Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science

Judging Criteria

General Procedures

The following list of General Procedures has been provided for Judges ....

  1. Judges will show knowledge of the field he or she is judging as demonstrated by academic degrees or experience in the field.
  2. New judges will submit a registration form to the Judging Committee.
  3. New judges will attend an orientation session conducted by the Judging Committee.
  4. Judges should make sure that a timekeeper is available with an official log sheet and that the projection equipment is working properly. It is imperative that no one enters or leaves the room during the presentation. Judges must maintain proper decorum inside and outside the room so that no student can be interrupted during his presentation. We suggest that a member of the judging team explain these operating procedures to those in the room at the beginning of the session.
  5. Each student will give his presentation in the order listed in the program book. Judges may make an exception for unusual circumstances, such as special interviews, multipleprojects, or a wide disparity in grade levels.
  6. Judges may NOT add a student to their unit without official written notice from the registration committee or its representative.
  7. Students are not in competition with each other for some single top award; rather they are evaluated on how well they succeed in fulfilling the 5 PJAS State Criteria. Therefore, there is no limit to the number of each award that may be awarded in a given Presentation Room.
  8. Only judges are permitted to question the presenters. The questioning period will not exceed five minutes.
  9. Each judge’s evaluation of the presentation shall be made independently from other members of the judging team. However, after all the presentations have been heard, judges are encouraged to consult with one another in determination of the final awards.
  10. It is important that all judges in the team return to the judging headquarters when the individual worksheets are completed to record their scores on the official tally sheets. All worksheets and the tally sheet must be personally signed when they are submitted. Furthermore, judges are often called upon to fill out individual comment sheets on the students or make recommendations about special awards for which they may be eligible.
  11. Awards will be solely based on the mathematical averages of the scores. But judges should be aware that data entry into the computer scoring program is by using the individual judge’s scores in each of the 5 criteria.
  12. Room Technicians. The judging team will be assisted in the presentation rooms by one or more technicians. Their duties are to:
    1. Act as a timekeeper, using flash cards to aid the participant and judges, recording the times on the official log sheet.
    2. Set up the audio-visual equipment, aiding in its use during presentations, and returning equipment at the end of the session.
    3. Control the door and hallway so that the participant is not distracted during his presentation.
    4. In rare cases where no technician is available, judges may NOT serve as timekeepers themselves. They should make arrangements with student presenters to serve as timers. Students at the front or back end of the “batting order” are usually more amenable to this request.
  13. Remember these PJAS participants are CHILDREN who are just beginning to work and think as scientists; they are not Ph.D. candidates
  14. Questionable Research Topics: Judges should know that PJAS adheres very closely to the rules and procedures of the International Science and Engineering Fair regarding living vertebrate and human subjects, recombinant DNA, tissue acquisition, the use of lasers, and the use of controlled substances.

Before any such experimentation can be registered for regional competition the student and his sponsor must submit detailed research plans and obtain a series of certifications and clearances to ensure proper adult supervision during the planning and execution of the project.

For a project in the above list to appear at a Regional or State PJAS competition, the judge must assume the project has met the necessary qualifications at the regional level. The judge is welcome to ask the Judging Committee to check the validity of the certification that resides in the hands of the Regional Director.

More precise details about the certification process can be obtained from the booklet PJAS Rules and Regulations for Conducting and Judging of Student Research or The PJAS Sponsor Handbook.

Scoring Rules

Students' research and presentations must conform to following set of Research and Presentation Rules.   Students and their research projects are judged on their OWN merit in meeting the Criteria for Judging rather than in comparison to other Students or research projects.

These following rules are designed to teach students better presentation skills and provide the judges with a uniform set of guideline:

  1. Each student's research project & presentation will be judged on its own merit in meeting the Criteria for Judging rather than in competition with other research or students.
  2. The student doing the presentation must be the one who conducted the research. (ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSTITUTES).
  3. Although students may present a new phase of an on-going project, no student may present a research topic from a previous year without conducting significant additional research on the topic during the current year.
  4. Measurements must be in metric except where highly specialized equipment is calibrated in other units. Presentations in which the measurements were not done in metric will not receive a first place award, regardless of score.
  5. Each student will give their presentation in the same order as listed in the program booklet. The judges may make an exception for unusual circumstances.
  6. The judging team may not add a student to the program without official notice from the Registration Committee or its representative.
  7. The presentation will not exceed a maximum time limit of ten (10) minutes and will be given proper notice by a timekeeper. No reduction in score will be given for a presentation of less than ten (10) minutes. Presentations exceeding ten (10) minutes will not receive a first place award, regardless of score. There will be a grace period of approximately 10 - 15 seconds before this penalty is applied.
  8. Presentation specifics:
    1. A student shall not be interrupted during his presentation and no one shall be permitted to enter or leave the room during the presentation.
    2. The researchers may use notes in their presentations but reading the report to the judges is considered bad form.
    3. Any two-dimensional representation (charts, pictures, graphs, posters, slides, projections etc.) may be used to enhance and supplement the talk, but not to replace the speaker.
    4. No three-dimensional objects may be used in the presentations.
    5. The actual experiment may NOT be used in the presentation*.
    6. No materials may be passed to the judges during the presentation. Only in rare, unique situations might the judges request materials during the questioning period.
    7. Only a PJAS technician may assist with the use of the audiovisual equipment.
    8. Specialized presentation media such as video recording, tape cassettes, computer screens, etc. should be used only when absolutely necessary to establish a point that cannot be made with standard media and should constitute at most 10% of the total speech.
    9. In cases of doubt as to the appropriateness of a presentation, the State Judging Chairmen will make the final ruling.
  9. Upon completion of the presentation the researcher may be questioned BY THE JUDGES for a time period of NOT MORE THAN 5 MINUTES. Judges may ask questions to seek clarification of a student’s methods, conclusions, and/or understanding. It is inappropriate for judges to criticize or comment on a student’s project.
  10. Scoring specifics. Each category of the Judging Criteria shall be scored on a 5 point integer system:
    (Excellent) 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 (Unacceptable)
  11. The student shall receive award based on the average score per judge, calculated by the following formula:
    Average Score = Total Score of All Judges
    5 x (Total Number of Judges)
  12. The standards for awards at the State Meeting are:
    1st award - average score 4.0 or higher
    2nd Award - average score 3.0 or higher
    3rd Award - average score below 3.0
  13. If there is a question of student eligibility, ONLY the judging committee or judging chair may disqualify the student.  Judges may not disqualify a student. The judging committee or judging chair may ask for input from any source they wish.
  14. Questions concerning infractions of the State Rules for Judging are subject to the investigation and ruling of the Chairmen of the State Judging Committee and the Regional Directors if appropriate.
  15. Non-PJAS Awards. Judges should be aware that outside agencies often are interested in rewarding some of our participants, identified either by judges' high scores or a set of criteria of their own.


* However, in Computer Science projects, it may be appropriate to show the actual operation of a computer program. cases of doubt as to the appropriateness of the presentation, the Judging Committee will make a final determination. For additional details regarding the use of Audiovisuals, see General Notes on the Use of Audiovisuals.


Evaluation and Scoring

Projects are judged based on Scientific Thought, Experimental Methods, Analytical Approach and your Presentation. The following is an explanation of the scoring process and the standards for awards.  You may also review the Presentation Guidelines and Scoring Rubrics for more specific details.

  1. Research projects are judged on there own merit in meeting the PJAS criteria for judging rather than in competition with other projects.
  2. There is no limit to the number of each award that may be given in any presentation room.
  3. Each category of the judging criteria shall be scored on a 5-point system using integers only. 5 = excellent, 4 = very good, 3 = good, 2 = fair, and 1 = poor.
  4. The student shall receive an Award based solely on the average score per category per judge calculated by the following formula:

    Average Score = (Total score of all judges)/(5 x Total number of judges)

    The standards for Awards are:

  5. Judges should return to the Judging Headquarters or Talley Room to tally scores. Each judge shall make his/hers own evaluation of the presentations independent of the other members of the judging team. However, the team may confer to reach a final evaluation for the students' awards. Judges must sign both the Score Sheet and Summary Sheet before turning them in.
  6. Judges should complete the Judge's Comment Sheet if one is provided. These comments will be given to the students' sponsor.




Scoring Rubrics

Scoring Rubrics for Science, Mathematics & Computer Science Projects

Projects are judged based on Scientific Thought, Experimental Methods, Analytical Approach AND your Presentation.  The Judges will use Scoring Rubrics, which define specific requirements, to determine your score.  These rubric define the specific requirements that must be met in order to qualify for each placing award.

Students should use these rubrics as a guide to their research projects, experimental methods, and presentation to assure they meet the required criteria.

There are three (3)  scoring rubrics used for scoring Science, Math and Computer Science projects:



General comments on the Judging Criteria:

Please note that of the 5 criteria to be used to evaluate the student, two (Presentation and Judges Opinion) are the same in all three of the research fields chosen (science presentations, math presentations, and computer science presentations). The other three criteria are referring to content of the project and will vary according to the nature of the specific discipline. The official criteria will appear here in bold face print with discussion or suggestions as to interpretation found in regular print.

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Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science