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Gymnastics 101: Scoring

London 2012 judges table
USA Today Sports

Gymnastics 101: Scoring

No longer using the "Perfect 10," the new Code of Points has an open-ended scoring system that can seem confusing.

Scoring Basics
After the 2004 Games in Athens, a code of points system was introduced in 2005 to replace the old scoring system for all events. The Perfect 10 as a maximum score was abolished in favor of an open-ended system, designed to allow greater separation of gymnasts' scores.

Here is how it works:

  • One panel of judges starts from 0, adding points for requirements, difficulty and connections.
  • A second panel of judges starts from 10.0, and deducts for execution and artistry.
  • The final score is determined by adding the difficulty score and the execution score. A typical score under today's rules ranges from 13 to 16 points.
  • Outside of the change in a gymnasts' final score, the most notable change is that gymnasts are more heavily penalized for execution errors. Falls now cost 1 point instead of eight-tenths of a point.


Who's to judge?

For each Olympic gymnastics event, 9 judges are chosen from a FIG pre-approved pool of multi-national judging candidates. The chosen judges are categorized into 3 groups:

  1. The D panel, who calculate the Difficulty Score (2 judges)
  2. The E panel, who judge the Execution Score (5 judges)
  3. The Reference panel, who correct the Execution Scores in case of any problems (2 judges)


Difficulty Score (D Panel)

The Difficulty Score represents what was previously known as the start value and includes difficulty and credit for connections (two high-level skills that are performed in sequence without pause) and element group requirements, which are the basic categories of skills/elements that must be included in a routine. The element group requirements vary by apparatus. This score is determined by the D Panel, which is a two-person panel.

The difficulty score is determined by totaling values for the 10 most difficult skills for men and 8 for women, which includes the dismount. Each skill has a set difficulty value, as outlined in the Code of Points. The difficulty value of a skill or element is not recognized if it fails to meet its technical requirements. Also, credit is also only given once for a skill.

For vault only, each vault has a predetermined Difficulty Score, which the gymnast or his/her coach enters on an electronic scoreboard at the beginning of the runway. The number of the specific vault and its Difficulty Score are flashed to the judges.

On every event but vault, connection value is awarded when specific skills or skill types are executed successfully in succession. Each connection value is either 0.1 or 0.2 points.

Element group requirements are the basic skills or elements that must be included in each routine and vary by apparatus. If all of the requirements are included, a maximum of 2.5 points is awarded.

Execution Score (E Panel)
The Execution Score, determined by a five-person E Panel, now begins at 10.0 points. Deductions are made for errors and faults in technique, execution and artistry/composition. The deductions for various errors have increased from previous years. They now range from 0.1 points for a small error to 1 point for a fall.

Neutral Deductions
Neutral errors include those for stepping out of bounds or violating time requirements, as well as attire or podium violations.

Determining the final score
Each judge on the D Panel independently reaches his/her Difficulty Score and then the two compare and reach a consensus. Each judge on the E Panel independently determines his/her score. The highest and lowest scores are dropped, and the gymnast's execution score is the average of the remaining three judges' scores.


After the score has been posted, a coach may inquire about the Difficulty Score, first verbally and then in writing. An inquiry may be resolved by using video review. The initial inquiry must be made prior to the completion of the next gymnast's routine. The written inquiry must be submitted before the end of the rotation, and the Superior Jury reviews the inquiry. A fee is assessed for filing an inquiry; it is returned if the inquiry is upheld.


Why is there a new Code of points?
The International Gymnastics Federation decided to overhaul gymnastics' rulebook, the Code of Points, following the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Not only did a scoring error leave American Paul Hamm's gold medal in limbo for two months, but the men's high bar final was delayed for more than ten minutes when the crowd couldn't understand Russian Alexei Nemov's low score.

When did the new rules take effect?
The FIG, gymnastics' international governing body, passed the new code in Nov. 2005 and it was first used in 2006. The last major event under the old system was the 2005 World Championships and the 2006 American Cup was one of the first to employ the new rules.

What's the biggest difference?
In previous codes, gymnasts were striving for a maximum score of ten points. Now, there is no maximum score.

The Perfect 10 is gone?
Yes. Gymnastics' iconic Perfect 10 as a maximum score was abolished in favor of an open-ended system, designed to allow greater separation of gymnasts' scores. While it is theoretically still possible to score a 10, the routine wouldn't be far from perfect--for example, if a gymnast performed a routine with a difficulty score of 5.0 points and received 5.0 out of 10.0 execution points.

How is a gymnasts' score determined?
The new system is similar to the scoring system used in figure skating. One panel of judges starts from 0, adding points for requirements, difficulty and connections. A second panel of judges starts from 10.0 and deducts for execution and artistry. The scores are then added together.

Doesn't that emphasize difficulty?
In fear that the sport would turn into the X-Games, with athletes throwing as much difficulty as possible, execution errors were increased. For example, falls are now penalized by a full-point deduction, instead of a 0.80 point deduction.

What's a good score now?
As a general rule, scores in the 15-16 range are considered good, with scores over 16 being exceptional.

Are some events easier to score well on than others?
Yes, which is one of the criticisms of the new system. For women, uneven bars scores tend to be higher (it's possible to rack up connection value points by doing long sequences of difficult moves) and floor scores lower. Men's vault and rings are high-scoring events and parallel bars tends to be low. This makes the team final, especially on the men's side, rather tricky to track: The team in first place after one or two rotations will likely be the team that started on a high-scoring event and it will be hard to gauge the teams' true ranking until later in the competition.

But wasn't part of the problem in Athens to do with filing scoring protests?
The new Code of Points does address this. Coaches must inquire about their athletes' D score immediately following the posting of an athlete's score, and must follow the verbal inquiry with a written one. A fee must accompany the protest, which is returned if the inquiry proves correct and the D score is changed. If not, the fee is donated to the FIG Foundation. The judges may use video replay. Coaches cannot inquire about E scores.

Gymnastics 101

Learn more about gymnastics:

Basics | Competition format | Scoring | Qualification | Venue | Equipment | Apparatus | Glossary | Olympic History

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