Only certain events count for personal best scores. National-level events do not count towards personal bests.

Season's best

Unlike an ISU Personal Best score, which is the highest score set over a lifetime, the season's best score is the highest score earned by a skater in a season. Season's best scores help determine the fields to the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating.

Best scores

The following are the highest scores that have been earned under Code of Points since its inception. It does not differentiate for changes made to the system.[6] The ISU only recognizes best scores set at international competitions run under ISU rules, not at national competitions.


Component Skater Score Event
Short program Template:Country data JPN Yuzuru Hanyu 101.45 2014 Winter Olympics
Free skating 23x15px Patrick Chan 196.75 2013 Trophée Eric Bompard
Combined total 23x15px Patrick Chan 295.27 2013 Trophée Eric Bompard


Component Skater Score Event
Short Template:Country data JPN Mao Asada 78.66 2014 World Championships
Free skating Template:Country data KOR Kim Yuna 150.06 2010 Winter Olympics
Combined total Template:Country data KOR Kim Yuna 228.56 2010 Winter Olympics


Component Skaters Score Event
Short program 23x15px Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov 84.17 2014 Winter Olympics
Free skating 23x15px Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov 154.66 2013 Skate America
Combined total 23x15px Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov 237.71 2013 Skate America

Ice dancing

The Compulsory Dance and Original Dance were eliminated at the end of the 2009–2010 season and replaced by the Short Dance.

Component Skaters Score Event
Compulsory dance 23x15px Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov 45.97 2005 World Championships
Original dance 23x15px Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir 70.27 2010 World Championships
Free dance 23x15px Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov 117.14 2003 Cup of Russia
Combined total 23x15px Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov 227.81 2005 World Championships
2010 onwards
Short dance 23x15px Meryl Davis / Charlie White 78.89 2014 Winter Olympics
Free dance 23x15px Meryl Davis / Charlie White 116.63 2014 Winter Olympics
Combined total 23x15px Meryl Davis / Charlie White 195.52 2014 Winter Olympics

Synchronized skating

Component Team Score Event Source
Short program 23x15px Team Surprise 87.84 2004 Neuchâtel Trophy [7]
Free skating 23x15px Team Surprise 159.60 2004 Neuchâtel Trophy [8]
Combined total 23x15px Team Surprise 247.44 2004 Neuchâtel Trophy [9]


Like gymnastics and diving competitions, judging in figure skating is inherently subjective. Although there may be general consensus that one skater "looks better" than another, it is difficult to get agreement on what it is that causes one skater to be marked as 5.5 and another to be 5.75 for a particular program component. As judges, coaches, and skaters get more experience with the new system, more consensus may emerge. However, for the 2006 Olympics there were cases of 1 to 1.5 points differences in component marks from different judges.[citation needed] This range of difference implies that "observer bias" determines about 20% of the mark given by a judge.[citation needed] Averaging over many judges reduces the effect of this bias in the final score, but there will remain about a 2% spread in the average artistic marks from the randomly selected subsets of judges.[citation needed]

Aside from intra-expert subjectivity, skating is very open to misjudgement from everyday spectators who only see skating casually, i.e. every four years at the Olympics. A skater's jump may look perfect, but the general public will not be aware that the competitor landed on an incorrect edge, therefore receiving fewer points for an element, resulting in the appearance of haphazard or biased judging.


The ISU judging system moves figure skating closer to judging systems used in sports like diving and gymnastics. It also has some features intended to make judging more resistant to pressure by special interests. However, there is debate whether the new system is an improvement over the old 6.0 system.[citation needed]

Under the ISU rules, the judges' marks are anonymous, which removes any public accountability of the judges for their marks; the ISU claims that this is in order to prevent pressure on the judges from their federations, but critics note that this prevents detection of cheating by particular judges. The random panel selection procedure can change a skater's mark by several points and alter the outcome of competitions depending on which subset of judges are chosen. The United States Figure Skating Association has split with the ISU on these two issues. In the U.S., the judges names remain associated with the marks. Also the U.S. uses only nine judges and counts all nine of their scores.


Judge reduction in 2008

In 2008, the International Skating Union ruled to reduce the number of judges from 12 to 9.[13] Ottavio Cinquanta cited economic difficulties as the prime reason for this change. Because the top and bottom extreme scores are dropped, the scores of 7 judges will determine the outcome of competitions.


  1. ^ ""Scoring System Approved"". The New York Times. Retrieved July 25, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "ISU Special Regulations & Technical Rules, Singles & Pair Skating and Ice Dance, 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Communication No. 1611 – Single & Pair Skating – Scale of Values, Levels of Difficulty and Guidelines for marking Grade of Execution". International Skating Union. 4 May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Communication No. 1445 – Single and Pair Skating". International Skating Union. 7 May 2007. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Communication No. 1400 – Ice Dancing – Scale of Values". International Skating Union. 12 July 2006. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Statistics including Personal Best/Season Best information". International Skating Union. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Neuchatel Trophy". Swiss Ice Skating. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 
  8. ^ "Neuchatel Trophy". Swiss Ice Skating. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 
  9. ^ "Neuchatel Trophy". Swiss Ice Skating. Retrieved 2013-04-17. 
  10. ^ "ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2007 – Ladies – Results". ISU Results. International Skating Union. 24 March 2007. Archived from the original on 26 July 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "SmartOnes Skate America 2004 – Ladies – Short Program". ISU Results. International Skating Union. 22 October 2004. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "ISU World Team Trophy 2009 - Ladies". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Sports - The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 

External links

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