Traditionally, the Code has been updated at the end of every Olympic cycle. Major revisions are made to reflect changing trends in the sport, devalue or delete skills from the Table of Elements, add new skills that have been submitted by gymnasts and change rules as necessary. Minor changes to the Code have often been made following World Championships.
The FIG Code is used to score gymnastics events at the international elite level--for instance, the Olympic Games or the World Championships. Most nations will also use the Code to score domestic competitions at the elite or world-class level, for instance, the National Championships.
Gymnasts competing at the lower levels and/or outside the FIG's jurisdiction--for instance, in NCAA gymnastics or for their local club team--are not scored according to the FIG's Code. Most national gymnastics federations design their own Codes or scoring systems for each level of competition. NCAA Gymnastics also has its own Code of Points. Many, if not most, other Codes still use 10.0 as the maximum score.
In 2006, the Code of Points and the entire gymnastics scoring system were completely overhauled. The change stems from the judging controversy at 2004 Olympics in Athens, which brought the reliability and objectivity of the scoring system into question; and arguments that execution had been sacrificed for difficulty in artistic gymnastics. It follows a similarly radical scoring change in figure skating that also was prompted by irregularities in judging at major events.
Since its inception in major events in 2006, the Code has faced strong opposition from many prominent coaches, athletes and judges. Proponents of the new system believe it is a necessary step for the advancement of gymnastics, promoting difficult skills and more objective judging. Opponents feel that people outside the gymnastics community will not understand the scoring and will lose interest in gymnastics, and that without the emphasis on artistry, the essence of the sport will change. Many opponents of the new scoring system feel that this new scoring system, in essence, chooses the winners before the competition ever begins. Competitors no longer compete on the same level. Each contestant begins with a unique start value; therefore, contestants assigned a lower start value or difficulty rating are knocked out of the winner's circle before the competition begins. They may compete, but they cannot win. A competitor with a higher difficulty rating will begin the competition with a much higher score. There has been dissent over the fact that the new Code effectively abolishes the "perfect 10" score, for many years one of the hallmarks of gymnastics. There has also been concern that the new Code strongly favors extreme difficulty over form, execution and consistency. At the 2006 World Championships, for instance, Vanessa Ferrari of Italy was able to controversially win the women's all-around title in spite of a fall on the balance beam, in part by picking up extra points from performing high-difficulty skills on the floor exercise. The 2006 Report of the FIG's Athletes' Commission, drafted after a review and discussion of the year's events, noted several areas of concern, including numerous inconsistencies in judging and evaluation of skills and routines.
However, the leadership of the FIG remains committed to the new Code. While small revisions have been made to the Code, there is currently no indication that it will be significantly altered or that there will be a return to the old Code or 10.0 scoring system.
As other aspects of the Code, the Table of Elements is frequently re-evaluated. Skills listed in the Table may have their difficult ratings raised or lowered after evaluation by the FIG Technical Committee. In addition, skills that are determined to be too dangerous to the athletes may be banned outright. The Technical Committee may also give specific hazardous skills artificially low difficulty ratings to deter gymnasts from trying to complete them.
Many of the skills in the Table of Elements are named after gymnasts. An original element is named after an athlete when he or she is the first person to successfully perform it at a World Championships or Olympics. Gymnasts and their coaches must submit their original skill to the FIG before the meet for evaluation and possible inclusion in the Table of Elements.
The D-score (or Difficulty score) evaluates the content of the exercise on three criteria: the Difficulty Value (DV), Composition Requirements (CR) and Connection Value (CV).
* DV: The difficulty value of the eight most highest value elements of the routine, including the dismount, are added together. Elements are ranked depending on their difficulty, for example a back layout salto is given a difficulty of A, then a back layout salto with a full twist is given a difficulty of B. For a G skill a gymnast earns 0.7; for an A, he or she earns 0.1 points.
* CR: Gymnasts must demonstrate skills from five required Element Groups on each apparatus. A gymnast may use skills to fulfill the DV and the CR simultaneously. For each CR presented, 0.5 points are awarded. A maximum score of 2.50 points may be earned here.
* CV: Additional points are given for connections of two or more elements of specific value, with 0.1 or 0.2 points apiece.
Although the A judging panel does not take deductions, they may decide not to give gymnasts DV or CR points for elements that are performed with falls. A gymnast may also lose CV credit if there are extra steps or pauses between skills that are meant to be connected.
The D-score is open-ended; in theory a gymnast could obtain unlimited points by performing connected skills although this was made harder in the 2009-2012 revision of the code when the number of elements that counted towards the D-score was lowered.
The E-score (or Execution score) evaluates the performance: the execution and artistry of the routine.
The D-score and E-score are added together for the gymnast's final mark.
This judging system applies to all WAG and MAG events except vault. Vault scoring is somewhat different:
As with other apparatus the D-score and E-score are added together for the gymnasts's final mark.
There are several acts that completely invalidate the vault and result in a score of 0. These include receiving spotting (assistance) from a coach and not using the U-shaped safety mat for Yurchenko-style vaults.
The old Code worked on the 10.0 scoring system.
Skills: Every acrobatic and dance element was awarded a specific difficulty rating, ranging from A (easiest) to Super E (hardest) in the Table of Elements. Gymnast earned bonus points by performing difficult skills alone or in combination.
Required elements: Routine composition was decided by the gymnast and his or her coaches, however, on every apparatus except vault there was a list of required elements (similar to the EGR in the new Code) that had to be performed during the routine. Examples of required elements included 360 degree turns on balance beam and a backwards salto (somersault) on floor exercise.
Base score: The base score was the default Start Value of the routine, provided the gymnast fulfilled all required elements. This changed over the years and tended to lower as the codes went on. For instance, for the 92-96 code a base score of 9.2 was awarded if all of the basic elements were fulfilled. For the 96-00 code, the base score was a 9.0. Finally, a base score of 8.8 was awarded for the 00-04 olympic years. Before the new code, the base score again dropped to an 8.6 but this was not adopted for a very long time.
Start Value: The Start Value (SV) of each routine was determined by adding the base score to the bonus points earned from performing difficult elements and combinations. Ideally, a gymnast wanted to have an SV as close to 10.0 as possible.
On vault, every vault was assigned a specific Start Value in the Code.
The score was determined by subtracting any deductions for poor form, execution, steps, falls or other infractions from the SV.