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USFS Judging Topics

United States Figure Skating Judges and Officials are Volunteers
    Judging figure skating is very subjective and requires as much effort on the part of judges to improve and maintained their skills through practice and education as the effort skaters expend to develop the necessary skills necessary to earn a gold medals.

       It is very helpful if the judge has a background as a:
  • Test skater
  • Competitive skater
  • Musician
  • Acting
  • Ballet, ballroom, and other forms of dancing
       Judges must be very observant of both technical details and the complete artistic performance. It is essential that a judge be able to recall the details and form a precise impression from these observations. Figure skating is a very rule intensive sport. Judges must be aware of rule changes and interpretations that occur annually and during the skating season.

Judges Assess Technical and Performance Skills
The 6.0 system requires judges to compare the performances and rank how they skated.  Two marks are awarded - Technical and Artistic.

       The IJS requires judges to compare each individual's performance against a standard and award  Grades of Execution (GOE)
marks that are factored by accounting software for technical difficulty. The skater's performance is awarded marks for five different components:
  • Skating Skills - skating ability
  • Transitions - movement between elements
  • Performance - style, carriage, unison
  • Choreography - quality of the program's choreography
  • Interpretation - a skater's expression and style 
       There is a technical panel that identifies the elements, and the level of difficulty of each element. The level of difficulty is based on published pre-set criteria. The technical panel consists of a:
  • Technical Specialist
  • Assistant Technical Specialist
  • Technical Controller
  • Data Operator
  • Video Replay Operator
       The GOE scores for each required element and the program component scores are combined by the accountants to determine the placements.  The judges hand in written score sheets in the manual system or enter them into the computer and send the marks electronically to the accounting room. The judges do not maintain a record of previous scores that they awarded.

Discussion Topics -
Abolish the use of "features" in spins and sequences, and use the Grade of Execution to reward added value in these elements.

       It is proposed to abolish the use of "features" in spins and sequences, and assign only basic values for each element.

       The elimination of "features" would have the following effects:

a) stimulate the creativity of the skaters

b) place emphasis on the basic qualities of the elements (speed, balance, beauty of positions, etc.) instead of simply achieving levels of difficulty at the expense of quality of the elements

c) reduce the risks of "personal interpretation" by the various Technical Panels in establishing the level of the elements

       It will be the duty and the responsibility of the judges to establish with their GoE marks the extra value added by the skaters through their ability and creativity, such as: number of revolutions above the minimum required, new and original positions, speed, quality of a spin in general; use of complex turns, changes of skating or rotational direction in steps, speed, depth of the edges, extension of the free leg, etc.

Definitions of Spin positions

        Upright spin

In the upright spin, the longest axis of the skaters torso is vertical and coincides with the axis of rotation. The skating leg may be bent at the knee and the hip, so long as the axis of the torso remains in essentially a vertical position.

A position where the torso is inclined forward, but the skating leg is essentially straight (angle at the knee of the skating leg more than 135 degrees) shall also be considered an upright position.

Other examples of variation of the upright spin include the cross-foot spin, lay back spin, side-leaning spin, Biellmann position and "inverted-V" spin (knees straight, skaters head near foot level).

a) The cross foot spin must be commenced spinning either forward or backward from a one foot flat spin with the free foot being placed on the ice as soon as possible after a minimum number of rotations necessary on one foot. The free foot can be crossed either in front or behind provided both skates are on the ice, toe to toe. If crossed in front, the free foot may be placed on ice at a 90 degree angle to the first foot.

b) In the lay back or sideways leaning spin and in the Biellmann spin any position is permitted as long as the lay back or sideways leaning position is maintained for at least eight revolutions without rising to an upright position. [Note: When an upright spin is required, if the angle is less than 135 degrees, the spin will be called no value.]

        Sit spin

The skater is in a sitting position. The skaters torso may be vertical or leaning forward or sideways. The skating leg should be bent at the knee at no more than a 90 degree angle.

Judges shall reduce the GoE for sit positions where the angle is more than 90 degrees (a weak sitting position). When the angle is greater than 135 degrees the position shall be considered an upright position.

Note: When a sit spin is required, if the angle is greater than 135 degrees, the spin will be called no value.

        Camel spin

The competitors torso must be in a horizontal, or nearly horizontal position, with the free leg held as high as the hip joint of the free leg, or higher. The position of the free leg is otherwise free. Variations of the position are permitted, including holding the free leg at any point, including the skate blade.

The skaters torso may be in an arched position so long as the axis of symmetry of the lower back and pelvis is nearly horizontal.

Judges shall reduce the GoE for poor positions of the torso or free leg, or if the free leg is not held as high as the hip joint of the free leg. Judges shall increase the GoE for superior positions of the torso and/or free leg.

        Intermediate Position

This position is an unnecessary fiction that serves no useful purpose and is unnecessary with the above definitions.

Source - Ice Skating International   Coaches Propose Changes to IJS

ISU Rules -

        Under the ISU Judging System the Judges focus entirely on evaluating the quality of each element performed (technical aspect) and the quality of the performance. Their scores will be based on specific quality criteria for each element and will provide a comprehensive assessment of each skaters skills and performance, without comparing each skater in relation to all others. The Judge enters the scores through a touch screen unit. At ISU Events Judges may review in real time certain sequences of the skaters performances by means of an instantaneous Video Replay System.

       At international competitions, there will be a panel of 9 Judges per segment. The scores of these 9 Judges will form the result. Out of these 9 scores, the highest and lowest score of each element or program component are ignored and the average will be taken from the remainder, generating the trimmed mean (average score).


Technical Scores

       The score for the element is composed of a “Base Value” of each element (Technical Panel) and the so-called “Grade of Execution - GOE” (Judges).

       A group of experts, including experienced skaters and coaches, have worked out a summary list of each elements Base Value as well as its “Level of Difficulty” in case of spins, steps, lifts, etc.  The level of points of the Base Value depends on the difficulty of the element.


       Some elements such as spins and footwork sequences are further broken down depending on their “Level of Difficulty”.


       These element Base Values and Levels of Difficulty ensure that skaters receive the appropriate and consistent credit for every element performed. The Base Value of all recognized elements are reviewed and published annually by the ISU in a Communication.


       The name of the identified element will be listed instantaneously on the Judges screen. The Judge then simply grades the quality of the element on a scale of +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3. With this scale and the resulting “quality judgement”, the judge can either increase or decrease the base value of each performed element.

       The total of all the elements scores is the Technical Score.


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 to grade the overall presentation of the performance.

The Presentation Score for Single and Pair Skating (Short Program and Free Skating):

  • Skating Skills, which is the overall quality of the skating ability (e.g. balance, flow, multi directional skating, power)
  • Transitions, Linking Footwork and Movement; which is the variety and difficulty how the individual elements are linked together. Unison in Pair Skating and Ice Dance as well as the balance of workload of both partners.
  • Performance/Execution; is the physical and emotional involvement of the skater/couple as they translate the intent of the music and choreography (e.g. carriage, style, personality, variety, contrasts, projection)
  • Choreography/Composition, which is the arrangement of all movements according to the principles of proportion, space and music (e.g. idea, concept, unity, pattern, phrasing, originality, design)
  • Interpretation, which is the translation of the music to movement on ice (e.g. timing, expression of the music, use of nuances, relationship between partners, character of music)

Historical Background
      The sport of figure skating has evolved over the last eight decades. Refer to the following links:
Recommended Reading:

New  Evaluation of Jumps

School Figures

Test and Elite Skating Standards

PDF  Focus Points: Evaluating a Test Performance
   As judges, we must observe everything that occurs and record notes that support the marks we give when testing:
  • MITF Elements
  • Compulsory dances
  • Free Skating Programs
  • Pair Programs
  • Free Dance Programs
   The ISU competition system of Grades of Execution (GOE) and Performance Components (PC)  rewards positive and negative performances. Many judges extend these concepts to judging tests.

MITF Discussion Topics
    This is a place to communicate your comments and opinions on how we can improve the testing environment, especially how to develop a diverse complement of skating skills, including basic forward and backward figure eights, loops, and twizzles, etc.


       The following articles and links discuss activities related to a wide variety of subjects relating to judging figure skating tests and competitions:

New PDF IJS Handbook  

Singles and Pairs Training Manual for Judges
    This manual is used in training sessions for judges. It discusses the Moves In The Field (MITF), free skate, and pair tests that are governed by U.S. Figure Skating Association. It is important for test and competition judges to stay informed about rule changes.
MITF Lesson Plans
    The purpose of providing detailed Lesson Plans for each MITF element is to encourage a systematic method of teaching the Moves in The Field lessons.
    Every effort is being made to communicate information to the skater and coach about how judges evaluate different skills and weight the positive and negative qualities to arrive at their marks.
Critique Sheets for MITF
     The goal of the sheets is to provide a pattern of each individual MITF element to assist in the analysis of the elements by applying the focus points described in the lesson plans.
    It is our hope that these sheets, based on the PSA MITF booklet, will make it easier for coaches to communicate to their skater on how judges evaluate and judge the MITFs. Teaching to the test standards is especially valuable when coaches and judges are in agreement.

Chart of Changes to MITF on Sept. 2, 2010 

ISU Figure Skating Judging  

The International Judging System (IJS)

IJS Judging Criteria

Training for Judges
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:

Training for Judges

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.

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