How is Gymnastics Scored? (answered)

In the world of gymnastics, every flip, spin, and leap is a blend of athleticism, precision, and artistry. But how is gymnastics scored accurately and fairly? The answer lies in the gymnastics scoring system, a fascinating blend of precision and subjective assessment. This article dives into the depths of this system, unraveling the complexities that turn physical prowess into quantifiable scores.

gymnastics medals

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • The Code of Points revolutionized gymnastics scoring in 2006.
  • Difficulty (D) and Execution (E) Scores are the pillars of the scoring system.
  • Understanding the scoring nuances enhances appreciation for gymnastics.

The Evolution of Gymnastics Scoring

Gymnastics, an Olympic staple for over one hundred years, has undergone significant scoring changes over the years. The iconic “Perfect 10,” once the pinnacle of achievement, was phased out in 2006, giving way to the more dynamic Code of Points. This system, introduced by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), marked a shift towards a more open-ended and nuanced scoring approach, aiming to better capture the increasing difficulty of gymnastic routines​​.

Unraveling the Code of Points

The Code of Points is more than just a rulebook; it’s the backbone of gymnastics scoring. Each organization, from National Governing bodies such as USAG to local federations, can adapt the FIG code to suit their competition levels. Despite variations, the essence of the Code remains consistent: rewarding technical difficulty and flawless execution. The 2006 revision, prompted by controversies over judging objectivity, sparked debates. While it encouraged higher skill levels, critics feared it might overshadow the sport’s artistic elements​​.

Within gymnastics, there are multiple disciplines (types of gymnastics) some well known, others not so. Each discipline recognized by the FIG has its own code of points but all are underpinned by the same philosophy of rewarding difficulty and execution.

The most recognized gymnastics disciplines are Womens Artistic, Mens Artistic and Rhythmic. Less recognized ones are Team Gym and Aerobics.

gymnastics splits in routine

Within the code of points for each discipline is a section that outlines the difficulty value of each individual skill. Skills are often grouped together in bands – ‘A’ being the lowest-value skills through to ‘H’ or ‘J’ which are assessed as being the most difficult and therefore being worth more if included in a routine.

Gymnastics Judging Panels

At the heart of the scoring system are the judges, divided into two main panels: the Difficulty (D) Panel and the Execution (E) Panel. Panel sizes differ slightly between the disciplines and also the events within the discipline.

For example, Women’s Artistic compromises four events:

  • Floor Exercise
  • Vault
  • Uneven Bars
  • Balance Beam

Floor exercise judges are split into, The D Panel, consisting of two judges, assesses the technical difficulty of a routine. Meanwhile, the E Panel, with five judges, evaluates the gymnast’s execution and artistry. Every skill and landing contributes to these scores, which are then combined for the final tally​​.

Within the execution panel the top and bottom scores are usually deleted to prevent excessively high or low scores being awarded. From a panel of 5 execution scores only 3 would count making a maximum total of 30 being possible.

Breaking Down the Difficulty Score

In men’s gymnastics, the D Panel considers the 10 most difficult skills, including the dismount; for women, it’s the eight most challenging elements. Each skill is assigned a value from the Code of Points, and additional points are awarded for skill connections and meeting composition requirements. Interestingly, vault is the exception, with a preset difficulty score displayed before each performance​​. Learn more about the nuances of vault scoring in this detailed guide on the hardest vaults in women’s gymnastics.

The Execution Score

Starting at a perfect 10, the Execution Score is a downward journey, with points deducted for every error, no matter how small.

From technique missteps to a forgotten salute, every aspect of the performance is scrutinized. Falls, one of the most significant errors, can cost a full point. This score is then averaged by dropping the highest and lowest marks given by the judges​​.

The Final Tally

A gymnast’s final score is a sum of their Difficulty and Execution Scores, adjusted for any penalties like time violations or stepping out of bounds. This holistic approach ensures that gymnasts are rewarded not just for attempting harder skills but for precision and competence as well.

The 2006 Scoring Overhaul

The 2006 revamp of the gymnastics scoring system wasn’t without controversy. While it aimed for greater objectivity and difficulty, many worried it would detract from the sport’s artistry.

The new system effectively removed the universally understood ‘Perfect 10’, changing how performances were perceived and valued. Yet, it also opened doors for gymnasts to push the boundaries of their skills, as seen in the ever-evolving gymnastics levels.

gymnast present routine

Element Groups and Their Impact

The Code of Points isn’t static; it evolves with the sport. Each skill in the Table of Elements, from acrobatics to dance moves, is rated from A (simplest) to J (most complex). These ratings directly impact the Difficulty Score, influencing a gymnast’s starting point in the competition​​. For a deeper dive into the journey of a gymnast, from learning the basics to mastering complex skills, explore this comprehensive gymnastics levels guide.

The Future of Gymnastics Scoring

As gymnastics continues to evolve, so does its scoring system. The challenge lies in maintaining a balance between encouraging technical prowess and preserving the artistry that makes gymnastics a spectacle.

New skills and variations of existing ones are still being produced today and will continue to be innovated in the future. However, it is fair to say that the volume of new skills being performed has decreased over the last few years. When a gymnast feels they have a new skill to perform it has to be competed successfully at a FIG recognized event such as the World Championships before it can be considered for inclusion in the Code of Points and then given a difficulty value.

New skills are usually named after the gymnast that first competes them!

Simone Biles has produced several new skills in recent years including on Floor, Vault and Beam though there was some controversy over the low-difficulty value awarded by the FIG.

Gymnastics scoring isn’t just about general rules; it’s about the minute details that can make or break a performance. For example, the connection value in a routine can significantly impact the Difficulty Score. This requires gymnasts to strategically select their skills, ensuring they not only perform the hardest elements but also connect them in ways that maximize their score​​.

The Role of Artistry in Execution

While the Difficulty Score focuses on the technical aspects, the Execution Score adds a dimension of artistry to the performance. Judges assess not just the precision of the movements but also how they are presented. This includes rhythm, flow, and the overall aesthetic of the routine. Such a comprehensive evaluation demands a keen eye for detail, a quality essential in gymnastics judging. To understand more about what it takes to be a judge in this intricate sport, check out this guide on how to become a gymnastics judge.

Risk v Reward in Gymnastics Scoring

The safety of gymnasts is a paramount concern in scoring. Some skills carry higher risk factors, leading the FIG to assign them lower difficulty values or even ban them outright. This balancing act between encouraging progression and ensuring athlete safety is a critical aspect of gymnastics​​. For a deeper understanding of the risks involved in gymnastics and how they’re managed, visit this insightful article on whether gymnastics is a dangerous sport.

Preparing for the Olympics

Olympic-level gymnastics is the pinnacle of the sport, and understanding the scoring system is crucial for both gymnasts and fans. As athletes prepare for this grand stage, they tailor their routines to maximize their scores.

This preparation includes not just mastering difficult skills but also understanding how these skills are evaluated in the scoring system. Learn more about the qualification journey and scoring at the Olympics with this detailed article on how gymnasts qualify for the Olympics.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Gymnastics and Its Scoring System

As gymnastics continues to evolve, so too will its scoring system. The challenge for the FIG and other governing bodies is to continue adapting the Code of Points to reflect the sport’s growth while maintaining fairness and clarity. With gymnasts pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, the scoring system must evolve to accurately and safely assess these incredible feats of athleticism and artistry.

This concludes our comprehensive look at how gymnasts is scored. From the intricacies of the Code of Points to the evolution of the sport, understanding gymnastics scoring adds a layer of appreciation for the skill and dedication of these athletes.


Can a gymnast still achieve a ‘Perfect 10’ under the current system?

While the traditional notion of a ‘Perfect 10’ is no longer applicable, gymnasts can still achieve perfection in their Execution Score, which starts at 10 and decreases with deductions. The overall score, however, also includes the Difficulty Score, making the concept of a ‘Perfect 10’ somewhat obsolete in modern gymnastics as gymnasts can score above 10 with execution and difficulty combined.

How are ties broken in gymnastics scoring?

In the event of a tie, the gymnast with the higher Difficulty Score usually prevails. If still tied, the next level of tie-breakers involves comparing execution scores and then individual element scores.

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