International Judging System

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Event Required Elements

Figure Skating Requires Specific Elements in Competition Events
The sport of figure skating has different levels of competition events for male, female, couple, and team events. Some competition levels may have age restrictions in addition to passing specific skill related tests by Sept. 1 of each new competitive season.

       The required elements for tests and competitions differ. The expectations for passing a test is less technically demanding that for a competition event at the same level. It is important to stress that testing is against a standard and in competitions, the winning performance varies according to the skills of the skaters who have entered. The competitive quality may vary according to the geographic region or section of the skater's primary home club. 

       Skaters may train in a different area from the location of the club they represent. Sometimes members of a pair and dance team may represent  different clubs in different sections. They may choose the sectional competition they wish to compete.

Refer to -

USFS Competition Regions

Pre-Preliminary through Senior Free Skating Test Elements

How USFS Tests are Conducted

Competition Requirements

Each competitive event has specific required elements for short and long free skating programs.

Pair Short Program
Pair Long Program
Singles Short Program
Singles Long Program

 Source - USFS

       All figure skating programs are based on standard elements. This guide will show you what those specific elements are for short programs, and you will also learn some of the specifics about creating a well balanced free skate or free dance. Because elements change yearly, this guide will also be updated at the beginning of every season.

      There are five separate disciplines or divisions in competitive figure skating World Championships:

  • Men's singles,
  • Ladies singles,
  • Pairs,
  • Ice dancing
  • Synchronized team skating - A separate world championship is held. Not an Olympic Event.
      Within singles, pairs and ice dancing there are five different competitive skill levels in the U.S. that are based on proficiency tests - juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior. Each level draws on similar techniques but adheres to increasingly more difficult skills as well as different rules and guidelines.

      The following information pertains to skaters competing at the senior competitive levels - the highest level within the U.S. Figure Skating competition structure.

Programs At A Glance
The moves may be done in any order within a 2:50 time limit to music selected by the skater.
The judges award two marks: one for technical elements, and a second for program components.

Singles/Pairs - Short Program
Judge's First Mark: Technical Elements
Judge's Second Mark: Program Components
Time Length: 2:50 (maximum)

Singles/Pairs - Free Skate
Judge's First Mark: Technical Elements
Judge's Second Mark: Program Components
Time Length: 4:00 +/- 10 seconds (senior ladies),
4:30 +/- 10 seconds (senior men and pairs)

Dance - Short Dance
Judge's First Mark: Technical Elements
Judge's Second Mark: Program Components
Time Length: 2:50 +/- 10 seconds

Dance - Free Dance
Judge's First Mark: Technical Elements
Judge's Second Mark: Program Components
Time Length: 4:00 +/- 10 seconds
Singles Skating -

Form, style, technique, concentration and the ability to perform under great pressure are the key requirements in men's and ladies singles events. The rules are similar for both men's and ladies divisions. Each competition is composed of two separate parts: the short program, which is skated first, followed by the free skate. It consists of seven required moves or elements: three jumps, three spins, and one fast step sequence. The required elements for the 2012-13 season are as follows:
Senior Ladies
1. Double Axel or triple Axel
Senior Men
1. Double or triple Axel
2. One triple jump (must be immediately preceded by connnecting steps or comparable free skating movements) 2. One triple or one quadruple jump (must be immediately preceded by connnecting steps or comparable free skating movements)
3. One jump combination consisting of one double jump and a triple jump or two triple jumps 3. One jump combination consisting of a double jump and a triple jump, two triple jumps, a quad and a double or a quad and a triple
4. Any flying spin (minimum of eight revolutions) 4. Flying spin (minimum of eight revolutions)
5. Any combination spin with only one change of foot, at least two changes of position (sit, camel or upright, or any variation thereof) and a minimum of six revolutions on each foot, two in each position.
5. Any combination spin with only one change of foot, at least two changes of position (sit, camel or upright, or any variation thereof) and a minimum of six revolutions on each foot and two revolutions in each position.
6. Layback or sideways leaning spin with a minimum of eight revolutions
6. Camel spin or sit spin with only one change of foot and a minimum of six revolutions on each foot
7. One step sequence 7. One step sequence.

      The free skating long program has a length limitation of 4:30 +/- 10 seconds for senior men; 4 minutes +/- 10 seconds for senior ladies. Skaters select their own music and theme, and choreograph the jumps, spins, footwork and interpretive moves to best display their technical and artistic skills. Change of pace, creativity and innovative moves are encouraged. Technical and artistic perfection are paramount to the skater and to the judges.

As defined in the ISU regulations, a well balanced singles free skate must contain:

Jumps: There is a maximum of eight jump elements for men and seven jump elements for ladies. One must be an Axel-type jump. Only two triple or quad jumps can be repeated and they must be a part of a jump combination or jump sequence. There may be up to three jump combinations or sequences. Jump combinations may not contain more than two jumps, however one jump combination may consist of three jumps.

Spins: A maximum of three spins of a different nature - one must be a spin combination, one a flying spin and one spin with only one position.

Steps: One step sequence and one choreographic sequence, which must occur after the step sequence.

Two marks also are given for the free skate - the first for technical elements, the second for program components.

Pairs Skating - is essentially skating performed in unison by partners, with the addition of daring and difficult overhead lifts, throw jumps and spins. The key to pairs skating is exact timing and unison. Whether the partners are together or apart, their movements should be synchronized with matching body lines, gestures and footwork.

     In a pairs competition, the judges award two sets of scores for each skate, similar to singles events - technical elements and program component marks following the short program and the same for the free skate.

     The pairs short program consists of seven required elements, which include overhead lifts, side-by-side solo jumps and solo spins done in unison, footwork, pair spins and a death spiral, all performed to music of the skaters' choice. The short program is 2:50 in length and requires the following elements for the 2012-13 season:

Senior Pairs Short Program
1. Any hand-to-hand lift take-off (from Group 4)
2. One double or triple twist lift
3. One throw jump (double or triple)
4. One solo jump (double or triple)
5. Solo spin combination with only one change of foot and at least one change of position
6. Death spiral backward outside
7. Step sequence

      The free skate consists of technical and artistic moves choreographed to best display the skaters' individual strengths, skills and ability to perform as a team throughout the 4:30 +/- 10 seconds program. Difficult double and triple solo and throw jumps will be seen, along with unique lifts and spins and variations on standard moves, as well as original moves. Shadow skating, in which partners perform identical maneuvers some distance apart, and mirror skating, where the pair's moves are in opposite directions and mirror each other, are challenging aspects of pairs skating.

A well balanced pairs free skate must contain:

  • Maximum of three lifts (one must be of group 3 or 4 with full extension of the lifting arms)
  • Maximum of one twist lift
  • Maximum of two different throw jumps
  • Maximum of one solo jump
  • Maximum of one jump combination or sequence
  • Maximum of one solo spin combination
  • Maximum of one pairs spin combination
  • Maximum of one death spiral
  • Maximum of one sequence of choreography
Ice Dancing - was first seen at the World Championships in 1952 and introduced in 1976 as an Olympic Sport. Ice dancing is based on the different aspects of dance. The emphasis in ice dancing is on rhythm, interpretation of the music and precise steps. Its beauty lies in its limitless creativity, choreography, and its theatrical and innovative aspects.

       An ice dancing competition is made up of two parts: a 2:50 short dance and a 4 minute free dance.

Short Dance - The short dance consists of required elements including dance lifts, spins, twizzles, step sequences and sequences or sections of pattern dances. Teams choose their music and choreography, but it must conform to the specified rhythms and requirements. Judges look for creativity, good interpretation of the music and rhythm, originality and utilization of the full ice surface. Two marks are given for the short dance: one for technical elements and one for program components. For the 2012-13 season, the short dance must be to either polka, march or waltz rhythms.

        The required elements for the short dance are:

  • Short lift not to exceed six seconds
  • One midline (not touching) or circular step sequence
  • One set of sequential twizzles
  • Two sections of the Yankee Polka
Free Dance -  The free dance allows dance teams four minutes to display their full range of technical skills, interpretation and inventiveness to music and choreography of their own choice. Teams will use changes of position, intricate and varied dance holds, lifts, spins and jumps and difficult footwork to present their best ice dancing skills. The required elements are:
  • Two different short lifts and one long lift or four short lifts chosen from a list of three different types.
  • One Transitional dance lift after all other dance lifts.
  • Two different step sequences (one midline or diagonal and one circular or serpentine)
  • One dance spin or combination spin
  • One set of synchronized twizzles
      Any tempo or mood can be used as long as it is danceable, and vocal music with lyrics is permitted. Two sets of marks are given, one for technical elements and one for program components.

See Program Component Marks

Recommended Reading:
Test Judging Topics
Elite Skaters IJS Handbook

Beginning and Test Skaters

Index of IJS Articles
The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:
Choreography and Artistic Performances
Choreography - An Art or Science?
Role of Skating Technique in Choreography
Music's Role in Creating Skating Programs

Role of the Choreographer in Figure Skating
A Choreographer's Role & Duties
Choreography & Presentation
The Role of Choreography in Presentation
Event Required Elements
Choreographing Free Skating Programs
Choreographing Artistic Skating Programs
Differences in Artistic, Interpretive Events
Choreographing Showcase Events
Theater On Ice
Creating Dance Content
Skater Feedback

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