Instruction to Judges

The attitudes and conduct of the judges determine the success of any Science Day activity. Therefore, it is vital that each judge understands thoroughly his or her duties and obligations. He or she should also have knowledge of all the requirements of the participants. All judges need to have a genuine interest in young people combined with a desire to offer encouragement and guidance in their efforts to pursue learning in the various fields of science.

  • Students shall have an opportunity to present their project to two judges, one of whom (where possible) should be a K-12 teacher. This may be achieved as a team of judges or separately, with the scores averaged. Although judges should discuss the performance with the student, each judge shall score independently of the other judge and shall not reveal the scores to the other judge(s) or to the student. Only fair officials may inform the student of the scores or ratings after judging.
  • Judges should introduce themselves upon approaching a student and attempt to establish a friendly rapport to help reduce the participant’s tension.
  • The student participant should first be asked to give his/her oral presentation of the project and then to answer questions about his/her work on the specific problem. It is also proper to ask questions within the discipline or subject matter involved at the student’s level of learning.
  • The participant should be put at ease, especially one who appears nervous during questioning. Judges should take an active part in the evaluation; silence may be interpreted as disinterest or boredom, which can have a very discouraging effect on the participant.
  • Judges should feel free to question the participant on the materials and tools used, the methods of construction, terms used, the sources of information, and the amount and types of assistance enlisted in the preparation of the project.
  • Judges are required to check through the abstract and research paper to determine their quality. A check of the references will assist in making a fair determination of the scope and depth of the literature research. The quantity and quality of the references should be taken into account to evaluate the student’s research methodology.
  • Judges should determine the span of sustained interest in the particular field of science, as well as the approximate amount of time spent in developing the project being evaluated. Some premium should be granted for considerably extended interest and effort to encourage this quality of persistence.
  • Judges should note the number of subjects or specimens used. Is the number adequate to generalize to the larger group what the sample is intended to represent?
  • Grade level of the student should be considered.
  • Discussion and final scoring of the project should be at a considerable distance from the participant, since disclosure of scores is delayed until judging is completed. Do not hurry a judgement. Comments (1) indicating reasons for the rating and (2) making suggestions for improvement shall be written on the scorecard to be returned to the student after the event.

Summary of Judging Ethics

Judges shall:

  • Have no prior involvement with project
  • Adhere to Academy guidelines
  • Avoid discussion of ratings with others prior to public release
  • Listen carefully to student’s complete presentation
  • Be exceptionally courteous to all students
  • Judge students against CRITERIA, not against other students
  • Consider age and grade level
  • Evaluate theoretical and applied projects without bias toward either
  • Provide written, constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement
  • Not photograph students or projects during judging
  • Seek written permission from students to photograph them
  • Return judging cards to science day officials if (1) you know the student, (2) the project is out of your area of expertise or (3) there are language issues that impair communication

Judging & RATINGS


KNOWLEDGE ACHIEVED 10-9 8-7-6 5-4-3 2-1
CLARITY OF EXPRESSION 10-9 8-7-6 5-4-3 2-1
RANGE OF SCORES 40-36 35-24 23-12 *11-4


KNOWLEDGE ACHIEVED 10-9 8-7-6 5-4-3 2-1
CLARITY OF EXPRESSION 10-9 8-7-6 5-4-3 2-1
TEAMWORK 10-9 8-7-6 5-4-3 2-1
RANGE OF SCORES 50-45 44-30 29-15 *29-15

*There are no "Satisfactory" Ratings given at District or State Science Days.

Minimum number of points for each rating:

Individual Projects:

Superior 36, Excellent 24, Good 12, Satisfactory 4 (Not given at District or State Science Days).

Team Projects:

Superior 45, Excellent 30, Good 15, Satisfactory 5 (Not given at District or State Science Days).

All students at Local, District or State Science Days shall have an abstract and a written report, which documents that the student has searched relevant literature, stated a question and/or tested a hypothesis, collected and analyzed data, and drawn conclusions. For a superior rating, an individual student shall receive a minimum of 36 points, or 45 points for a team, based on the criteria of (1) knowledge achieved, (2) effective use of scientific method, (3) clarity of expression, and (4) originality and creativity. A fifth criterion, teamwork, consisting of a maximum of 10 points, shall be applied to team student research projects. Thus, a team research projects needs a minimum of 45 points for a superior award.

The following paragraphs interpret the various criteria on which the student’s project or exhibit will be judged.

A. Knowledge Achieved (considering student’s age and grade level)

  • Has there been a correct understanding and use of scientific terms?
  • Is there evidence of an acquisition of in-depth knowledge through the research or has he or she merely acquired a manipulative technique?
  • Does he or she show evidence of knowing what the underlying principle(s) is?
  • In brief, has he or she actually learned scientific content through his/her study and research?
  • Mentoring of students and professionals alike is common and expected in the world of science, engineering and technology. Although The Ohio Academy of Science expects all students to use advisors and/or mentors for projects, a project entered into a science day activity must be researched and developed by the student participant(s). The Academy cautions judges that a student’s access to mentors may be limited. The Academy directs that judges shall not bias their ratings either for or against students with or without mentors.

B. Effective Use of Scientific Method

  • Does the student have a clear-cut idea of the purpose of his/her project, or is it something thrown together and manipulated? While the mere assembly of a “kit” is frowned upon, there can be a definite research approach wherein there may be an effective use of scientific method(s). However, it should not be the principal element of the project.
  • Is he or she aware of other approaches or theories relative to this problem or project?
  • Is there evidence of both contemporary literature search and actual experimental research with results?
  • Has he or she been thorough and have there been prolonged or sustained experimentations?
  • Has he or she observed any basic phenomena?
  • Has he or she experimented sufficiently to have collected an appropriate amount of data?
  • Has he or she analyzed observations or results in a logical manner and drawn valid conclusions?
  • Has he or she used an adequate sample to be able to generalize?

C. Clarity of Expression

  • Can he or she orally explain the project concisely and answer questions well? Try to weigh evidence of a student’s nervousness. Listen carefully to a student’s presentation for understanding of scientific principles or relevance to actual, unique results derived from experimentation.
  • Has the participant expressed himself or herself well in all written material, such as the abstract or report to validate that he or she clearly understands their use and that he or she actually wrote the report. Ask what specific knowledge or information came from specific references.
  • Is the physical display neat and sufficiently definitive to act as a stand-alone summary of the student’s entire project?
  • Note misspelled words and weak or imprecise grammar.
  • Does the research report include a literature review, experimental data, statistics, results, and conclusions? Does it follow an accepted form of technical reporting?

D. Originality and Creativity

  • Is it true that the approach may not be new to the judge, but is the problem or the approach to the problem developed in a particularly significant or unique manner?
  • Has he or she a new approach to an old subject?
  • Has he or she a unique presentation or organization of materials?
  • The assembly of a “kit” may not be original or creative but again, it may be a new and unique approach to a problem and may economize on time and effort.
  • Is there evidence of initiative? Place a premium on the ingenious uses of available materials. Collections and manufactured apparatus can be creative if they are assembled and used to achieve, show, or support a stated purpose or provide effective comparison with previously collected or published data.

E. Teamwork

  • Team projects shall be accepted at all District Science Days. A revised 50-point rating scale (see table above) shall be used to evaluate team projects.
  • A team consists of a maximum of three students. A District Science Day may allow a maximum of two students per team due to local limitations.
  • All team members must be present to be judged at District and State Science Day or the project will be disqualified.
  • All team members are required to belong to the same school and same grade brackets (a) grades 5-6, (b) grades 7-8, and (c) grades 9-12.
  • Each team should appoint a team leader to coordinate the work and act as spokesperson. However, each member of the team should be able to serve as spokesperson, be fully involved with the project, and be familiar with all aspects of the project. The final work should reflect the coordinated efforts of all team members.
  • A supplemental sheet of the contribution each member made towards the team project must be signed by each member and must be included in the project display and in the research notebook.
  • Full names of all team members must appear on the abstract and registration forms.
  • The judges should ask each team member for a one or two sentence description of what they consider to be their most important contribution.

Uniform Procedures for Rejudging at Local and District Science Days

Teachers promoting local student research projects and conducting local science fairs or science days leading to District Science Days and to State Science Day are expected to have their students follow the official Science Day Standards outlined herein. Included in these Standards are the following Rejudging Criteria for both individual and team projects that teachers should use locally and that must be used at all District and State Science Days.

  • Two judges will judge each project for The Ohio Academy of Science ratings.
  • If each judge grants a total score within any one rating category (Superior, Excellent, or Good), that specific rating (Superior, Excellent, or Good) will be granted to the student and no rejudging is permitted.
  • Rejudging is automatic and is permissible only if all three of the following conditions apply:
    • the judges’ final ratings are in different categories,
    • the average of the judges’ scores is in the lower category, and
    • if the judges differ in their total points by more than five points.