International Skating Union (ISU)

Hosted by
San Diego Figure Skating Communications

International Judging System

      This information is provided to give you an understanding of what is expected at each level. When developing test and competition programs, skaters should check with their coach and the official USFS rulebook that is issued annually for the competitive seasons that starts on September first of each year.

      The International Judging System  (IJS) does not change how you watch skating whether you are watching singles, pairs, ice dancing or synchronized skating. However, it does allow the skater to see how judges rated all the elements performed because a numerical value is published.

      The judges evaluate the quality of each of the elements as performed. At the end, the entire performance is assessed using five program components. At the end of the competition, a skater can see exactly what the evaluation was on each aspect of the program - the technical elements and the program components. The skater benefits from being judged by a scoring system that has given a value to all elements and pre-set criteria for analysis by both the technical panel and judging panel.

Totaling the Competition Score

Technical Score (TES)
+ Program Components Score (PCS)
= Segment Score

Ladies, Men & Pairs Programs

Short Program Segment Score
+ Free Skate Segment Score
= Competition Score

Ice Dancing

Compulsory Dance Segment Score
+ Original Dance Segment Score
+ Free Dance Segment Score
= Competition Score
Compulsory Dance 1 (x 0.5)
+ Compulsory Dance 2 (x 0.5)
+ Original Dance Segment Score
+ Free Dance Segment Score
= Competition Score
Original Dance Segment Score
+ Free Dance Segment Score
= Competition Score

1. Technical Elements Score (TES)
      A figure skating program consists of various elements, jumps, spins, spirals, and footwork. The IJS permits a total number of elements based on the competitive level. Each level can have a specific number of jump combinations.

  • Every element has a base value indicated in the Scale of Value (SOV) chart.
  • Each element is judged by a technical panel to determine what element it counts as.
  • Once that is determined each of the judges determines how well the element was performed. This is called the grade of execution (GOE)
  • In determining the grade of execution the judge can mark the GOE score from -3 to +3.
  • The GOE marks of the judges is averaged after dropping the highest and lowest value.
  • The average is rounded to two decimal places.
  • This rounded GOE average is determined independeently for each individual element.
  • The panel's scores for all the elements are added giving the Total Elements Score (TES).
  • Jump combinations are evaluated as one unit by adding the base values of the jumps included and applying the GOE with the numerical value of the most difficult jump. The factored base value of the jump combination will be rounded to two decimal places.
  • Jump sequences are evaluated as one unit by adding the base values of the two highest value jumps,
    multiplying the result by 0.8 and after that applying the GOE with the numerical value of the most difficult jump. The factored base value of the jump sequence will be rounded to two decimal places.
  • In the free skate of singles skating the base values (but not the GOEs) for all jump elements started in the second half of the program will be multiplied by a special factor 1.1 in order to give credit for even distribution of difficulties in the program.
  • Time violations: -1.0 for every five seconds lacking or in excess
  • Music violations: -1.0 for vocal music
  • Illegal element violation: -2.0 for every illegal element
  • Costume and prop violation: -1.0
  • Falls: -1.0 for every fall (in pair skating -1.0 for a fall of one partner and -2.0 for a fall of both partners).
    For interpretation of this rule, a fall is defined as loss of control by a skater with the result that the majority of the skater’s own body weight is on the ice supported by any other part of the body other than the blades e.g. hand(s), knee(s), back, buttock(s) or any part of the arm.
  • Deductions will be applied for interruptions to the program as follows:
    • -1.0 for 11-20 seconds interruption
    • -2.0 for 21-30 seconds interruption, etc.
  • Deduction of -2.0 will be applied when appropriate in case of a fresh start.
2. Program Components Score (PCS)
      There are five categories that make up the program component score.
Each category is marked with a value from 0 to 10 in 0.25 increments. These five marks are then multiplied by a factor depending on the type of program and level. For senior ladies and pairs, the factor is 0.8 for the short program and 1.6 for the long program. This means that PCS is more important in the long program.

Skating Skills

      Overall skating quality: 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 use of effortless power to accelerate and vary speed.
  • Balance, rhythmic knee action and precision of foot placement
  • Flow and effortless glide
  • Cleanness and sureness of deep edges, steps, turns
  • Power/energy and acceleration
  • Mastery of multi-directional skating
  • Mastery of one-foot skating
  • Equal mastery of technique by both partners shown in unison (pairs and ice dancing)
  • Balance in skating ability of individual skaters (synchronized)
        The varied and/or intricate footwork, positions, movements and holds that link all elements. In singles, pairs and synchronized skating, this also includes the entrances and exits of technical elements.
  • Variety
  • Difficulty
  • Intricacy
  • Quality (including unison in pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Balance of workload between partners (pairs and ice dancing)
  • Variety of holds (not excessive side by side and hand in hand in ice dancing)
  • Conformity to pattern and stop requirements in ice dancing, original dance only
  • Variation of speed and linking steps (synchronized)
  • Variation of changes of direction and hold (synchronized)
  • Difficulty and variety of entrances/exits from elements/preparation phase (synchronized)
        Performance is the involvement of the skater/couple/teams physically, emotionally and intellectually as they translate the intent of the music and choreography. Execution is the quality of movement and precision in delivery. This includes harmony of movement in pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating.
  • Physical, emotional and intellectual involvement
  • Carriage (and body alignment - synchronized)
  • Style and individuality/personality
  • Clarity of movement
  • Variety and contrast
  • Projection
  • Unison and "oneness" (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Balance in performance (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Spatial awareness between partners - management of the distance between partners and management of changes of hold (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
       An intentional, developed and/or original arrangement of all types of movements according to the principles of proportion, unity, space, pattern, structure and phrasing.
  • Purpose (idea, concept, vision)
  • Proportion (equal weight of parts)
  • Unity (purposeful threading)
  • Utilization of personal and public space
  • Pattern and ice coverage
  • Phrasing and form (movements and parts structured to match the phrasing of the music)
  • Originality of purpose, movement and design
  • Shared responsibility in achieving purpose (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Distribution of highlights (synchronized)
        The personal and creative translation of the music to movement on ice.
  • Effortless movement in time to the music
  • Expression of the music's style, character, rhythm
  • Use of finesse* to reflect the nuances of the music
  • Relationship between the partners reflecting the character of the music (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Appropriateness of music in ice dancing, original dance and free dance
*Finesse is the skater's refined, artful manipulation of nuances. Nuances are the
personal artistic ways of bringing variations to the intensity, tempo and dynamics
of the music made by the composer and/or musicians.

Ice Dancing exception, compulsory dance:
In ice dancing, the compulsory dance(s) are scored on only four program components:
skating skills, performance/execution, 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 compulsory dance.
  • Skating in time to the music
  • Skating on the strong beat
  • Skating the prescribed beat values for each step
  • Introductory steps (dance starting on the correct measure of the music)

Combining the components in IJS

    There are many components to the ISU judging system and the way they are combined is complicated as well. If you look at the point value document for the IJS system in figure skating you will be amazed. It is a big document with values for just about every move in figure skating.

    The IJS is complicated and you may want to refer to the Judges First Aid document which is a quick reference for judges to use during competitions. It is a good document to become familiar with if you want to know what the judges will be looking for when they are using the IJS system for scoring a figure skating competition.

Calculating Points

    This example of a IJS Senior Lades short program looks complicated, but once you understand the abbreviations, it becomes easier to understand.

Total Segment Score (TSS)
Technical Elements Score (TES)

Program Components Score (PCS)
Skating Skills (SS)
Transitions (TR)
Performance Execution (PE)
Choreography (CH)
Interpretation (IN)

Place Name TSS TES PCS SS TR PE CH IN Deduction
1 Alissa Czisny,
Detroit SC
2 Rachael Flatt,
Broadmoor SC
3 Caroline Zhang,
All Year FSC
4 Brittney Rizo,
SC of Boston
5 Katrina Hacker,
SC of Boston

Totaling the Competition Scores
       The Total Element Score is added together to the program components, which are factored differently for the different disciplines (see below). Additional points may be awarded for innovative elements, and deductions will be 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 for the junior and senior divisions is in Ice Dancing when two compulsory 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.

Factoring the Program Components
Ladies, Men and Pairs

       In the ladies, men and pairs events, the five program components used are factored equally, then added together. The factored sum of the program component marks is called the Program Component Score. The idea behind factoring is to make the program component 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 component score.

       In the senior 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:

Discipline Short Program Free Skate

Ladies 0.8 1.6

Men 1.0 2.0

Pairs 0.8 1.6

Ice Dancing
    In ice dancing, the program components are factored separately, and then added together. In compulsory dance four program components are used, while five are used in original dance and free dance. The idea behind the factoring is to place more emphasis on the components that are most important to each dance. For example, interpretation/timing is factored the highest in the original dance because interpretation of the rhythm is considered the most important piece to an original dance.

    In the free dance, transitions are factored the highest because how skaters connect everything together is considered the most important. Like the other disciplines, the factors are also chosen to level the technical score with the Program Component Score, giving roughly equal importance to each.

    The following chart illustrates how each program component is weighted in each dance in the junior and senior divisions:

Program Component Compulsory Dance Original Dance Free Dance

Skating Skills 0.75 0.80 1.25

Transitions - 0.80 1.75

Performance/Execution 0.50 0.60 1.00

Choreography/Composition - 0.60 1.00

Interpretation 0.50 1.00 1.00

Timing 0.75 - -

Recommended Reading:

Index of IJS Articles


Test Judging Topics


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:

ISU Figure Skating Judging
PDF The International Judging System (IJS) PDF   IJS Judging Criteria
ISU Technical Updates
Index of ISU Articles
Free Skating Program Requirements
Basic Jumps
Technical Jump Requirements
Cheated Jumps
Short & Long Programs
Free Skating Test Elements
ISU Judging
IJS Technical Panel
Competition Jumps
Competition Spins
Competition Spirals
Competition Step Sequences
IJS Grades of Execution
PDF  IJS Judging Criteria
PDF  IJS Presentation Guidelines
Program Component Guidelines
PDF  IJS Handbook
PDF  ISU Communication 1593
PDF  ISU Communication 1557
PDF  ISU Communication 1548
PDF  ISU Communication 1547
PDF  ISU Communication 1540
PDF  ISU Communication 1505
PDF  ISU Communication 1504
PDF  ISU Communication 1494
PDF  ISU Communication 1476
PDF  ISU Communication 1459
PDF  ISU Communication 1445
PDF  Search for ISU communications

All materials are copy protected. 
The limited use of the materials for education purposes is allowed providing
credit is given for the source of the materials.

Athlete Concerns     Collection of Related Ideas    Skating Articles    Related Topics      

Ice Skating Rink Index    Topic Index    Site Index   Home Page