How Does Scoring Work In Gymnastics?

how does scoring work in gymnastics

In gymnastics, athletes are scored on how well they perform certain skills at different levels of difficulty. The athlete who scores the highest on an event or a series of events wins.

Scoring in gymnastics is more complicated than in other sports. A particular area of confusion is that not all gymnastic competitions use the same system. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) switched the official scoring system in 2006 to make the final score more comprehensive for elite level competitions like the Olympics. However, the female collegiate and Junior Olympic levels still use the old system. Male collegiate and Junior levels use a modified system close to the elite level scoring system. 


Elite Level and Olympic Scoring

In the US, gymnasts can test into the US Elite Program after completing the Junior Olympics Program, Levels 4-10. Once gymnasts enter this elite level, they will be scored based on separate execution and difficulty scores that are combined for their final score.

The execution score is determined by a panel of five to six judges. They will each start at 10 points and make deductions for any faults/mistakes related to artistry, execution, or technique. All judges will come up with their own scores. The highest and lowest scores will be dropped. They will then take the average of the remaining scores to determine the athlete’s overall execution score.

Two people work together to determine the difficulty score. They add up the points based on the 10 highest difficulty skills. Every skill has a predetermined value based on how difficult it is. If one skill is used twice, it can only be considered in the difficulty score once. In addition to the skills being tallied up, gymnasts can also earn points based on connections between two high-level skills. These points are available in the uneven bars, balance beam, and floor events for women and the horizontal bar, rings, and floor events for men. Also, in each level, there are “element group requirements” that must be included in a routine. If these are all met, an athlete will earn another 2.5 points.

Judging Panels

gymnastics judges

For each Olympic event in gymnastics, there is a group of judges who are in charge of scoring the athletes. Within this group, there are two separate panels titled D Panel and E Panel. It is also possible to have a third Reference Panel to correct the scores of the D and E Panels.

D Panel

The D Panel is in charge of determining the difficulty score of an athlete’s routine. This panel consists of two judges, both of which are required to be high-level, professional judges. These judges determine the start value of an athlete’s routine, which depends on connection values, element difficulty, and element requirements. Each judge will create their own difficulty score, and then compare with the other, coming to an agreement.

E Panel

The E Panel is in charge of determining an athlete’s execution score. This panel is made up of between five and six different judges, depending on the competition. They look at execution, technique, composition, and artistry. Judges start with a 10.0 value and make deductions as the athlete competes. Each judge gives an individual score, then the highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the middle four are averaged to get the athlete’s final execution score.

A gymnast’s final score for the routine is calculated by combining the difficulty and execution scores, minus any deductions. Scores in Olympic and Elite level gymnastics events fall between 13 and 16 points.

Collegiate and Junior Olympic Level Scoring

In the NCAA and Junior level female competitions, scoring works as it originally did in the FIG. Gymnasts start out with a score based on the difficulty of their routine. If they meet all the difficulty requirements for their level, they will start with a 9.500. They can add on “bonus” points by adding more challenging skills and connections to their routine. Gymnasts try to do this so that there is more of a buffer for later deductions.  

Junior Olympic Level scoring only uses two judges for each routine. Both judges will score on difficulty individually, minus any deductions. The average of both judges’ scores will be the gymnasts final score. A gymnast can receive a maximum score of 10.

Deductions

No matter which type of scoring system a gymnast is using, there are always deductions throughout the routine. There are execution deductions that relate to the performance of a skill. These can include gymnast’s legs coming apart while flipping on the bars, legs not reaching 180 degrees or more during a split/leap, falling, or wobbling. At elite levels, deductions range from 0.1 to 0.8 points and from 0.1 to 0.5 points at Junior Olympic and collegiate levels. 

Artistry deductions are more subjective. Athletes can get points deducted for not looking confident, not being expressional, or if their routine lacks a personal style.

Competitions

Athletes either compete as individuals or as teams. Scoring for individual events means one athlete receives one score for that event. In the all-around, individual athletes compete in all events, and their scores are totaled. In a team competition, five athletes compete on each apparatus, and the highest three scores for each event are added together. There are four apparatus in women’s competitions and six in men’s.

Difficulty Scores

An athlete’s difficulty score consists of the difficulty of their skills and the presence of connections between those skills. It also considers the requirements for a specific event, which consists of several skills that must be performed by the athlete. The ten most difficult skills, including the dismount the gymnast performs, are totaled to create this score. If the athlete fails to complete the skill, it will not count toward their difficulty score, and the next highest skill will be included. Each unique skill will have its own point value, as is determined by a Code of Points. In this, skills are divided into different levels. There are seven levels for the women and six for the men. 

Skill Levels/Values

Women’s skills are divided into levels A-G, and men’s skills are divided into A-F. Skills acquire more difficulty as they move on the scale from A to F or G. For example, a full turn is only an A level skill, while an Arabian salto (a type of backflip with a twist) is at F level. The higher the level, the higher the athlete’s difficulty score will be. 

Connection Values

Connections are when athletes link two skills together, such as a leap series on the beam. Female gymnasts are able to acquire these connections on beam, floor, and uneven bars. Men are able to acquire them on the floor, still rings, and high bar. A connection value usually ranges from 0.1 to 0.2 points. 

Element Group Requirements

On each apparatus, there are a few skills that must be completed. If athletes complete these skills, their difficulty score begins at a 2.5 and grows from there based on other performed skills.

Execution Scores

Execution scores are dependent on the execution, artistry, composition, and technique of the skills that the athletes perform. The score begins at a 10 and is deducted as athletes compete. Deductions are made for mistakes and faults in the athlete's skills or form. Any other penalties are deducted from the total score of the execution and difficulty scores added together. Deductions can range from 0.1 points for small errors to 0.8 points for a fall from an apparatus. 

Neutral Deductions

These deductions are taken from the execution score and include faults such as stepping out of bounds, passing a time requirement, or inappropriate attire or actions. 

Apparatus Scoring

Floor

On the floor, athletes are scored based on the height of their jumps and leaps, along with their tumbling passes. The judges look for body position both at the start of the pass, in the air, and on the landing. Athletes are given deductions if they step out of bounds of the floor, 0.1 points for one foot and 0.3 points for two feet.

Beam

On beam, athletes are scored on both their balance and their skills. If they wobble or lose their balance, they can be deducted up to 0.5 points. Judges also score athletes on their leaps and jumps and how high off the beam they are when they perform these skills. They are also scored on the angle of their leaps. Athletes can lose up to 0.8 points for falling off the beam or grabbing it to catch their balance. 

Uneven Bars

On uneven bars, athletes are scored on the angles they create with their bodies as they move around and between the bars. When performing giants (rotations around the bar), they are expected to reach a full, straight, handstand above the bar. Not reaching this angle will cause a deduction. Rhythm is also key to bar routines. If there are any movements outside of a smooth rhythm, such as an extra cast, swing, or stop, athletes can be deducted up to 0.3 points. 

Vault

Vault scores depend on three aspects of the event. First, they are scored on their movement from the springboard to the vaulting table, the flight. Then they are scored on their form as they reach and push off of the table, and finally, they are scored on their form in the air and on their landing. Judges look for height above the table, distance from the table, and form in their air and on the landing. 

High Bar

High bar scores are similar to uneven bar scores. Athletes are expected to reach handstands above the bar, keep a consistent rhythm, and to hold proper form as they move around the bar. A fall from the bars or an added movement will lead to deductions.

Pommel Horse

On the pommel horse, athletes are scored on their ability to maintain a consistent rhythm and height above the table. The judges will also be looking for good form in movements, and deductions will be made if athletes hit their legs on the table or fall off the apparatus.

Parallel Bars

On the parallel bars, athletes are scored based on their ability to hold positions such as handstands above the bars, their swing between and over the bars, and their ability to keep good form. If they hit their legs on the bars or lose the hold on their positions, points will be deducted.

Rings

On the rings, one of the main skills judges look for is the athlete’s ability to hold a position for at least two seconds. If they cannot hold their position, points will be deducted. Judges also look for a consistent rhythm, good form, and proper landings.

FAQ

What does ND mean in gymnastics scoring?

ND stands for neutral deduction. These are deductions that a head judge will subtract from the final score. They apply to larger rules that a gymnast breaks. Some examples are a routine going too long, a gymnast showing up late to perform, or if a gymnast’s clothing doesn’t meet regulation requirements. If a college gymnast was going to receive a perfect 10, a neutral deduction could bring the true final score down to a 9.9. 

What is the highest possible score a gymnast can get?

In the female collegiate and Junior Olympic level, and the old FIG scoring system, a perfect 10 was the highest a gymnast could score. These are very rare though. With the new FIG system it is difficult to put an exact number on the max score possible. Technically, it would be 20 but difficulty scores don’t go to 10. They are usually no higher than 6.5. So a total score of around 16 is what gymnasts aim for.

Why did the FIG change the scoring system?

The scoring system was changed in 2006. In this change, the coveted perfect 10 was lost. This was done because the FIG wanted to encourage gymnasts to complete more challenging routines. The new system creates a larger difference between gymnasts based on the difficulty of the skills they are attempting. This encourages athletes to keep trying new skills rather than just perfecting old ones to get a perfect 10.