Figure skating 101: Glossary


Base value

Every element has a certain base value according to its level of difficulty. These values are listed in a table called the Scale of Values (SOV). Base values for jumps are straightforward and pre-determined based on the difficulty of the jump and number of revolutions. For example, a triple Axel (8.2 points) is worth more than the less difficult double Axel (3.5 points).

Non-jump elements, such as spins and step sequences are assigned a level – between one and four – based on their difficulty. Level one elements receive a lower base value than level four elements. Each level is assigned a certain base value.

Choreographic sequence

The choreographic sequence consist of any kind of movements such as steps, turns, spirals, arabesques, spread eagles, Ina Bauers, hydroblading, transitional (unlisted) jumps, spinning movements etc. The pattern is not restricted (unlike the step sequence), but the sequence must fully utilize the ice surface and is a required element of the free skate.


One of the five program components. Defined as an intentional, developed and/or original arrangement of all types of movements according to the principals of proportion, unity, space, pattern, structure and phrasing.

Code of Points

The “code” is the set of technical regulations for skaters detailing how much certain elements and variations of elements are worth (see “Scale of Values”).


Points that are subtracted from the total score. Deductions can be applied for a time violation, an extra/illegal element, a costume/prop violation or a fall.


The starting order for each event in a figure skating competition is determined by a lottery or “draw.” Either the referee or chair of the competition conducts the process in the presence of other judges (closed draw) or in an open setting where the athletes actually draw a number from a pouch (open draw).


Under the current rules, a fall is defined as the “loss of control by a skater with the result that the majority of his/her own body weight is on the ice supported by any other part of the body other than the blades e.g. hand(s), knee(s), back, buttock(s) or any part of the arm.”

Grade of Execution (GOE)

A grade, ranging from -3 to +3 that each member of the judging panel awards for each technical element. A positive GOE, awarded for a well-executed skill, will add more points to the element’s base value, while a negative GOE subtracts from the base value.

International Judging System (IJS)

Also referred to as the “Code of Points,” the current judging system has replaced the 6.0 judging system with a cumulative points system. Ordinals and the ranking of skaters against each other has been eliminated. The new system was first implemented on the Grand Prix circuit for the 2003-04 season, and was used at all ISU championship events during the 2004-05 season. 2006 marked the first time the Code of Points system was used at the Winter Olympics.

International Skate Union (ISU)

The official governing body of figure skating. The ISU is responsible for the training and certification of judges and determines the rules for competition.


One of the five program components. Defined as the personal and creative translation of the music to movement on ice.

Judging Panel

Judges are the officials who award grades of execution (GOEs) for each element, as well as scores for the five program components. The judging panel consists of nine judges and a referee (in charge of the judges). In any given competition segment, seven of the nine judges’ scores are randomly selected to count towards the result.


Non-jump elements, such as spins and step sequences are assigned a level – between one and four – based on their difficulty. Level one elements receive a lower base value than level four elements.


A skater’s carriage and position relative to the ice. The term also is used in ballet and dance.

Mirror Skating

Opposite movements performed by pairs skaters in close proximity to one another.


One of the five program components. Defined as follows:

Performance: the involvement of the skater/couple/teams physically, emotionally and intellectually as they translate the intent of the music and choreography.

Execution: the quality of movement and precision in delivery. This includes harmony of movement in pair skating.

Program Components

The components that represent the overall presentational and artistic quality of a skating performance are known as the program components. There are five program components in singles and pairs skating: skating skills, transitions, performance/execution, choreography/composition and interpretation.

Program Components Score (PCS)

The scores (between 0.25 and 10) for each of the five program components are each multiplied by a factor and then added. The result is the program components score, which is more precisely referred to as the factored program components score.


The referee manages the judging panel and is in charge of the overall event. Among the referee’s responsibilities: conducting the draw, timing the skating performances, determining certain deductions (including music violations), monitoring ice conditions and supervising the conduct of the competitors.

Shadow Skating

Identical movements performed by pairs skaters in close proximity to one another.


A move in which the skater extends his or her free leg behind him or her during a long glide to demonstrate both flexibility and fluidity.

Starting Order

The result of the draw, the starting order lists the sequence in which skaters will compete and the groups they will warm up with prior to competition.

Technical Controller

The technical controller is the leader of the technical panel. This official who supports the technical specialist and ensures that any potential mistakes in the “calling” (element identifying) process are corrected immediately.

Technical Elements

Any specific, definable skill, such as a jump, spin, lift or throw, is a technical element.

Technical Panel

The technical panel consists of five officials – the technical controller, the technical specialist, the assistant technical specialist, the data operator and the video replay operator – who run the new judging system at a competition. The technical panel is responsible for identifying all elements and levels during a program.

Technical Specialist (caller)

The technical specialist is the official who identifies, or “calls” the elements that a skater performs.

Total Element Score (TES)

The sum of the judging panel’s scores for each individual element performed during a program is the total element score.

Total Segment Score (TSS)

A skater, pair or couple’s total score for one particular segment of competition (e.g. short program, free skate) is referred to as the total segment score. The total segment score is arrived at by adding the total element score (TES) to the factored program component score (PCS) and subtracting any deductions.

Transitions/Linking Footwork & Movement

One of the five program components; defined as: the varied and or intricate footwork, positions, movements and holds that link all elements. This also includes the entrances and exits of technical elements.

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