How judging works

Judge Types

There are three types of judges at most fairs: Category, Finalist and Special Awards.

The Special Awards Judges are judging for local or national organizations and select winners based on criteria described for each special award. For example to win the International System of Units prize, the metrics system must be used. Some Special Awards judges work in small groups others work as individuals.

Category judges judge within the category or categories to which they are assigned. Some NWSES fairs clump categories to ensure at least 3 judge interviews will be given each project. Category judges use the ISEF or NWSES Criteria to score and then rank the projects they interview. Category judges then compare rankings with other judges in their category group to determine award winners.

Finalist judges are in charge of selecting the Best of Fair or Intel ISEF Finalists for the fair. These judges may travel as a group to perform a second interview with projects, or they may take part in advocate judging where a judge who interviewed the project during earlier judging describes the project to the other judges.  In either case the Finalist Judge group must reach a concensus to determine winners.

At Intel NWSE middle school Best of Fair winners are chosen by concensus. The high school finalist judging is more complicated. There are 4 judge groups working during Finalist judging at Intel NWSE. First the fair is split into Physical and Life disciplines, these classifications are flexible based on the types of projects in a category, but are about equal.

  • Best of Fair (Life and Physical) includes all projects who receive first place in category and are nominated by their category judge group. If the Best of Fair winner has not already qualified for Intel ISEF, they are given that award as well.
  • Finalist (Life and Physical) includes projects who have done well in their category and are not already going to Intel ISEF. This means a project may not win a category prize, but would be nominated for Finalist judging because the other winners in the category have qualified for ISEF at a Regional Fair. 

All our judges are volunteers who are trained the day of the fair. If a judge makes you uncomfortable during judging, please report it that day to the fair director so appropriate measures can be taken.  All judges are required to share Conflicts of Interest with their judge group and fair director or judge coordinator.  All judge decisions are final.


Preparing for Judging

The first thing a judge sees is your poster. Make sure your poster is very clear and easy to read from a seated position.   If you have a ton of data, display it in a notebook, with only the most important part on the poster. Judges are given time to review posters before interviewing any students. Most will then have specific questions in mind when they interview you. Having a short description of your project ready to tell judges is fine, but make sure you leave them plenty of time to actually interview you. Students who answer all the questions before they are even asked may end up with a very short interview. 

© 2008 Northwest Science Expo System

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