If you've made it to one of the top science competitions, congratulations! That is no easy feat. After all of your hard work, you want to make a good impression on the judges and convey your research well. The following information will give you an idea of what the competition is like from a judge's perspective, what criteria are used to decide the winners, and how to make the most of your limited time with a judge. For additional advice on how to impress the judges, read veteran science fair student Amber Hess' Judging Tips for Top Science Competitions.
Judges' Decision-making Criteria
No two judges will approach your science project from the same perspective. They come from different personal and professional backgrounds, they might or might not have judged at this type of competition before, and they might be more or less informed about your topic. Having said that, all of the judges will be trying to determine the same general thing: your ability to independently conduct and communicate original, meaningful science or engineering research. Table 1, below, lists the seven factors judges usually use to make their judging decisions. The weight awarded to each factor varies depending on both the specific science competition and on the individual judge.
|Factors judges use to make their decision||What the judges are trying to determine||Examples of questions a judge might ask during an interview|
|Creativity / originality||Is this work novel?||Why did you choose this topic and how did you settle on your approach to the problem?|
|Scientific thought / engineering process||Did the student understand the scientific/engineering method and apply it appropriately?||Can you walk me through how and why you decided on this experimental/engineering design?|
|Background information / thoroughness||Does the student understand what was done previously in the field?||How does your approach to the question differ from people's previous approaches?|
|Skill / independence||Who designed and carried out the bulk of the work?||What was the most surprising experimental/engineering challenge you faced during this science project? How did you overcome it?|
|Thoroughness||Is the completed work sufficient to move the field forward?||What were your goals with this science project and how would you evaluate where you are in respect to those goals?|
|Clarity||Can the student clearly and easily discuss all aspects of his or her project? During an interview, judges might want to make sure that a student can think and speak well when thrown a curve.||If your tests had shown XYZ instead, what would you have done? Why?|
|Teamwork (only applicable for team projects)||Was each member of the team fully involved? Does each member, regardless of his or her specific experimental role, understand all aspects of the science project?||The great thing about working together is the synergy between people. What would you say was the most important skill or idea each of you had during the course of this science project?|