Figure skating at its best
March 22–28 2021

Figure Skating For Rookies, Part 3: Your guide to the figure skating judging system

How are the Figure Skating points awarded nowadays? Find out in Figure Skating for Rookies, part 3: Your Guide to the Figure Skating Judging System.

Figure Skating Competitions for Rookies:

  1. Skaters perform a Short Program/Rhythm Dance and a Free Skating/Free Dance segment.
  2. 24 Ladies, 24 Men, 16 Pairs, and 20 Ice Dance couples go through from the Short Program/Rhythm Dance to the Free Skating/Free Dance segment.
  3. Points are awarded for Techical Element Score (TES) and Program Components (PCS)
  4. The more difficult and higher quality elements the skaters/pairs perform, the more Technical points they are awarded. Elements include for example jumps, spins, lifts, throws, and step sequences.
  5. Program Components include Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance, Composition, and Interpretation of the Music.
  6. The Technical Element Score and Program Components are added together to a Total Segment Score.
  7. Total Segment Scores from the Short Program/Rhythm Dance and the Free Skating/Free Dance are combined to a Total Competition Score.


Skaters first perform a Short Program/ Rhythm Dance, which must include a number of pre-determined elements. This segment may last no longer than two minutes and 50 seconds. Points from the Short Program/Rhythm Dance are added to points from the Free Skating/Free Dance.

Free Skating/Free Dance segments are longer, up to four minutes (+/- 10 seconds). Rules relating to what skaters can do in the Free Skating/Free Dance are less strict than in the Short Program/Rhythm Dance. Skaters typically score around twice as many points in the Free Skating/Free Dance than in the Short Program/Rhythm Dance.


Points in the Short Program/Rhythm Dance and the Free Skating/Free Dance are divided into a Technical Element Score (TES), and five Program Components (PCS). In the past, Program Components included what was referred to as Artistic Impression or Presentation. For the Technical Score, all elements have specific values attached to them.

One important factor for the Technical Element Score is the level of difficulty in steps, spins, and lifts. There are five different levels; Basic, 1, 2, 3, and 4, with 4 being the highest and most valuable difficulty. The Technical Panel, made up of three experts, decides which level is applicable.

Technical Element Scores are also determined by the quality of the Technical elements. This is called the Grade of Execution (GOE), and ranges through -5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4, and +5. The better the quality, the higher GOE points are awarded. A skater can earn a -5 for serious faults, like for example a fall, while a 0 could mean that the element is executed without any actual errors. A +5 is quite unusual and indicates that many aspects of the element are outstanding. Judges decide the Grade of Execution.

It is not possible to say what the maximum Technical Element Score is for Men, Ladies, or Pairs, as the sport is constantly evolving, and we do not know how difficult jumps and throws skaters of the future will achieve.

Program Components are judged exclusively by judges on a scale of 0.25 to 10.00 in five different categories. These are Skating Skills, Transitions, Performance, Composition, and Interpretation of the Music.

The Program Component Score (PCS) has a maximum, which is achieved if a skater receives 10.00 from all judges in all components. In the Men’s category Free Skating, if this happens, the skater is awarded 100 points in his PCS. In Pair Skating or Ladies’ Free Skating, the maximum Program Component Score is 80 points, and in the Ice Dance Free Dance it is 60 points.


Jumps and throws are supposed to be fully rotated. Sometimes, skaters complete the last part of a rotation on the ice as they land. There are different penalties for jumps that are “cheated” by a quarter of a revolution, more than a quarter, or half a revolution. For someone who is new to skating, it can be difficult to see if the jumps are completely rotated or not – this is usually easier seen in slow-motion video replays. The Technical Panel has access to video replay to review the jump landings.

Mistakes on landings, such as falling, stepping out, or landing on two feet have deductions in the Judges Grade of Execution.

Spins also make up for an important part of the skater’s points. Mistakes made in spins can decide many placements, and even a fight for the podium. Spins should be well centered, have good speed, many revolutions, and graceful positions.

There are limitations to how many times the same type of jump can be repeated by Men, Ladies, and Pairs. This is also the case when it comes to how many jump combinations the skaters are allowed to do. If these rules are broken, the skaters can lose many points. An example could be executing the same type of jump with the same number of revolutions three times in a Free Skating. This would result in the last of the jumps being awarded zero points.

Skaters have 30 seconds to start their program from the moment they have been announced and called to the ice. If they fail to do so, they also face a penalty.

Do you want to learn more about scoring? Watch this video: