Athlete Centered Skating

Beginning in 2004 the International Judging System (IJS) replaced the old 6.0 scoring system that had been used in figure skating for decades. This happened in part as reaction to a judging scandal in the pairs event at the 2002 Olympic games in Salt Lake City. Following the scandal, the ISU was looking to design a scoring system that was more objective and quantifiable, that would hold judges accountable to the scores that they gave.

The similarity and differences between IJS and 6.0

Under the IJS, the skater’s score is composed of two parts: the Technical Element Score (TES) and the Program Component Score (PCS). These two scores replace the similar Technical and artistic scores from the 6.0 system that many of us grew up watching on television.

The IJS differs from the 6.0 in that it is a cumulative scoring system. Points are earned for each technical element and the 5 Program component to add up to a total score for a program. Judges names are linked to the scores that they give, which helps to add a layer of accountability.

Technical Panel

The technical panel is responsible for identifying each technical element that the skater performs.  This include jumps, spins, step sequences, and choreographed steps. This may seem like a simple job, but in reality, it is quite complex.

When identifying jumps the technical panel must look for several important details.  First, they must identify what type of jump the skater is trying to perform. Jumps differ based on how they take off from the ice and how many revolutions are performed in the air.  Next, they must decide if the jump fulfilled the required revolutions. For example, a triple salchow (3S) must complete 3 revolutions in the air. Some amount of pre-revolution is expected on the take-off but must not exceed a half revolution.  Additionally, the jump must land backwards to be considered a “cleanly” executed jump. The technical panel also looks for errors in the core technique of the jump such as taking off on the wrong edge or doing an incorrect type of combination. To ensure accuracy the technical panel has the ability to watch slow motion film of most jumps.

For spins, the technical panel identifies the type of spin, as well as the level of difficulty.  The level of difficulty is determined by how many difficult features are achieved within the spin.  Difficult features can be achieved on the entrance of the spin, by the position of the spin, or even by how the skater changes feet. Skates must hold each spin for a required number of revolutions and the technical panel is responsible for ensuring the skater met the requirements.

Step sequences are also awarded levels of difficulty based on what difficult “features” are exemplified in the sequence. Possible features include having enough complexity of difficult turns and steps, featuring complete 360-degree rotations in both directions throughout the steps, the use of two “clusters” of difficult turns, and full use of the upper body throughout the sequence.  This is a difficult process and the technical panel splits up the duty of doing this among different members.

Overall, the technical panel’s job is to identify elements and the difficulty associated with them.  The technical panel does not judge the quality of the execution. That job is left for the judges.


The judges’ main responsibility is to determine the quality of elements and the program components. Every technical element has a base score associated with it. For instance, a triple Toe Loop (3T) is worth 4.2 points where as a triple Lutz (3Lz) is worth 5.9.  The base value of each element is determined by its relative difficulty. Each technical element can be awarded a Grade of Execution by the judges, commonly referred to as a GOE. The GOE ranges from -5, to +5

Grade of Execution

Triple toe loop= (BV) 4.2

-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 Base (0) +1 +2 +3 +4 +5
-50% -40% -30% -20% -10% +10% =20% +30% +40% +50%
2.1 2.52 2.94 3.36 3.78 4.2 4.62 5.04 5.46 5.88 6.3


As you can see in the chart above, the grade of execution awarded relates to the reduction or addition of points to the base value of the element performed.  For instance, if a skater did an exceptionally nice triple toe loop they might receive a +4. A +4 score would take the 4.2 base value of the triple toe loop, and increase it by 40% for a score of 5.88.  This is meant to award skaters for doing elements with great quality and balance the risk and reward of a skater’s program.

Similarly, that same skater could decide to take a risk and try a more difficult jump, the quad toe (4T).  The quad toe has a base value of 9.5 points. If you fall on the jump you will receive a -5 for the element for a value of 5.7 with an additional 1 point deduction for the fall. This means that although the skater took the risk and tried a quad, they were still rewarded similarly to landing a triple because the quad is considered so much more difficult. This same process is done for all technical elements for the program.  Please see below for an example of a protocol sheet.

You can see in this protocol that the skater had a solid skate.  Very few elements received any negative marks from the judges. The highest scoring element of the program was element 1 her 3T+3T combination.  You can see on this protocol how each technical element, including all spins and the step sequence where given a grade of execution by the panel of 9 judges.

Moving to the bottom portion of the protocol we have the Program Component scores.  The program components are made up of 5 different categories including skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, and the interpretation.  Each of these five qualities are used to collectively replace what used to be called the artistic score. These 5 categories help judges quantify the artistic side of skating.  Look out for future blogs to more specifically discuss each of these qualities, how to develop them in an athlete, and the impact that they have at different levels.

Final thoughts

Don’t worry if this is confusing to you now! One of the critiques of this judging system is that it is so complex that it is hard for the casual fan to understand.  Sometimes the scores don’t seem to line up with the performance the audience watched, until they start to understand the system better. This blog is meant to be an introduction to help you become acquainted.

In future blogs, we will discuss the IJS in more detail.  Look forward to information on how to use your protocol sheet to help set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based).  Also, we will share analysis on what skaters are doing to maximize scores in particular levels; weighing risk with reward; and how what matters shifts as skaters move through the levels. Skaters, coaches, and parents can all benefit by learning about the IJS so be on the lookout for more information soon!