The Code of Points is a rulebook that defines the scoring system for each level of competition in gymnastics. There is not a universal international Code of Points, and every oversight organization — such as the FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique), NCAA Gymnastics, and most national gymnastics federations — designs and employs its own unique Code of Points.
In 2006, the Code of Points and the entire gymnastics scoring system were completely overhauled. The change stemmed from the judging controversy at 2004 Olympics in Athens, which brought the reliability and objectivity of the scoring system into question, and arguments that execution had been sacrificed for difficulty in artistic gymnastics. It follows a similarly radical scoring change in figure skating that also was prompted by irregularities in judging at major events.
Since its inception in major events in 2006, the Code has faced strong opposition from many prominent coaches, athletes and judges. Proponents of the new system believe it is a necessary step in advancing gymnastics, promoting difficult skills and increasing judging objective. Opponents feel that people outside the gymnastics community will not understand the scoring and will lose interest in the sport, and that, without emphasising artistry, the essence of gymnastics will change. Many opponents of the new scoring system feel that this system, in essence, chooses the winners before competition ever begins. Competitors no longer compete on the same level. Each contestant begins with a unique start value; therefore, contestants assigned a lower start value or difficulty rating are knocked out of the winner's circle before the competition begins. They may compete, but they cannot win. A competitor with a higher difficulty rating will begin competition with a higher combined base score. There has been dissent over the fact that the new Code effectively abolishes the "perfect 10" score, for many years one of the hallmarks of gymnastics. There has also been concern that the new Code strongly favors extreme difficulty over form, execution and consistency. At the 2006 World Championships, for instance, Vanessa Ferrari of Italy was able to controversially win the women's all-around title despite a fall on the balance beam, in part by picking up extra points from performing more high-difficulty skills on floor exercise. The 2006 report of the FIG's Athletes' Commission, drafted after a review and discussion of the year's events noted several areas of concern including numerous inconsistencies in judging and evaluation of skills and routines.
However, the leadership of the FIG remains committed to the new Code. While small revisions have been made to the Code, there is currently no indication that it will be significantly altered or that there will be a return to the old Code or 10.0 scoring system.
The current Code of Points covers the years 2017 to 2020. Following past editions, there is no top score of 10.0, nor is there an upper limit of the difficulty score. Official men's skills are rated from A to H and women's skills from A to J.
The Table of Elements is the section of the Code of Points which is used to identify, classify and assign value to gymnastics elements. Every acrobatic and dance skill is listed, illustrated and assigned a specific difficulty rating. Currently, difficulty ratings for both the women's and men's code range from A (with assigned numerical value of 0.10; easiest) to J (with assigned numerical value of 1.0; most difficult) for all apparatus except vault. Currently, every vault is assigned a specific points value which range from 2.0 to 6.4. The Table of Elements is the one aspect of the Code that did not undergo major changes in the 2006 Code overhaul.
As other aspects of the Code, the Table of Elements is frequently re-evaluated. Skills listed in the Table may have their difficulty ratings raised or lowered after evaluation by the FIG Technical Committee. In addition, skills that are determined to be too dangerous to the athletes may be banned outright, for example roll-out skills like the Thomas Salto. The Technical Committee may also give specific hazardous skills artificially low difficulty ratings to deter gymnasts from trying to compete them.
Many of the skills in the Table of Elements are named after gymnasts. An original element is named after an athlete when he or she is the first person to successfully perform it at a World Championships or Olympics. Gymnasts and their coaches must submit their original skill to the FIG before the meet for evaluation and possible inclusion in the Table of Elements.
Two panels of judges score every single routine, evaluating different aspects of the performance. The final mark is the combined total of these two scores.
The D-score (or difficulty score) evaluates the content of the exercise on three criteria: difficulty value (DV), composition requirements (CR) and connection value (CV).
Although the D-score (or A) judging panel does not take deductions, they may decide not to give gymnasts DV or CR points for elements that are performed with falls or performed incorrectly. A gymnast may also lose CV credit if there are extra steps or pauses between skills that are meant to be connected.
The D-score is open-ended; in theory a gymnast could obtain unlimited points by performing connected skills although this was made harder in the 2009-2012 revision of the code when the number of elements that counted towards the D-score was lowered.
The E-score (or Execution score) evaluates the performance: the execution and artistry of the routine.
The D-score and E-score are added together for the gymnast's final mark.
This judging system applies to all WAG and MAG events except vault. Vault scoring is somewhat different:
As with other apparatus, the D-score and E-score are added together for the gymnast's final mark.
There are several acts that completely invalidate the vault and result in a score of 0. These include receiving spotting (assistance) from a coach, going before the signal and not using the U-shaped safety mat for Yurchenko-style vaults.
An inquiry into a gymnast's score can be initiated if it was felt that the score was too low. Only the D-score can be contested, however.
Skills: Every acrobatic and dance element was awarded a specific difficulty rating, ranging from A (easiest) to “Super E” (hardest) in the Table of Elements. Gymnast earned bonus points by performing difficult skills alone or in combination.
Required elements: Routine composition was decided by the gymnast and his or her coaches, however, on every apparatus except vault there was a list of required elements (similar to the EGR in the new Code) that had to be performed during the routine. Examples of required elements included 360 degree turns on balance beam and a backwards salto (somersault) on floor exercise.
Base score: The base score was the default Start Value of the routine, provided the gymnast fulfilled all required elements. This changed over the years and tended to lower as the codes went on. For instance, for the 1992-1996 code, a base score of 9.4 was awarded if all of the basic elements were fulfilled. For the 1996-2000 code, the base score was a 9.0. Finally, a base score of 8.8 was awarded for the 2000-2004 Olympic years. Before the new code, the base score again dropped to an 8.6 but this was not adopted for a very long time (only 2005-2006).
Start Value: The Start Value (SV) of each routine was determined by adding the base score to the bonus points earned from performing difficult elements and combinations. Ideally, a gymnast wanted to have an SV as close to 10.0 as possible.
On vault, every vault was assigned a specific Start Value in the Code.
The score was determined by subtracting any deductions for poor form, execution, steps, falls or other infractions from the SV.