The judging system

Crash course in Figure Skating

1. The skaters do a Short Program and Free Skating
2. There are 24 Ladies, 24 Men, 16 Pairs, and 20 Ice Dance couples who qualify for the Free Skating after the Short Program.
3. The points are divided into Technical Element Scores (TES) and Program Component Scores (PCS).
4. The more difficult and better jumps, spins and step sequences, the higher the Technical Element Score.

5. The Program Components are Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance/Execution, Choreography, and Interpretation.
6. The Program Component Score and the Technical Score are added together and form the Total Segment Score.
7. The Total Segment Scores from the Short Program and the Free Skating are added together, and we have a winner!

The Programs

The Short Program, which can be no longer than 2 min and 50 seconds, is skated first and should contain a certain amount of prescribed elements. The 24 best Men and Ladies, the 16 best Pairs and the 20 best Ice Dance teams advance to the Free Skating.

The Free Skating is 4 minutes (+/- 10 seconds).


In this program, the skaters are more free in what they can choose to do. The points from the Short Program and Free Skating are added. The Free Skating usually gives about twice as many points as the Short Program.

The Points

The skaters collect points both for their Technical Elements (TES – Technical Element Score) and for the five Program Components (PCS – Program Component Score). The latter is what used to be called ”Presentation” or ”Artistic Impression”.

The Technical Score is decided by the difficulty and quality of step sequences, jumps and spins. The difficulty in step sequences and spins is measured in five steps: level Base, 1, 2, 3, and 4, where 4 is the highest. It is the Technical Panel, with three officials, who decide the level.

The quality is decided by nine judges, and it is measured on a scale from -5 (completely missed), through -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4 to +5 (world class).

It is impossible to say what the maximum Technical Element Score is, when it comes to Men, Ladies, and Pairs, since the sport is constantly evolving, and we do not know how difficult jumps and throws the skaters of the future will be able to do.

The Program Component Score is solely decided by the judges. The scale is from 0 to 10 in five different parts: Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance/Execution, Choreography, and Interpretation.


The Program Component Score has a maximum for each of the disciplines. If a skater in the Men’s category would receive 10.00 from all judges in all five components in a Free Skating, he would receive 100 points. A Lady, an Ice Dance team, or a Pairs team would, with the same marks, only receive 80 points. The reason for this is that the idea of the judging system is that the Technical Score and the Program Component Score should be about the same, and the Men usually collect higher Technical Scores than the Ladies, Pairs, or Ice Dancers.

The Technical Score and the Program Components are added and form the Total Segment Score in the Short Program and Free Skating respectively. These scores are added and give the final result.

Ice Dancing is the only category which has maximum total points in figure skating. The reason for this is that there are no jumps in this discipline. For the season 2014/2015, it is possible to achieve a total of 202,80 points in Ice Dancing, where 82,20 points is the maximum for the Short Program, and 120,60 is the top limit for the Free Skating.

Deduction of points

To not fully rotate the jumps can be a severe mistake. Sometimes the skaters rotate the last part of the jump on the ice, at the landing moment. If there is more than a quarter of a turn left in the landing, the jump will lose about 30 per cent o fits value. It can be difficult to see if the jumps are fully rotated or not, but try and look closely at the slow motion video to get a clearer idea. The technical panel can also look at the landings in review.

A lot of points can be collected in the spins. And mistakes in the spins can decide who gets which medal.


There are limits to which and how many jumps the Men, Ladies and Pairs can do.
Although the skaters are well aware of these rules, sometimes there are mistakes which leads to many points lost. An example of this can be the repetition of a jump too many times, which results in zero points for the last of the repetitions.

The skaters have 30 seconds to start their program.