Judging worksheets and scoring systems vary from fair to fair, but most follow similar criteria. The use of scientific methodology is the common denominator at the top of everyone’s list. Students are judged on their understanding of how well they used scientific methods to develop and conduct their project. Both inventions and investigations involve planning, careful investigation, collection of data, and making sense of the data at the end.
Other factors include ability to clearly convey scientific findings, demonstrated knowledge of the chosen topic, and degree of effort and difficulty involved. Judges may also give points for originality, accuracy, thoroughness, neatness, and presentation skills (oral and visual).
If you require written reports, you may wish to make this part of the judging criteria or not. Scientists almost always write up formal reports and publish them. However, reading reports takes additional time that judges may not have to give. Required reading of reports will also lengthen your presentation time. Our advice at Science Fair Central is to make reading the report an option, to help clarify the project. The display board and the student should provide enough information for the judges to go by.
Here is a sample of a sample judges scoring sheet
As with any constructed response assessment, scoring of a science fair project is open to interpretation. To some degree, this is good and gives you a range of viewpoints. But when it comes to explaining to a student why another student’s project beat theirs out, you want some exact requirements and you want them to be applied as uniformly as possible.
It helps to meet ahead of time with the judges and explain what you are looking for in the projects. Briefly go over each part of the scoring sheet and give examples of what you consider to be good results and those that do not meet the standard as well. Note that some elements on the sheet have more detail to help the judges know what to look for.
While a good written scoring rubric for each element is helpful, you may not have the time to add this task to your already busy preparation, and it probably won’t be needed. In highly competitive, high stakes competitions, scoring rubrics are essential and can save you a lot of argument.