Talk to any skater or parent about skating, and, eventually, they’ll want to discuss judging. So, from the perspective of a former judge, current test coach, and skater who tested for 25 years, I’ve gathered some “scoop” for parents and skaters about the judging of skating tests.

First, some basic facts about judges:

The one, three, or more people facing testing or competing skaters most often are skaters themselves. Many still skate and some are former competitors.

Judges are volunteers and never receive compensation beyond reimbursement for their expenses while judging.

Judges spend months, even years, preparing to become a judge and continue to prepare intensely every time they move up to a higher level of test or competition judging. It takes real dedication to the sport and to skaters be a judge.

All USFS judges must maintain a level of judging activity that allows them to earn Continuing Education Units towards renewing their judging appointments every four years. They must judge or trial judge tests and/or competitions, attend sanctioned judging schools/seminars, and complete the Rules Review Worksheet.

In other words, judges must do the activity they’ve been appointed to do (judge), attend sanctioned schools/seminars regularly to stay current with the sport, and complete a review of the rules, usually focusing on new or changed ones, in order to continue to function as a USFS judge. It is their job to maintain the standards of skating as outlined in the USFS Rulebook.

Second, some basic facts about test standards:

All tests are scored on a scale that ranges from 0 “Not Skated” to 6.0, skating that is “Outstanding” in quality.

The points needed to pass tests are listed in the Rulebook for all levels of skating in all disciplines.

The standard of skating for each level of each discipline is defined in the Rulebook. I recommend reading the pertinent description before skaters take any test and rereading the standards often. Take any questions to the skater’s teaching professional(s) for clarification, if needed. Here are some samples.

The description of Pre Preliminary Moves, the first Moves test, reads, “The purpose of this test is to encourage skaters to learn the fundamentals of ice skating. No great deal of technical ability, carriage, or flow is expected. The candidate must show knowledge of the steps, fairly good edges and some evidence of good form.”

The written description of Pre Juvenile Free Skating, the third freestyle test says, “The fundamentals of free skating must be demonstrated, although not necessarily mastered. Good edges, flow, power, extension and posture are required for all of the elements of free skating (jumps, spins, as well as connecting moves). The program should utilize the ice surface and demonstrate some relationship with the music.”

Silver Dance, the fifth level of dance tests, is described as, “The candidate must give a performance that is, generally, good. Strong true edges, good rhythm, smooth turns, correct carriage and effortless flow are expected. Musical interpretation and unison should be moderately good. The this level is required only to observe the candidate’s knowledge of the steps and ability to keep time with the music.”

It’s easy to see from these descriptions that the level of performance expected by judges rises as the skater progresses up the test ladder in any discipline and the descriptions are fairly specific while allowing for interpretation on the part of judges as to which aspects of the standard they weigh more or less heavily when judging.

Another great source of knowledge about judges’ test expectations is found in the Professional Skaters Association booklets on Moves in the Field and Dance. These booklets contain helpful descriptions and guidelines for teaching the various tests and are wonderful aids to understanding judging for parents and skaters as well.

The points needed to pass tests correspond across disciplines. For example, the passing average in points is similar at the Intermediate level in Moves, Pairs, and Free Skating and fits with that needed to pass Pre Silver dances.


Behind these descriptions of skating from the Rulebook and manuals lies the expertise of the judges, their experience at judging these levels to the standard described, their interpretations and evaluations of that standard, and their wealth of knowledge of the sport.
Judges are individuals. They judge individually. There is no discussion among them until a test ends. They disagree with one another’s opinions of a particular test often and they make judgments that are different. That’s why passing a test requires a simple majority (2 out of 3) and not a unanimous decision as it once did.
The system isn’t perfect; I disagree with decisions judges make and will continue to do so as a teaching professional. But, over my 20 years of teaching I’ve often seen the wisdom of a particular decision on a test I’ve disagreed with come to fruition later in a skater’s testing career to the skater’s advantage. Conversely, I’ve seen skaters pass tests that really surprised me only to watch them struggle at the next levels they attempt.
Skating is life to many of us, but our lives do not depend on the outcome of one test or one competition in skating. Our future is always before us, never behind and our skating life is never dependent on a figure skating judge’s decision, except perhaps at the very highest levels of the sport.
It is up to us as skaters and parents to use judges’ decisions and test outcomes to become better at what we do in skating and let that enrich and inform our lives.

Sherry Karnosky
CCSA Pro Liaison
Fall 2011