WTF Is College Gymnastics Scoring – Bars (2023 Edition)

Before the NCAA season begins, it’s time for the now-annual venture into the murky world of NCAA scoring for those who might want to know a little more about what’s actually going on behind that bonkers 9.950 that just got thrown. Fair warning: you’ll be happier if you don’t.

Composing a routine

Routine requirements

  • At minimum, an NCAA routine must include 3 A-value elements, 3 B-value elements, and 2 C-value elements.

That is a basic standard that most college gymnasts are able to achieve comfortably. I give you permission not to worry about it. Gymnasts must also fulfill a series of special composition requirements, each worth 0.2. On bars, those four requirements are

1 – Two separate bar changes. This means that you can’t just start on the low bar, get up to the high bar, and then dismount. At some point in the routine, you have to transition from low to high and from high to low.

2 – Two flight elements, not including the dismount. Flight elements include same-bar releases as well as transition skills in which the body is not in contact with either bar at some point.

Gymnasts will typically fulfill this by using their two transitions (e.g., a bail handstand and a toe shoot; a Pak and a Shaposh), or by using one of those transitions skills along with a same-bar release. Gymnasts do not have to perform a same-bar release, and you’re supposed to have a really strong opinion about that one way or the other.

The two flight elements typically must be at least C-value skills, but one B-value skill can be used to meet the requirement as long as the other element is D- or E-value.

3 – A turning element, minimum C value. Turning elements normally make us think of pirouettes, but that does not have to be the case. Turning pirouettes do fulfill this requirement, but so does any skill including at least a 1/2 turn at any point. That means a skill like a bail handstand can be used to meet this requirement. It’s not the spirit of the rule, but it does count and is taken advantage of all the time.

4 – A dismount, minimum C value. This special requirement is a lie. NCAA gymnastics absolutely does not want you dismounting with an isolated C element, despite what the requirement says.

You can, but if the C-level dismount is preceded by two giant swings, as most dismounts are, you lose 0.1. Plus, if the C dismount is not performed in combination with another element for bonus, you lose 0.1 (see “up to level” section below). So basically, you can’t dismount with a lone C.

Missing any one of these four requirements is a 0.2 deduction from the start value. Every routine you watch will have been composed specifically to ensure that doesn’t happen. Any gymnast with a routine that includes 3 As, 3 Bs, and 2 Cs, and that fulfills the four requirements above will begin with a 9.40 start value.


From that 9.40 start, gymnasts will attempt to get up to a 10.0 start value by earning six tenths of bonus. Bonus is earned in two categories.

1) Skill value
-Every D-value skill earns 0.1 in bonus
-Every E-value skill earns 0.2 in bonus
-E-value releases (same-bar or transition) and D-value releases (same-bar only) receive an additional 0.1 added to the skill bonus.

2) Connection value
C+C = 0.1 (but only if both elements show flight or turn, OR if both elements begin from the clear-hip, toe-on, or stalder roots)
C+D = 0.1
D+D = 0.2

To earn the full six tenths of bonus, at least one tenth must come from each category (skill value and connection value), so you can’t load up exclusively on one category or another.

But, as long as you get your six tenths of bonus, and fulfill all the requirements above, you’ve got your 10.0 start!

Up to level

Unless. There are several possible routine-composition deductions in NCAA routines, but the one you’ll hear about the most during the season is the “up to level” deduction (UTL).

This deduction is a flat .10, taken from any routine that does not fulfill the standard of being “up to the competitive level.”

What does that even mean? Good question. On bars, a routine is considered up to the competitive level, and therefore avoids this deduction, as long as it fulfills ONE of the following areas.

1 – A same-bar release of D value (e.g., Jaeger, Gienger, or Tkatchev)
2 – A release element of E value (e.g., Ricna, Van Leeuwen, or Bhardwaj)
3 – Two D releases (e.g., Bail handstand AND Maloney)
4 – Two E-level skills (e.g., Stalder 1/1 AND Double layout dismount)

Achieve any one of those, and you’re good.

“Up to level” is also where that 0.1 deduction for performing a C-value dismount without connection bonus mentioned earlier comes in.

Judges must display if they have taken an up-to-level deduction on a routine. So in a meet, if you see a judge flash a card that says “UTL” next to the start value, it doesn’t mean “Urination Took Long” and she missed the beginning of the routine. It means an up to level deduction was taken.


Now lets go through an example routine from 2022, the Mara Titarsolej bars routine that received 10.000:

Special requirements

1 – Two bar changes – In this routine, Titarsolej opens with a Maloney to Pak combination, going from the low bar to the high bar, then from the high bar to the low bar, fulfilling the need for two bar changes.

2 – Two flight elements – That same Maloney to Pak combination that fulfilled the bar change requirement also fulfills the need for two flight elements, as both transitions do feature flight.

3 – A turning element, minimum C value – Titarsolej performs a couple turning elements in this routine, the first of which is the cast 1/2 turn on low bar following her Pak salto, which satisfies this requirement.

4 – A dismount, minimum C value – Titarsolej has a double tuck dismount, which is a C value. By performing it directly out of the giant full for connection bonus, she avoids all deductions for an isolated C dismount.

Up to level

She fulfills UTL through the third option, the two D releases at the beginning of her routine:

1 – A same-bar release of D value
2 – A release element of E value
3 – Two D releasesMaloney + Pak
4 – Two E-level skills


Titarsolej follows her opening kip and cast handstand with the big point-getter in her routine, the Maloney + Pak combination. The Maloney and Pak are both D elements, so each receives 0.1 in bonus. The direct connection of two D skills receives a further 0.2 in combination, bringing her up to 0.4.

Now we move to the end of the routine, where the D-value giant full (this is different from elite, where the giant full is a C) is connected directly to the C-value double tuck dismount for 0.1 in connection bonus and 0.1 in skill value for the D element. That brings her up to 0.6 total in bonus, which is enough for a 10.0 start value.

Skill values

Here are the major skill values you’ll want to know for bars. Note: Links go to the elite skill database, and some elite skill values are different from college.

Same-bar releases

Tkatchev – D
All other Tkatchev entries (Ray, Hindorff, Ricna, etc) – E
Jaeger straddled – D
Jaeger piked – E
Gienger piked – D
Khorkina – D
Comaneci – E
Shushunova – E


Shoots to high bar (toe, Stalder, etc) – C
Shaposhnikova (all entries) – D
Shaposhnikova 1/2 (all entries) – E
Bail handstand – D
Overshoot, not to handstand – B
Overshoot, not to handstand, connected out of D release – C
Pak salto – D
Bhardwaj – E
Straddle back to handstand – D


Cast handstand – B
Cast 1/2 – C
Giant circle – B
Giant 1/2 – C
Giant 1/1 – D
Toe circle – C
Toe 1/2 (to reverse grip) – D
Toe 1/1 – D
Clear-hip circle – C
Clear-hip 1/2 (to reverse grip) – D
Clear-hip 1/1 – D
Stalder circle – D
Stalder 1/2 – D
Stalder 1/1 – E
Giant forward – C
Giant forward 1/2 – C
Giant forward 1/1 – D


Full-twisting double tuck – E
Double layout – E
Double front – E
Double Arabian – E
Double tuck – C
Double pike – C
Double salto, pike-open – D


The most important thing you need to know about NCAA deductions is ‾\_(ツ)_/‾. Keep that in mind at all times.


Falls are 0.50 each time. Pretty straightforward.

Sometimes, you will see a gymnast fall on a routine and then receive a score like 8.950 and go, “Wait, the half point for the fall doesn’t account for that whole deduction-scape.” In these cases, the gymnast likely also lost connection bonus and/or skill value for falling on a compositionally critical part of the routine, so the start value was no longer 10.0.


The smallest landing deduction the judges can take is .05. This is supposed to be reserved for only the very smallest of movements, like when a gymnast allllmost sticks but her momentum forces that little scoot backward, or she has that tiny hop in place where the feet don’t even really come up but it’s also not a stick. A clear, actual step is supposed to be a .10 deduction, and if the step is larger than a yard, it’s supposed to be .20 for each step individually.

In addition to stepping/hopping/lunging, there will be landing position deductions for issues like an egregious squat (some squatting is good to absorb a landing, but deductions come into play if the hip joint is parallel with or below the knee joint) or leaning way forward to try to hold a stick. A stuck landing does not mean the landing is free from deductions. Leaning or doing the butterfly to try to stay planted are deductions, and if the gesticulations are significantly wild, they can end up being a larger deduction (say, .10) than the small scoot they’re serving to avoid would have been (.05).

Lack of control is also a separate thing on landing, so if a gymnast steps once and then does that little move where she turns around and kind of bounces and salutes and never really stops moving, that can be a .05 in addition to the step.


Handstands are THE THING on bars.

When gymnasts cast to handstand in NCAA, we’re told the judges are expecting them to be within 10 degrees of vertical to receive no deduction. This “degree” stuff is super ambiguous (the human eye cannot tell the difference between 9 degrees and 11 degrees on a handstand), so the rule basically ends up being “y’all better be vertical.”

Here is a vertical handstand for no deduction:


Here, the handstand is vertical, and the entire body is in line with itself, not showing an excessively arched back or revealing that she (gasp) has rib bones. Even in cases where a gymnast hits a vertical handstand with the feet, she can be deducted for body position if all the parts (ribs, spine, head, spleen) aren’t making a single vertical line.

If the torso is perfectly vertical but there’s an angle in the hips so the feet aren’t vertical, that doesn’t count as vertical. The position is going to be judged by the feet.

Meanwhile, here is a handstand that comes up 10 degrees short:

This second handstand is going to look very close to a vertical handstand in real time and is pretty much as far from vertical as you can go while hoping to escape without a deduction. Any further from vertical will receive a small deduction on each instance.

Much shorter than vertical will get more severely deducted and start going into full-tenth land (as well as risk losing the value of the skill), but most of your “oh, she was just a little short on that handstand” issues will end up getting .05.

We tend to focus on the vertical position when gymnasts cast to handstand, but it is equally important on pirouetting skills like a giant full. On those skills, watch the point at which the gymnast ceases turning. At that moment, the vertical position is supposed to be maintained. Finishing a pirouette short of vertical is the same problem as casting to handstand short of vertical, though the evaluation is very forgiving on pirouettes, with gymnasts allowed to finish 20 degrees past vertical for no deduction. In particular, we see a lot of late cast 1/2 turns on low bar that are escaping without deduction because you could theoretically maybe say it was within 20 degrees.

The vertical finishing position is also important on skills like a bail to handstand, where the gymnast is expected to catch straight up and down, without a shoulder angle or hip angle that brings the feet short of vertical. If the handstand position is very short of vertical, it should get downgraded to a non-handstand overshoot, a lower-value skill that could end up destroying the intended start value.

Other deductions

There are many, many other little deductions that will (or more accurately can) be taken on bars, but one of the remaining significant ones is a lack of amplitude on release elements. If a same-bar release, transition, or dismount is “flat,” it’s going to be deducted. Flatness is typically evaluated by the height of the hips. Did they rise up during the skill (good)? Or did they stay about at the same level they were when the bar was initially released (bad)? On an element like a Jaeger or Gienger, the hips are expected to rise above the level of the high bar when the flip is being performed. On a double salto dismount, the hips are expected to still be rising into the second salto and stay above the high bar for both flips.

On the topic of amplitude, another deduction you’ll see on releases relates to catching close. A gymnast intends to catch a same-bar release with extended elbows, maintaining the same rhythm through to the next element. Catching too close to the bar, typically with bent elbows, impedes that rhythm and often shows up in a stall/pause or a muscled cast handstand out of the skill. All these little deductions add up.

Being too close to the bar can be a problem on dismounts as well. As on vault, the gymnast intends to go both up (hips over the height of the bar) and out (so that your foot—or face—doesn’t almost clip the bar). Coming terrifyingly close to hitting the bar on the dismount is a deduction because of terrifying.

Now to leg separations. This often gets ignored in NCAA because the judges can’t necessarily see leg separations from the side view, but the legs are supposed to be pasted together on pirouettes, transitions, and dismounts, basically for the entire routine unless you’re performing a release element with straddle, or straddling up to handstand. If the legs lose contact with each other unintentionally, that’s a deduction—typically a .05 unless we’re verging into crazy-legs territory, where one of the legs looks like it’s about to fly off, then it can be more.

So, if the legs flash apart for a second on top of the bar in the middle of a full turn, or you see daylight between them on a bail handstand or double layout dismount, or the two legs are in uneven positions in the air on a full-twisting double tuck dismount, those are all going to end up being .05 deductions.

The knees are also expected to be perfectly straight on bars at all times. Basically, the legs should be forming a straight line throughout the entire routine unless it’s during a tucked dismount. A major source of potential leg form deductions are giant swings before the dismount, where softening the legs as they pass by the low bar can be a .05. Sometimes a gymnast will ditch the traditional two giants before her dismount if she can, even though it doesn’t do anything for her start value, and you think, “well then…for why?” It’s probably because her leg position on giant swings is a deduction trap they’re trying to avoid.

Flexed feet is another point of contention when it comes to NCAA judging. Ideally, the feet should be pointed at all times during a routine. See the first handstand image above. That’s what we’re looking for.

In reality, my impression is that flexed feet aren’t really getting deducted if the feet become flexed on, say, a single challenging same-bar release skill. But, if the foot flexion is pronounced and present throughout the routine, a small overall deduction will be taken.

Keep in mind a tendency in NCAA to judge holistically, taking into account the overall sense of a routine. If a judge sees a borderline-but-it’s-mostly-fine lack of amplitude on a Shaposh element, then slightly soft knees in giant swings before the dismount, but nothing else to deduct, they may take all of that into account and simply say, “OK there were 2 or 3 things that are borderline deductions, none of which I HAVE to take as a pure .05, but that also combine to mean this wasn’t a 10. So, I’m going to give it 9.950.”

That’s the level of subjectivity we still have in NCAA gymnastics, which can be frustrating to those familiar with the elite code or who want specific receipts of all deductions to maintain transparency and continuity across all judges. It’s not going to happen any time soon. YOU’RE WELCOME.

WTF is College Gymnastics Scoring – Vault (2023 Edition)

Before the NCAA season begins, it’s time for the now-annual venture into the murky world of NCAA scoring for those who might want to know a little more about what’s actually going on behind that bonkers 9.950 that just got thrown. Fair warning: you’ll be happier if you don’t.

Vault values

Unlike on the other events, where we have skills and letters values and composition requirements and bonus rules, on vault we simply have a set of predetermined start values.

You can check out the full list of vaults and their values, but the most pressing issue on vault is the quest to have a 10.0 start value. Because the omnipresent Yurchenko full is valued at 9.95, having a 10.0 SV can provide a decisive advantage. A lineup of all 10.0 vaults would begin with a margin of .250 over a lineup of all Yurchenko fulls.

Here is a list of some 10.0-value vaults that you may or may not see in NCAA. The golden geese of vaulting.

NCAA 10.0 Vaults
Yurchenko 1.5
Yurchenko 2/1
Yurchenko 2.5
Yurchenko 1.5 tucked
Round-off 1/2 on, front tuck 1/2
Round-off 1/2 on, front pike
Round-off 1/1 on, back pike
Tsukahara 1/2
Tsukahara 1/1
Handspring pike 1/2
Handspring tuck 1/1
FHS, Handspring front pike


We have a couple vault value changes for the 2023 season, some of which might even be relevant or medium-significant. The handspring front tuck 1/2 was raised from 9.90 to 9.95—now the same value as the Yurchenko layout full. For those who aren’t quite ready to throw the 10.0-start handspring front pike 1/2, there is now a lower-SV alternative that’s still valuable for competition.

The round-off full-on back tuck has been lowered in value from 10.00 to 9.95 because of the consideration that the piked version of this vault is harder and therefore should be more valuable (10.00) than the tucked version (9.95).


With the values set, all we have left to deal with are the deductions. Just those. The most important thing you need to know about NCAA deductions is ‾\_(ツ)_/‾. Keep that in mind at all times.


The smallest landing deduction the judges can take is .05. This is supposed to be reserved for only the very smallest of movements, like when a gymnast allllmost sticks but her momentum forces that little scoot backward, or she has that tiny hop in place where the feet don’t even really come up but it’s also not a stick. That’s what the .05 is for, though in practice what constitutes very small movement tends to be evaluated loosely, especially for those teams going 9.9 for every routine, and a lot of landing issues tend to get away with just .05 instead of a full tenth.

As written, the rule states that when the entire feet are sliding or lifting off the floor to join, that’s when the deduction moves to the .10 territory, which also encompasses any clear step where we see daylight between the feet. If the step is larger than a yard, that’s supposed to be a flat .20 for each step individually (maximum .40).

What is a stuck landing? A stuck landing is when the feet hit the ground and then do not move at all in any way. That—and only that—is a stuck landing. A small rebound upward in place is not a stick.

So, what is a “college stick”? College stick is a term invented by grimy little jackals like me to describe the situation where a college gymnast—fully of newly adult savvy and three days of Acting I before she dropped it because there’s no way she could maintain that schedule—will realize that there is zero chance in the holographic universe that she’ll be able to hold her landing under control for any length of time, so she just pretends like she already stuck hours ago and you simply missed it. Like when your parents would ask whether you already washed your hands before dinner and you were like, “…yes.” The gymnast will land and then pretend like the absolutely necessary step she physically had to take afterward is merely a post-stick celebration, just like all the cool kids do after their definitely real sticks that happened.

The college stick fools no one, even judges who really want to give you that 9.950, but how much to deduct for that college-stick-step is a gray area. We’ll often see a .05 deduction given (even though the step taken would normally warrant .10) as some manner of reward for almost sticking. 

“Landing short”—for instance, not completing the full layout flip on a Yurchenko layout 1.5 and landing with the hips well behind  the feet for a step back—is supposed to receive a flat .10 in addition to any stepping deductions.

This is probably the biggest pet peeve that NCAA judges secretly have about other NCAA judges: that the short Yurchenko layout 1.5 showing a step back cannot mathematically score higher than 9.800 because you have to take the .10 for landing short and you have to take the .10 for the step. And we don’t always see that happen.

That’s also why you will typically see Yurchenko fulls with a step forward score lower than Yurchenko fulls with an equivalent-sized step backward. The vault with a step backward will have been fully completed and landed with the chest up and would then incur only the step deduction (in the landing department at least). The vault with a step forward, however, was not 100% completed because the step forward indicates that the gymnast came into the mat short, probably also having to pike down and lose the layout shape. All of which are additional deductions.

In terms of a deep landing, gymnasts are expected to safely absorb the landing into some degree of squat for no deduction, but when the hip joint and the knee joint are horizontal with each other, that’s supposed to be .10, progressing up to .30 based on the severity of the deep landing. Judges have been instructed that the deep landing should be evaluated by the position of the hip joint rather than the lower border of the thigh.

Piked shape and bent knees

Most vaults you see in NCAA will attempt a layout position. On those vaults, the best athletes will show a completely straight body shape throughout, like a muscly little broomstick. Ideally, gymnasts will go even further than that and show a slightly open shape with a little arch toward the end of the vault, going beyond the straight position just because they can, Shannon Miller-style.

If performed in NCAA, the above vault should receive a perfect 9.950 (the maximum for a Yurchenko full).

You’ll hear about the best vaulters “flaring” a vault, which means they’re opening and extending their arms at the end to slow their rotation coming in for landing. This both looks pretty and provides evidence of a gymnast who has way more than enough time to complete her vault and land in a non-Hunchback-of-Notre-Dame shape, so she has to slow herself down to avoid overdoing it.

Those who exhibit a closed hip angle—less than 180 degrees—on a layout vault will face a deduction. This is typically a small deduction, depending on the degree of the angle and when it occurs. If the pike is significant or present throughout the entire vault (not just coming in for landing), gymnasts will be docked more than .05. When the chest is just a little bit too forward on landing at the very end but everything else is fine, that often escapes without a deduction.

When a gymnast could eat a full dinner off her knees on landing, that’s when body position becomes a major problem and moves into .10+ territory.

Vaults that are intended to be piked are held to a similarly strict shape standard, but in their case the requirement is showing a 90-degree hip angle instead of 180. Tucked vaults need to show less than a 90-degree hip angle and less than a 90-degree knee angle.

Both layout and piked vaults are expected to exhibit straight legs, without any bent knees or hint of vestigial tucking. A “soft” position means the legs have a little bend in the knee throughout, which is typically a .05 but can increase based on severity.


Height/amplitude is evaluated far more critically on vault than on the other events. Gymnasts need to show repulsion off the vaulting table (going UP and OUT, not just out) and need to complete the vault while still in a high position in the air. Otherwise, they’ll come in short and be in line for the landing deductions discussed above, as well as an amplitude deduction. Deductions don’t exist in a vacuum. One creates the next.

There is no specific height standard that gymnasts are expected to reach. Instead, a vault that avoids an amplitude deduction is one where the entire vault, all necessary flipping and twisting, is completed with at least the chest, if not the entire body, above the height of the vaulting table. Then, as the gymnast passes the height of the vaulting table, all she has to do is prepare for landing.

The height deductions get quite intense for flat vaults that shoot out horizontally. These are not the little .05s we see for minor form breaks. A vault that lacks height is considered a much more significant error than a vault with soft knees or small landing movement. The judges are actually able to take up to .50 for height, which they never come close to doing because college scoring, but there’s a lot more freedom to deduct for height and .15 or .20 is not an unusual deduction for a mostly horizontal vault.

Meanwhile, “heighth” is not a word.


As mentioned above, vaults are expected to go both UP and OUT, so a vault that goes only up—and not out very far from the vault—will be deducted with nearly the same severity as one that goes only out, and not up.

Distance, too, is judged without a specific reference point, which makes distance deductions pretty ambiguous. “Did she go far?” is not an acceptably distinct standard for judging, but that’s more or less where we are.

Basically, gymnasts are expected not to make the judges scared that they’re going to hit their head on the vaulting table. If a judge screams at your vault, that’s probably bad. At minimum, gymnasts need to be far enough away that hitting themselves on the vault cannot physically happen. Ideally, a gymnast would have enough room to be able to lie down flat on the mat between her landing position and the vault.



Gymnasts are expected to land in line with the center of the vaulting table, not deviating too far to either side. For 2023, college gymnastics has finally added lines on the vault landing mat as a guide for the judges to evaluate the direction deduction.

Now, this deduction is still a vague one with the judges allowed to take “up to .30” for direction. There is no flat, mandatory deduction amount for a gymnast landing over the line, but the lines should at least serve to remind everyone that something should be taken.

College gymnastics evaluates direction deductions based only on where the gymnast initially lands, not where she then steps after landing.

Leg separations

Also on the topic of deductions that are not evaluated as harshly as they could be in NCAA gymnastics, leg separations on vault. The legs are supposed to be pasted together in the air on all vaults. To be actually deducted in college, however, leg separations must be somewhat obvious—i.e., we’re seeing actual daylight between the legs.

A minor crossing of the feet in the air is one of those things that’s technically a deduction but will almost always be forgiven without penalty in college gymnastics, along with most deductions in repulsion (the time when in contact with the vaulting table). Those go into a category of deductions that appear in the annual NAWGJ educational materials but suddenly disappear onto the wings of the wind when big-time-exciting meets happen. But in theory, we’re supposed to be looking at .05s for things like a leg separation in pre-flight (the time between hitting the springboard and contacting the table) and a noticeable shoulder angle, bent elbows, or excessive back arch in repulsion.

Those issues aren’t typically deducted as much as they could be in and of themselves, though they often lead to a lack of amplitude and distance, which is where gymnasts will be penalized.