How does figure skating scoring work? The complicated version.
Critics of figure skating scoring have long accused the system of being subjective, and therefore, rampant with bias. This has led to the occasional controversy over the years, including a judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that prompted sports officials to finally change the scoring system to be more objective. This resulted in today's ISU Judging System. The system was created by the International Skating Union (ISU), the sport's governing body, and was implemented in 2004. While it's designed to be more objective and less vulnerable to abuse than the previous scoring system, some in the sport still feel that it allows a degree of bias among judges.
As for how skaters earn points, well, that's also kind of complicated. In addition to receiving points for their overall presentation and artistry during each event, figure skaters are awarded points for each of their step sequences, jumps, and spins. Skaters can earn points and they can lose points, via deductions. A fall will result in an automatic one-point deduction, for example. Skaters in the singles events can, of course, make up for blunders by earning bonus points for every jump they execute during the second half of their programs. Got all of that? It only gets more confusing from here, unfortunately.
More specifically, there are two components when it comes to figure skating scoring: the Technical Elements Score (TES), based on the execution of technical elements, and the Program Component Score (PCS), based on the artistry of the overall program. Both are evaluated by a nine-person panel of judges along with a three-person technical committee, according to a breakdown provided by NBC Olympics.
The TES is the sum of a skater's element scores. The technical committee gives these scores by quickly and correctly identifying the skaters’ moves and verifying both the level of difficulty for each move and whether they're fully completed or landed short. As for the nine judges, they rate the execution of each element of the skaters’ programs with a -3 or +3 grade of execution, or GOE, to the element's base value (the base values are predetermined). For each element, the highest and lowest of the nine GOE scores are dropped and the seven remaining scores are averaged. The judges take the base value of each element and add (or subtract) the GOE they gave them to come up with the final TES, per the NBC Olympics summary. Confused yet?
The same nine judges also determine the PCS by rating skaters' overall performance in five areas -- skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, and interpretation -- worth a maximum of 10 points each. A 1 is considered really bad, a 5 is considered average, and a 10 is considered outstanding. These scores are averaged for each component, then they're hit with a multiplier that varies by event (it's complicated, remember). You can find the full list of multiplying factors here. To get the final PCS, the judges round the factored scores to decimal places, then add them.
Finally, the officials take the TES and the PCS and combine them to make Total Segment Score (TSS). This is also when skaters are dinged with deductions for any falls or other issues. At this point, you'd think they'd be a handing out gold medals for math, too.