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IJS Basics

Last revised 9 October 2020 for the 2020/21 season


What is IJS?

IJS is an acronym for "International Judging System."  It is the system defined and used by the ISU to score figure skating competitions in Singles (Ladies and Men), Pairs, Ice Dancing, and Synchronized Skating.

IJS became the official scoring system of the ISU in June 2004.  ISU member federations of the ISU use IJS in the scoring of their domestic competitions.  IJS replaced the system previously used by the ISU, known as the "6.0 System."  U.S. Figure Skating continues to use the 6.0 system for some of its lower level competitions.

Program Content Rules and Scoring Rules, What's the Difference?

Program content rules are about the content that is permitted in a skating program.  The scoring rules are about how the content is evaluated, marked and turned into a number that determines the order of finish in a competition.  When IJS was adopted, the program content rules did not change substantially, at least no more than they normally do from year to year.

IJS scoring rule are about how program content is evaluated by the officials, marks given and scores calculated.  Skaters have a variety of choices for the content they can include in a program.  The IJS scoring rules determine how that content is scored.

Because elements and movements have different values, IJS does strongly influence the choices skaters make in picking content for their programs to maximize their points, but the scoring rules do not actually mandate specific content.  The program content rules do that.

In addition to elements, programs include other content and movements that are evaluated and scored.  The value of this additional content and other aspects the programs are scored using five marks (four for Pattern Dance) known as Program Components.

The Officials

Two groups of officials are used to score competitions, the Judging Panel and the Technical Panel.

The Technical Panel is the group of officials responsible for identifying the elements skaters execute in programs, determining if any elements do not meet requirements and should not receive credit,  and identifying certain major errors such as downgrades, under-rotations and incorrect jump edges.  Elements are the major "tricks" included is a program, such as jumps, spins, step sequences, etc.  Refer to the program content guides to find the elements included in each type of program.  For more on elements, downgrades and edge calls see below.

The Technical Panel consists of the following officials:

  • Technical Controller
  • Technical Specialist
  • Assistant Technical Specialist
  • Data Entry Operator
  • Video Replay Operator

In smaller competitions the Technical Panel might not have the Data or Video operators.  These officials are needed if the competition is making use of a computer marks entry system and a video replay system.

The Judges Panel is the group of officials responsible for evaluating the quality of the program content and assigning marks.  From these marks the total program scores are calculated and the results of a competition determined.  A Judging Panel consists of the following officials:

  • Event Referee
  • Assistant Referee (not always used)
  • Time Keeper (often handled by the Referee or Assistant Referee instead)
  • A group of Judges

How Many Judges Determine the Results?

At an ISU Championships and at the Olympics there are currently nine judges on a panel.  All of these judges score the competition by giving marks for the elements and Program Components.

When calculating results, the high and low mark for each element and Program Component are dropped and the panel average determined.  Consequently, seven marks go into the average mark calculated for each element and component at ISU Championships and the Olympic Winter Games.  These marks will usually come from different combinations of the scoring judges since it is rare for a given to judge to always be the high judge or the low judge for every element and component, though it is possible.  This type of average, with the high and low mark excluded, is called a single trimmed mean.

The more relevant question, actually, is not how many judges determine the results, but how many marks determine the results.  Currently seven marks are averaged for each element and Program Component to determine the results at ISU Championships and the Olympic Winter Games.  At other competitions a smaller panel of judges might be used.  As long as there are five or more judges on the panel, the single trimmed mean is used.  For four or less judges all the marks are averaged in a simple mean without throwing out the high and low marks.

Elements

Elements are the most significant technical (athletic) content included in a program.  In Singles events these consist of jumps, spins and step/choreographic sequences.  In pairs, there are additionally lifts, throws, pairs spins and death spirals.  Dance elements include lifts, spins, step sequences, twizzles and a choreographic spin or lift.

Further details on the elements included in programs can be found in our program content guides.

  • Ladies Short Program

  • Ladies Free Skating

  • Men's Short Program

  • Men's Free Skating

  • Pairs Short Program

  • Pairs Free Skating

  • Dance Short Dance

  • Dance Free Dance

Base Values and GoEs

Each element has a base value.  It is the point value for the element if it is executed with no significant errors, but also no significant strengths.  It is the score for a minimally correct execution.  The base values for all the "listed" elements is in a table of points known as the Scale of Values.

GoE stands for Grade of Execution.  If an element is performed in a minimally correct way, with no significant errors or "positive aspects" the GoE for that element would be a 0.

Elements with errors or positive aspects can be awarded GoEs from as low as -5 to as high as +5, in integer steps (-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5).

What is the Difference Between the GoE and the GoE Value?

Every element is scored with the same -5 to +5 Grades of Execution.  The point value for a given Grade of Execution, however, is not the same for every element.  A GoE of +1, for example, might have a point value of 0.5 points for some elements and +1.0 for other elements.  The GoE values for each listed element is part of the Scale of Values.

How do the Judges Decide on the GoE to Give?

Starting with a GoE of zero, the judges reduce the GoE due to errors in the execution and increase the GoE if there are "positive aspects" to the execution.  ISU Communications provide guidance for how much the GoE should be reduced or increased for various errors and for positive aspects.

In general, for each minor error in the element (there could be more than one) the GoE is reduced by 1.  Each major error reduces the GoE by 2 and each catastrophic error reduces the GoE by 3 or more.  The minimum GoE, however, is -5 after taking into account all the errors.  There are also certain errors for which the judges must give either give a GoE of -5, or must give a negative GoE.

For every positive aspects in an element (as defined in ISU Communications), ISU Communications recommend the judges increase the GoE by 1.  Several positive aspects in an element are recommended to reach a GoE of +5 according to the guidelines, though the rules do not specifically require the judges adhere to any particular number of positive aspects to increase the GoE.

An element with both errors and positive aspects might end up with a GoE of zero.  For example, a jump with both a minor error on the landing but also a better than typical takeoff, good height in the air, etc., might be given a GoE of zero, or even a positive GoE if the strengths outweighed the weaknesses.  There is no way to tell from the protocol of marks what positive and negative aspects the judge took into account in assigning their GoE.

Program Components

Program Components are used to reward other content and presentation aspect of programs.  There are five Program Components (four in Pattern Dance).

In Singles and Pairs the Program Components are named:

  • Skating Skills
  • Transitions
  • Performance
  • Composition
  • Interpretation of the Music

Program Components are marked on a ten point scale from 0.00 to 10.00 in steps of 0.25.

What is the Element Review and How Does it Work?

While programs are being performed, the Technical Specialist identifies each element, their level and calls any falls.  If the Assistant Specialist or the Controller does not agree with the call, they can ask for a review following the program by saying "review" when the specialist makes the call.  If there are no calls to review at the end of a performance, the Controller "authorizes" the elements, and once the judges have finished entering their marks the officials are ready to continue with the next skater.  If there are calls to reviews, the Controller works through each of these with the Technical Panel.  The Controller directs the review process.

When reviewing an element, if the Assistant Specialist agrees with the Specialist the call stands.  If the Assistant Specialist does not agree with the Specialist, the Controller breaks the tie.  This process is followed for all reviews of element identifications, level calls, no value elements and fall deductions.  During the review period the Technical Panel vet the elements for violations of the rules.

At the completion of this process, the Controller will "authorize" the elements.  Once authorized, and the competition has moved on to the next skater the "field of play" is closed for the previous skater, and the calls cannot be changed even if later recognized to be incorrect, other than if the data operator has incorrectly entered information into the scoring computer system, or a clear misidentification of an element.  Subjective decisions of the panel cannot be changed.  The voices of the Technical Panel are recorded to resolve any questions concerning what the Data Operator was asked to enter by the Controller.

At major competitions a video replay system is used to view the elements (or falls) under review.  The video can be played in slow motion if needed.

Reviews often involve lengthy (sometimes animated) discussion among the Specialist, Assistant Specialist and the Controller as the Controller asks the Specialist and the Assistant Specialist what they think the correct call should be and why.  The Data Operator and Video Operator do not participate in the discussion.  The Data Operator can, however, participate in discussions of the rules that would require giving an element or part of an element no credit.

At competitions where instant replay is not available the review takes place based only on the panels' memory of what took place in the program.

How are Jumps with Incomplete Rotation Scored?

Jumps that do not have the required amount of rotation in the air (1 through 4 rotations for singles through quads, with Axels 1 1/2 through 3 1/2 rotations for single through triple Axels), are referred to as having incomplete or missing rotation.  The informal term for this is "cheated."

If the Technical Panel decides a jump is missing more than 1/4 rotation and up to 1/2 rotation, it is designated "under-rotated" and the base value of the jump is reduced by 30%, making the value less than for complete rotation but more than for the same type of jump of one less rotation.

If a jump is missing 1/2 rotation or more, it is designated "downgraded" and the base value of the jump is reduced to the base value of the same type jump with one less rotation.  For example, a triple Lutz should have three rotations in the air.  If the attempt has 2 1/2 rotations or less in the air, the Technical Panel will downgrade the jump, and the attempt will receive the base value for a double Lutz.

A jump landed exactly 1.4 rotation short is flagged with a "q" information symbol.

Judges are required to reduce the GoE by 1 or 2 depending on the severity of the incomplete rotation.  When a jump is called for missing rotation, the skater loses points in both base value for the jump and GoE points.  If a jump is missing up to 1/4 rotation, the base value is not reduce, but judges are allowed to reduce the GoE at their discretion.

Most missing rotation calls are for missing rotation on the landing.  Nevertheless, jumps can also be missing rotation due to a cheated takeoff, usually on a toe loop (referred to as a toe Axel).  On the protocols, jumps designated under-rotated are flagged with a "<" symbol, while jumps designated downgraded are flagged with a "<<" symbol.

In reviewing downgrade calls, the Technical panel is allowed to examine the video replay in slow motion.  The orientation of the blade at the instant it contacts the ice is used to determine if the jump is under-rotated.  Thus, skaters who land on the flat of the blade have a little extra time to complete the rotation than skaters who land on an extremely pointed toe.

What is an Edge Call?

Jumps are classified (named) by their takeoff edge and whether they takeoff with or without a tap from the other leg.  The different jumps are named as follows, and takeoff from the edges listed (for a right handed skater).

  • Toe Loop -- right back outside tap jump
  • Salchow -- left back inside edge jump
  • Loop -- right back outside edge jump
  • Flip -- left back inside tap jump
  • Lutz -- left back outside tap jump
  • Axel -- left forward outside, edge jump

A common error in the Lutz jump is to change from the back outside edge to a back inside edge shortly before the takeoff.  Less common, but also seen is a change of edge shortly before the takeoff from a flip jump.  These errors are penalized by a reduction in the GoE by the judges, but it is the Technical Panel that calls whether the edge change has taken place.  A Lutz with a change of edge is often referred to by the jargon "flutz" and a flip with a change if edge as a "lip."  These terms are not official rulebook terms, but are nonetheless commonly use by fans and the skating community.

If the jump has a long, clear, obvious, change of edge the jump receives an "edge call" and is noted by an "e" on the marks detail published following the event.  Jumps where the change of edge is not clear, or if the takeoff is from a flat (neither an inside or outside edge) the jumps receives an "edge attention" which is indicated on the protocol with an "!."

Jumps with an edge call or edge attention do not receive a lower base value.  They are only penalized by the reduced GoE.  Judges will typically reduce the GoE by 1 or 2 for this error, depending on it's severity.

Why do Some Elements Receive No Points?

Many elements have requirements that must be met for the element to receive credit (points).  If an element attempt does not meet the minimum standard it receives no points.  Further, if execution of an element is in violation of the rules it will also receive no points.  Elements that receive no points due to a violation of the rules are indicated on the marks detail by an asterisk.

For jump combinations and sequences, sometimes only some of the jumps will have asterisks.  In this case at least one of the jumps meets requirements and receives points while the others do not meet requirements and do not receive points.  For example, a short program might require a triple with double, and the skater executes a triple or double with a single.  The single would receive the asterisk but the double or triple would not, as the latter met the requirements but the former did not.

Examples of elements that receive no points because they do not meet minimum requirements include:  failing to hold any spiral position in a spiral sequence for three seconds; failure to have the required minimum number of rotations in a spin; failure to complete a single rotation in a jump.  Examples of elements that receive no points due to a rules violation include:  repeating a spin (same spin code);  repeating a jump beyond the number permitted; having more jump combinations or sequences than permitted.

In singles, a spin will also receive no value if a spin of a required type is omitted.  For example, if a flying spin is required and none of the three spins has a flying entry, one of the spins (usually the last) will receive no value, even if the three spins have different spin codes.  In singles the jump elements must include an element with an Axel takeoff.  If this is omitted, the last jump element will receive no value, if the skater has attempted the maximum number of jump elements allowed.

What is the Time Bonus?

Certain elements in some event segments receive a 10% increase in base value if they are executed (begun) in the second half of the free skating program.  The start of the second half is half way though the nominal time for the program.  For a Free Skating program, for example, with a four minute nominal time, half-time begins at the two minute mark.

In Singles Free Skating, jumps receive the time bonus.  There is no time bonus for elements in Pairs and in Ice Dancing.

To discourage skaters from back-loading all the jumps in the second half, only the last three jump elements in the second half receive the bonus.

What Determines the Base Value of Jump Combinations and Sequences?

The Base Value for a jump combination is the sum of the base values of the individual listed jumps.  (Listed jumps are the jumps that have values in the Scale of Values.)

The Base Value for a jump sequence is the sum of the base values of the two highest value individual listed jumps in the sequence, multiplied by a factor of 0.80.  A jump sequence can contain more than two jumps and may include unlisted jumps, but only the two highest value listed jumps contribute to the Base Value.

What Determines the Base Value of Combination (Long) Lifts?

Senior Free Dance programs may include three short lifts or one short lift and one long lift. Junior Free Dance programs may include two short lifts or one one long lift.  The long lift has twice the base value of a short lift.  The total base value for dance lifts is thus the same for each option in each category.  It is the levels achieved for the lifts and the GoEs awarded by the judges that distinguishes the points lifts earn in a program.

Stationary lifts, straight line lifts, curved lifts and rotational lifts, are considered "short" lifts and can have a maximum duration of seven seconds.  Long lifts are combinations lifts that combine two of the four possible short lifts.  The Base Value of a combination lift is the sum of the base values of the two shorter lifts.  Lifts that take longer to execute than the permitted time receive a deduction.

Deductions

Certain rules violation result in deduction.  These deductions and their value are:

  • Time -- 1.0 for each five seconds or part thereof
  • Costume -- 1.0
  • Music (not for dance) -- 1.0
  • Illegal elements -- 2.0 for each
  • Falls -- 1.0 for each
  • Extra elements (dance only) -- 2.0 for each
  • Interruptions (singles and pairs) -- 1 for every 10 seconds or part thereof after the first 10 seconds
  • Interruptions (dance) -- 1 for every in excess of 5 seconds, or fall in excess of 10 seconds
  • Extended lifts (dance only) -- 1.0
  • Late start -- 1.0 after 30 seconds, elimination after 1 minute

How are Results Calculated?

  • Calculate a single trimmed mean for the element GoE values.
  • Round these averages to two decimal places.
  • Add the panel average GoE values for each element to its base value (including the time bonus in the base value).  This is the panel value for each element.
  • Add the panel values for all the elements
  • Add any bonus points.  This is the Total Element Score (TES)
  • Calculate a single trimmed mean for the Program Component marks.
  • Round these averages to two decimal places
  • Multiply each Program Component panel average by a Program Component factor.
  • Round again to two decimal places.
  • Add the factored Program Component panel averages.  This is the Program Component Score (PCS)
  • Add the Total Element Score and the Program Component Score, subtract any deductions, and multiply by the segment factor.  This is the Total Segment Score (TSS)
  • Add the Total Segment scores for all segments.  This is the Total Event Score.

Why are There Program Component Factors?

The main purpose of the Program Component Factors is to give The Total  Element Score and the Program Component Score roughly equal importance in the Total Segment Score.  This is in an average sense for a large group of skaters.  Individual skaters may be more skilled in one or the other and will not have exactly equal TES and PCS.

Program Component factors are also used to allow for different importance among the Program Components for different event segments.

Why are There Segment Factors?

In order to balance the importance of the event segments that make up an event, some event segments have a Segment Factor that is not equal to 1.0.  Segment Factors other than 1.0 are used in some events, to tune the desired importance of each segment to the others.

How are Ties Broken?

In the Short Programs, Compulsory Dances, and Rhythm Dance, the Total Element Score breaks the tie.

In Free Skating and Free Dance, the Program Component Score breaks the tie.

In events with two or more event segments, the score in the most recently skated segment breaks the tie, except when two compulsory dances are skated, for which there is no tie breaker after the second compulsory dance.

Copyright 2020 by George S. Rossano