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General Information About Figure Skating

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What is Testing?

The United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) defines the testing system as the “backbone of figure skating” which allows a skater to progress through a logical sequence of steps in their competitive development. The tests create a national bench-marking structure for competitive, and later professional, purposes. All USFS sanctioned competitions group skaters according to the level of the highest test the skater has passed. This allows skaters of similar abilities to compete against each other. Generally, there are two types of testing in USFS: “Learn To Skate USA” or “Basic Skills” tests and “Judged” tests.

Learn to Skate (LTS) or Basic Skills Testing: Takes place within the LTS to basic skills program and is used to advance skaters from level to level. The tests typically take place in from of the skater’s instructors and is pretty informal. Passage through the Learn to Skate program is not required unless a skater wants to compete in a Basic Skills event or more entry-level competition.

Judged Testing: A much more formal test structure designed for skaters who have advanced past the basics. These tests are judged by USFS appointed judges at formal “test sessions”. The results are forwarded to USFS which keeps them as an official record of accomplishment for each skater. There are five skating test disciplines:

  • Moves in the Field

  • Free Skate

  • Pattern Ice Dance or Solo Pattern Ice Dance

  • Free Dance or Solo Free Dance

  • Pairs

In each discipline there are many levels of achievement. For more information, see the USFS Test Requirements or contact your primary coach. Please note: a skater’s age has no determination on their skating level, only the demonstration of their proficiency through the the tests. In addition, for competitive purposes there are some age requirements placed upon skaters at certain levels. See the USFS Competitive Qualification Requirements for more information.

Moves in the Field and Free Skate Test Levels :

  • Pre-Preliminary

  • Preliminary

  • Pre-Juvenile

  • Juvenile

  • Intermediate

  • Novice

  • Junior

  • Senior

Pattern Ice Dance Levels:

  • Preliminary

  • Pre-bronze

  • Bronze

  • Pre-silver

  • Silver

  • Pre-gold

  • Gold

  • International

Free Dance Levels:

  • Juvenile

  • Intermediate

  • Novice

  • Junior

  • Senior

Pairs Levels:

  • Pre-Juvenile

  • Juvenile

  • Intermediate

  • Novice

  • Junior

  • Senior

A summary of USFSA Test levels and Test disciplines is shown below:

Download PDF • 189KB

About Figure Skating Jumps

There are many jumps in the sport of figure skating. Generally speaking, all jumps can be classified as either a toe jump or an edge jump. Toe jumps are jumps where the skater’s toepick of their free leg is planted in the ice and used to initiate the jump. Edge jumps use essentially the skater’s knee bend and ankle strength to jump. In order to determine whether a jump is a toe or edge jump, watch the skater’s takeoff.

Some jumps found in the sport of figure skating are as follows (Note: all jumps except the waltz jump you can add double, triple, or quad to as a prefix, i.e. double axel):

  • Waltz Jump (edge jump, 1/2 rotation)

  • Salchow (edge jump) (1/2 rotation; double: 1.5 revolutions; triple: 2.5 revolutions, etc. )

  • Toe loop (toe jump) (1/2 rotation; double: 1.5 revolutions; triple: 2.5 revolutions, etc. )

  • Loop (edge jump)

  • Flip (toe jump) (inside edge takeoff)

  • Lutz (toe jump) (outside edge takeoff)

  • Axel (edge jump) (forward takeoff)

About Figure Skating Competitions

Skaters can compete against other skaters across the country in singles, pairs, ice dance, synchronized skating, adult competitions, and collegiate competitions. Within the Singles category of competitions, skaters can compete at various levels and with various skills. US Figure Skating members have the ability to compete in three different competition tracks.

Compete USA/Basic Skills Competitions: These competitions are designed for beginning skaters and provide a fun and introductory competition environment. Events are open to all beginning skaters who are current members of a Learn to Skate USA program and/or are full members of U.S. Figure Skating.

Non-Qualifying Competitions: Skaters can compete in competitions across the country in the well-balanced discipline, excel discipline, showcase discipline, solo ice dance, partner ice dance, pairs, adult disciplines, synchronized skating, and theatre on ice. Excel and well-balanced competitions are classic free skate competitions (similar to what you see at the Olympics) where skaters execute jumps, spins, footwork, choreography, etc. Excel is judged on the requirements needed to pass the official US Figure Skating Free Skate test, making it easier than Well Balanced. Showcase competitions are programs that incorporate more creativity and artistry and remove some technique based movements (such as some jumps and spins); these competitions are for skaters that love entertaining crowds. Solo dance allows skaters to compete ice dance tests without a partner. Adult competitions allow adult skaters to compete against similar level skaters. Synchronized skating (synchro) competitions allow skaters to compete as a group and as part of a team. Theatre on ice is a form of competitive figure skating that combines the grace of figure skating with the excitement of theatre and dance.

Qualifying Competitions: These competitions feed into the US National Championships, Team USA, the Olympics, the International Selection Pool, and the Grand Prix Circuit. Only well-balanced skaters in singles, pairs, ice dance, and synchro at the level of Juvenile or higher are eligible to compete in qualifying competitions. Check out US Figure Skating’s website for more information:

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