Judging Guidelines

  • Science days are occasions for the display and evaluation of student-oriented, inquiry-based scientific research projects. A successful science day program will achieve several student-learner objectives:

    1.  enhances self-concept

    2.  develops inquiry and problem-solving skills

    3.  develops creativity

    4.  improves organizational ability

    5.  develops communication skills

    6.  improves in-depth knowledge of science

    Teachers have rated science projects overwhelmingly and consistently positive on each of eight contemporary educational goals:

    1.  exploration of real world issues important to the student

    2.  hands-on/minds-on

    3.  scientific knowledge

    4.  scientific inquiry

    5.  higher order thinking

    6.  habits of mind

    7.  integration

    8.  social skills


    The attitudes and conduct of the judges determine the success of any Science Day activity. Therefore, it is vital that each judge understand thoroughly their duties and obligations. All judges need to have a genuine interest in young students combined with a desire to offer encouragement and guidance in

    their efforts to pursue learning in the various fields of science.



    1. Students have an opportunity to present their project to two professionals, at least one of who m should have a background in education. This is achieved as a team with the scores of the judges being averaged.
    2. Judges should introduce themselves upon approaching a student and attempt to establish a friendly rapport to help reduce the participants tension.
    3. The participant should first be asked to give the oral presentation of the project and then to answequestions about his/her work on the specific problem. It is also proper to ask questions within the discipline or subject matter involved at the students level of learning.
    4. 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 oboredom that can have a very discouraging effect on the participant.
    5. Judges should feel free to question the participant on the materials and tools, the methods oconstruction, terms, the sources of information, and the amount and type of assistance enlisted in the preparation of the project
    6. Judges are required to check through the abstract and research paper to determine their quality, spot errors in spelling and grammar, and word-for-word copying. A check of the references will assisin making a fair determination of the scope and depth of the literature research.
    7. Judges should determine the span of sustained interest in the particular field of science, as well athe 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.
    8. 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?
    9. Grade level of the student should be considered.
    10. 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.  It helps if the judgefirst establish an overall rating (superior, excellent, good, or satisfactory) and then individually score the student to total points in the respective category.  Comments indicating reasons for the rating may be written on the score card to be given subsequently to the students. If a team of judges or an individual judge does not feel adequate or competent to judge a project, another judge should be asked to share in the evaluation, or another team or judge should be assigned.











    10  -  9


    8  -  7 -  6


    5  -  4 -  3


    2 - 1

    Effective use of

    scientific method


    10  -  9


    8  -  7 -  6


    5  -  4 -  3


    2 - 1

    Clarity of



    10  -  9


    8  -  7 -  6


    5  -  4 -  3


    2 - 1

    Originality and



    10  -  9


    8  -  7 -  6


    5  -  4 -  3


    2 - 1


    1.  Minimum number of points for each rating:

    Superior = 36, Excellent = 24, Good = 12, Satisfactory = 4

    2.  To receive a superior award at the local, district, or state science days, the students 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. A student shall receive a minimum of 36 points based on the four criteria of knowledge achieved, effective use of scientific method, clarity of expression, and originality and creativity.

    3.  The following paragraphs interpret the various criteria on which the project or exhibit will be



     A.  Knowledge Achieved (considering students age and grade level)


    • Has there been a correct use of scientific terms? Does he or she understand these terms?
    • Is there evidence of an acquisition of knowledge (depth) 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 (are)?
    • In brief, has he or she actually learned something through his/her study and research above and beyond the level of classroom work?


     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 kitis 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 display.
    • Is he or she aware of other approaches or theories relative to this problem or project? Ithere evidence of literary and/or experimental research?
    • Has he or she been thorough and have there been prolonged or sustained experimentation?
    • Has he or she observed any basic phenomena?
    • Has he or she experimented sufficiently to collect any data?
    • Has he or she analyzed his/her observations in a logical manner and drawn valid conclusions? Has he or she used an adequate sample to make generalizations?


     C.  Clarity of expression


    • Can he or she orally explain the project concisely and answer questions well? Discount a glib tongue,but try to weigh evidence of nervousness when talking to a professional, ayou are considered. Watch out, however, for a memorized speech with little understanding of principles.
    • Has the participant expressed himself or herself well in all written material, such as the abstract and research report? Consider that this material might have been copied or writteby another person.
    • Is the physical display neat and sufficiently definitive? Discount printed posters and a professional placard unless you have evidence that the participant has made them and has a depth of knowledge of such material.
    • Beware of misspelled words.
    • Does the research report include a literature review, experimental data, statistics, resultsand conclusions? Does it follow an accepted form of technical reporting?


     D.  Originality and Creativity


    • Is the problem or the approach to the problem developed in a particularly significant ounique manner? It is true that the approach may not be new to the judge, but does the participant show an enthusiasm that one less versed in the subject of phenomena might think it was brand new?
    • Has he or she investigated a new approach to an old subject?
    • Has he or she a unique presentation or organization of materials?
    • The assembly of a kitmay not be original or creative, but again, it may be a new anunique approach to a problem and may economize on time and effort.
    • Is there evidence of initiative? Place a premium on the ingenious uses of availablmaterials and handmade elements. Collections and manufactured apparatus can be creative if they are assembled and used to achieve, show, or prove a stated purpose.


How to be a Good Judge

  • Asking Questions

    Your best tool for judging is your ability to ask questions. Be sensitive to what the student knows. You can always ask questions that the student can answer, and keep a conversation going for ten minutes. There are some questions all students should be able to answer, including variations on:

    • How did you come up with the idea for this project?
    • How could you improve this project in the future?
    • What was your biggest challenge completing this project?
    • How do you know…?
    • What did you learn from your background search?
    • How long did it take you to build the apparatus?
    • How did you build the apparatus?
    • How much time (many days) did it take to run the experiments (grow the plants) (collect each data point)?
    • How many times did you run the experiment with each configuration?
    • How many experiment runs are represented by each data point on the chart?
    • Did you take all data (run the experiment) under the same conditions, e.g., at the same temperature (time of day) (lighting conditions)?
    • How does your apparatus (equipment) (instrument) work?
    • What do you mean by (terminology or jargon used by the student)?
    • Do you think there is an application in industry for this knowledge (technique)?
    • Were there any books that helped you do your analysis (build your apparatus)?
    • When did you start this project? or, How much of the work did you do this year? (some students bring last year's winning project back, with only a few enhancements)
    • What is the next experiment to do in continuing this study?
    • Are there any areas that we not have covered which you feel are important?
    • Do you have any questions for me?

    Improving Communication

    Since you are a judge, most students instinctively think of you as an intimidating figure. The more you can dispel this image, the more likely you are to help the student be less nervous, and get a better discussion. Again, simple things can make a difference:

    • Make eye contact with the student;
    • If the student is short and you are tall, stoop, bend, or squat down to lower your eye level (if your knees won't allow this, ask to judge the Senior category);
    • Tip your head to the side a little to indicate interest (this is a universal nonverbal form of communication; even your dog does it);
    • If you wear glasses, look at the student through them, not over the top of the frames;
    • Whenever a student shows a good idea, clear craftsmanship, a clever way to get expensive results with inexpensive equipment, or anything you can complement, be sure to use a compliment;
    • Use a tone of voice that indicates interest or inquisitiveness, not skepticism or contempt.

    Adapted from https://www.usc.edu/CSSF/Judges/GoodJudge.html