Scoring refers generally to the process by which Science Olympiad tournaments are scored, either on an individual event basis or for the tournament as a whole.
The current most common method of scoring, sometimes known as the national method, gives each team a number of points equal to their rank in each event - the team's ranks in every event are added up to form the team's score, with lower scores being more desirable. This method has been in use at the National Tournament since 2001.
Many tournaments make modifications to the national method. Some tournaments drop the team's worst few scores from the team score. Tournaments in some areas, such as Texas and Wisconsin, add some events in addition to the national events, and score teams out of only 23 events (see Event Slate Modification for more detail). Some tournaments use a points cutoff, where all teams ranked lower than a certain point get the same score. For example, for several years teams at the Michigan state tournament ranking between 40th and 48th in an event were all awarded 40 points.
Some tournaments (such as North Dakota state tournaments) continue to use the older high-score-wins method of scoring which was used at the National Tournament prior to 2001. In this method of scoring, the lowest-ranked team in an event earns 1 point and the highest-ranked team earns one more point than the total number of teams at the tournament. When this method was used at the National Tournament, a points cutoff was common - for example, in the late 1990s the top team in each event earned 41 points, with all teams ranked 40th or below earning 1 point.
While different hosts take different approaches to calculating and publishing scores, several programs have been developed in order to make the process easier for tournament hosts. Online systems like Avogadro and Ezra Tech enable hosts to collect information from teams such as which events they are competing in and create schedules based around this information. As results come in, raw scores can be put in and placements will automatically be calculated. They also allow for the archival of results, permitting teams to review scores after the tournament is over. Unosmium is a similar program which revolves mainly around the archival and displaying of results as opposed to assisting tournament hosts. Different solutions fit different needs, and may be applied at a tournament for any number of reasons.
When "scoring" is used to describe individual events, it most often refers to build events or other events involving a detailed scoring method specified in the rules (such as many Physics events).
The majority of study events are written tests or similar, and are scored as such, with the rules typically stating no more than that high score wins and predetermined questions should be used to break ties. Some events break down the scoring by topic, specifying a rough percentage for each topic (for example, Forensics).
Build events (such as all Engineering events, and some other events like Air Trajectory, Bottle Rocket, and Bungee Drop) typically outline a specific scoring method in the rules. This is most often high-score-wins, with the exception of the vehicle events, which are usually low-score-wins. Physics events, with the exception of Air Trajectory (which is a typical build event) usually involve both a test component and a build component.
Disqualification in Science Olympiad is a specific penalty that is applied to teams only under certain conditions. Generally teams should only be disqualified for misbehavior, including "excessive use of improper or vulgar language" (from the national organization scoring guidelines), unsportsmanlike conduct, or outright cheating. Per General Rule #5 tournament officials are encouraged to apply the least restrictive penalty for rules infractions. Breaking specific event rules generally involve other less severe penalties, whether specifically delineated in the rules (such as tiers) or left to the discretion of the event supervisor.
In the past, disqualification was a common penalty used for many infractions of event rules. This policy was amended with the inclusion of tiers and other rule changes, and disqualification is now reserved for very specific and egregious violations of general rules.
Some events use tiers as a way to penalize teams breaking event rules without resorting to disqualification. The default tier is Tier 1, for teams that have not violated any event rules. The event rules typically specify that teams breaking certain rules are ranked in lower tiers - extending to as many as 4 or 5 tiers in some events. The word is frequently used as a verb; for example, referring to a team as having "been tiered for violating Construction Parameters." In the past, various infractions involved differing levels of penalty, sometimes with as many as eight tiers. This process was simplified to involve a smaller number of tiers during the early 2000s.
For example, events with tiers for the 2020 season include:
- Boomilever (B/C) - Tier 2 for holding a load with any construction/competition violations, Tier 3 for being unable to be loaded (cannot hold Loading Assembly, not wearing eye protection, etc.)
- Gravity Vehicle (C) - Tier 2 for runs with any competition violations, Tier 3 for runs with any construction violations, Tier 4 for teams with 2 failed runs, Tier 5 for teams that did not impound their Vehicle during the impound period.
- Mousetrap Vehicle (B) - Same as Gravity Vehicle.
- Ping Pong Parachute (B/C) - Tier 2 if the parachute system does not separate from the rocket, Tier 3 if any part of the rocket/parachute system touches the ceiling.
- Write It Do It (B/C) - Tier 2 for drawing a subsection of the model.