ISU Judging System

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 Winter Olympic Games.

The ISU Judging System replaced the previous 6.0 system in 2004. This new system was created in response to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games figure skating scandal, in an attempt to make the scoring system more objective and less vulnerable to abuse.[1]


Previous judging 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 lowest 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

The technical panel

Under the new 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 identifies the specific element. The technical specialist uses instant replay video to verify things that distinguish different elements; 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. A panel of twelve judges 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 table of values in ISU rule 322. The GOE value from the twelve judges is then averaged by randomly selecting nine judges, discarding the high and low value, and averaging the remaining seven. This average value is then added to (or subtracted from) the base value to get the value for the element. Skaters can receive deductions for things like falls and for lifts that go on for too long.


The number and type of elements in a skating program 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, and 2 step sequences. Ladies do 7 jumps, 3 spins, 1 step sequence and 1 spiral sequence.

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. 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 incorrect take-off edge (for example, an inside edge on a lutz jump take-off), that jump is marked with an e and the GOE is based on the severity of the wrong edge. 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)[2]

Jumps done in combination 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 can be downgraded to a "sequence", in which case the base value is 0.8 times the sum of the individual jumps. The jumps normally executed at the senior level, and their base values, are quad toe loop (10.3), triple Axel (8.5), triple Lutz (6), triple flip (5.3), triple loop (5.1), triple Salchow (4.2), triple toe loop (4.1) and double Axel (3.3).


All elements on a protocol sheet are abbreviated. The following is a list of the common ones.[3][4]

Abbreviation Full name
T Toe loop jump
A Axel jump
S Salchow jump
Lo Loop jump
F Flip jump
Lz Lutz jump
Throw jumps
TTh Throw toe loop
STh Throw salchow
LoTh Throw loop
FTh Throw flip/lutz
ATh Throw axel
USp Upright Spin
LSp Layback spin
CSp Camel spin
SSp Sit spin
FUSp Flying upright spin
FLSp Flying layback spin
FCSp Flying camel spin
FSSp Flying sit spin
CUSp Change foot upright spin
CLSp Change foot layback spin
CCSp Change foot camel spin
CSSp Change foot sit spin
CoSp Combination spin
CCoSp Combination spin with change of foot
PSp Pair spin
PCoSp Pair combination spin
Step sequences
SlSt Straight line step sequence
CiSt Circular step sequence
SeSt Serpentine step sequence
MiSt Midline in hold step sequence
DiSt Diagonal in hold step sequence
NtMiSt Not Touching Midline Steps
NtMiTw Not Touching Midline Sequential Twizzles
ChSt Choreography Step Sequence
Spiral sequences
SpSq Spiral sequence of any pattern (no longer in use as of 2010)
ChSp Choreography Spirals
Pair lifts
1Li Group one lift
2Li Group two lift
3Li Group three lift
4Li Group four lift
5TLi Group five toe lasso lift
5SLi Group five step in lasso lift
5RLi Group five reverse lasso lift
5ALi Group five axel lasso lift
TTw Toeloop twist lift
LzTw Lutz/Flip twist lift
ATw Axel twist lift
Dance lifts
StaLi Stationary lift
SlLi Straight line lift
CuLi Curve lift
RoLi Rotational lift
SeLi Serpentine lift
RRoLi Reverse rotational lift
Death spirals
FiDs Forward inside death spiral
BiDs Backward inside death spiral
FoDs Forward outside death spiral
BoDs Backward 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.

Program Components

The former presentation mark has been replaced by five categories, called program components. The components are (1) skating skills (SS), (2) transitions (TR), (3) performance/execution (PE), (4) choreography (CH), and (5) interpretation (IN). A detailed description of each component is given in ISU rule 322.2. Each component is awarded a raw mark from 0 to 10 in increments of 0.25, with a mark of 5 being defined as "average". The five raw marks are then translated into a program mark by multiplying by a factor that depends on the program and the level.

For senior ladies and pairs, the factor is 0.8 for the short program and 1.6 for the long program. For senior men, the factor is 1 for the short program and 2 for the long program. The factors are set so that the total score from the artistic marks will be about equal to the total score from technical marks. Senior men tend to have higher element scores than ladies because they have more jumping passes and attempt higher valued jumps, so their program components are factored higher to reflect the difference.

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.

World records

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.[5] The ISU only recognizes world records set at international competitions run under ISU rules, not including events such as national championships.


Component Skater Score Event
Short Program Canada Patrick Chan 93.02 2011 World Championships
Free Skating Canada Patrick Chan 187.96 2011 World Championships
Combined Total Canada Patrick Chan 280.98 2011 World Championships


Component Skater Score Event
Short Program South Korea Kim Yu-Na 78.50 2010 Winter Olympics
Free Skating South Korea Kim Yu-Na 150.06 2010 Winter Olympics
Combined Total South Korea Kim Yu-Na 228.56 2010 Winter Olympics


Component Skaters Score Event
Short Program China Shen Xue / Zhao Hongbo 76.66 2010 Winter Olympics
Free Skating Germany Aliona Savchenko / Robin Szolkowy 144.87 2011 World Championships
Combined Total Germany Aliona Savchenko / Robin Szolkowy 217.85 2011 World Championships

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 Russia Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov 45.97 2005 World Championships
Original Dance Canada Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir 70.27 2010 World Championships
Short Dance Canada Tessa Virtue / Scott Moir 74.29 2011 World Championships
Free Dance Russia Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov 117.14 2003 Cup of Russia
Combined Total Russia Tatiana Navka / Roman Kostomarov 227.81 2005 World Championships


Component Skater Score Event Source
Short Program Finland Rockettes 83.46 2010 Cup of Berlin [6]
Free Skating Sweden Team Surprise 144.70 2007 World Synchronized Skating Championships [7]
Combined Total Finland Rockettes 223.90 2010 World Synchronized Skating Championships [8]


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]


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 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.


  • At the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek tied in the overall score. The tie was broken by the free skate placement and Lysacek won the event. At the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Katrina Hacker and Mirai Nagasu tied in the short program, with Hacker winning the tiebreak on the technical elements score. At the same competition, Laney Diggs and Kristine Musademba tied in the overall score, with Diggs winning the tiebreak on the free skate placement.
  • At the 2009 ISU World Team Trophy in Figure Skating, Joannie Rochette and Miki Ando tied with a scored of 62.08 in the ladies short program. The tie was broken by the technical mark, so Rochette placed 2nd in that segment, while Ando was 3rd.[11]

Judge Reduction in 2008

In 2008, the International Skating Union ruled to reduce the number of judges from 12 to 9.[12] Ottavio Cinquanta cited economic difficulties as the prime reason for this change. Because the top and bottom extreme scores are dropped and two more scores are dropped at random, the scores of 5 judges will determine the outcome of competitions.


External links

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