Image of Atom

How Science Fair
Judges Think

If you find out how science fair judges think...
you will be able to present a winning science fair project!
Business Verified
image of school purchase orders


11 Important Points

It is empowering to know what to expect from the Judges. Each school has their own criteria for judging, but here are some factors that judges most often look for when evaluating your project. So ....


image of detective

Get Inside The Judges Mind

Shhh... don't tell anyone.
Here is the inside scoop from Detective ThinkMore!...

Image of Secret Files #14.

1. Are you physically and mentally prepared?

Let's pretend that it is the day before the science fair. You are reading over the following questions to make sure that you are prepared to answer the judges question. Why? Because then you will be all prepared in advance for your science fair.
    I don't know about physically, but mentally you are ready! After all, you know your project from beginning to end because you did it. Every detail is stored in the computer of your brain. And you certainly must be proud of all your efforts.

2. The night before the science fair...

  • Be sure to get enough sleep the night before.
  • Eat a good breakfast.
    Stay away from sugar because it will cause a dip in energy and memory about 10 AM.
  • Plan your wardrobe. Dress neatly and conservatively.

3. What do you do to ACE the interview?

image of being judged at the science fairJudges walk from display to display, stopping at each one. Some briefly talk to every student and others take the time to do an indepth interview. Don't panic, it only takes a couple of minutes.
    Now is your opportunity to "show your stuff". You can use your display board as a prop, but the judge wants to hear from you. Don't read from the display board. Use it to highlight your presentation by pointing to the charts, graphs and photos.

  • If English is a second language, then take your time in expressing yourself.
  • Whatever your native language, talk in an easy, slow pace.

4. The day of your science fair

Read this page:

5. Does your display board grab the judges attention from 3 feet away?

  • The first thing the judges see is your display. It does not have to be flashy, but well organized and makes the most of their time.
  • When the judge opens your notebook will it be well organized?

  • Does it have all the basic elements:
  • Aabstract
  • Research paper with bibliography hypothesis, procedures, results ~ tables, figures and graphs

6. Were you creative when doing your science fair project?

  • Does your Big Question show creativity and originality?
  • Did you go about solving the problem in an original way? Did you give an analysis of the data for your science fair experiment? an interpretation of the data?
  • How about the type of equipment you used? Did you construct or design new equipment?

7. Did you follow all 6-steps of the scientific method that proved or disproved your hypothesis?

  • Did you clearly state your problem?
  • Did you use scientific literature or only popular literature (newspapers, magazines, etc.), when doing your initial research?
  • Did you clearly state your variables?
  • Did you use controls? And if so, did you recognize their need and were they correctly used?
  • Does your data support your conclusions?
  • Do you recognize the limitations of the data / experiment? And did you state them in your conclusions?
  • Did you make suggestions as to what further research is warranted?

8. Were you thorough in doing your science project?

  • Did you carefully think out your science fair project, go about it systematically with well thought-out research following the scientific method and observations?
  • Did you complete all parts of your research experiment?
  • Did you keep a Science Fair Lab Notebook?
  • Did you keep detailed and accurate notes in the Notebook?

9. What was the quality of your technical skill?

  • Did you have the required equipment to obtain your data?
  • Was the project performed at home, school, university laboratory?
  • Where did the equipment come from? Did you build it? Did you loan it from somewhere? Did you work in a professional laboratory?
  • Did you do the project yourself or did you receive help? If you received help the judges are looking for you to give credit to those individuals.

10. Did you have clarity with the details of your science project?

Sometimes you may be asked to explain a short version of your project.

This is where you will find abstracts can be of help to you. Look it over and become familiar with the information.

If a Judge asks what would happen if you changed a variable in your experiment, don't have plenty of knowledge in that computer brain of yours! On the spot, just create another hypothesis or idea about what you think will happen.

  • Are you familiar enough with the material to answer questions? Judges are not interested in memorized speeches or trivial details. They want to know what you learned.
  • Can you explain the purpose, procedure, and conclusions of your science project?
  • Does your written material, including your abstract, tables, charts and graphs, show that you understand your research project?
  • Is your material presented in an orderly manner?
  • Is the data of your project clearly stated?
  • Are the results of your project clearly stated?
  • Does your project display explain your science project?

11. What are some questions that you may be asked?

First, here are some Helpful Hints:

  • What is most important when answering the judge's questions is to be honest. If you don't know the answer, then to truthful.
  • Judges like spontaneous answers. Don't try to memorize answers. Know your stuff cold like you know 1 + 1 = 2. And you do, because you did the work! (Remember that computer brain of yours?)
  • Know the formulas, terms and acronyms that you used for your science fair project. They may ask you to define some of the scientific jargon that you used.
  • Science Fair Judges want you to succeed. They want you to shine. They are not trying to stump you or get you flustered.

  • Either during your presentation or afterwards, the judge will take notes. Don't panic! Many have to fill out a form for each project that they see. On that form are 5 areas (creativity, scientific thought or engineering ability, thoroughness, skill and clarity).

Here are a few questions that have been asked at the San Diego Science & Engineering Science Fair.

  • How did you decide to do this particular project?

  • Is this project an expansion of one you did before? If so, what did you add or change?

  • How does this science fair project apply to real life?

  • Where did you do this project? (At home, at a school, hospital or university lab)

  • Did you receive help from others? If so, who?

  • How did you determine your sample size?

  • Did you choose any statistical test? If so, how did you determine which one to use?

  • Will you explain your graph / chart / photos me to?

  • Please explain your procedure.

  • What do your results mean? How can they apply to every day life?

  • How many times did you repeat your experiment? Test your device or program?

  • How is this project different from others that you researched?

  • What was the most interesting background reading that you did?

  • Where did you get your science supplies (bacteria, plants, animals....)

  • What new skills, if any, did you learn by doing this science fair project?

  • What is the most important thing you learned by doing this project?

  • What changes would you make if you continued this project?