Testing & competing with the ISI

The ISI (Ice Sports Industry, formerly Ice Skating Institute) focuses on recreational skating and stresses participation and inclusion; tests and competition are meant to encourage participation. Figure tests are available on demand—ask the skating director at your nearest ISI rink. The ISI tests follow essentially the same structure as the USFSA tests, with the numbers incremented by one and a few figures moved up or down a level. For example, ISI Figure 4 is USFSA Third Test plus the back serpentines from second tests.

To compete in ISI events, you must be a member. To test, you should be a member so you can have the tests registered. Registration means that whoever judges your test sends the results to the ISI, where they’re kept on file. If you want to compete, you have to have your tests registered. The ISI also allows you to take tests without registering them, which is sometimes done in introductory skating classes. They only count toward class placement.

The ISI allows skaters to test figures one at a time, which means you can break the tests up into as many pieces as you like instead of having to test a whole bunch of figures all at once. This also means that if you fail one figure, you don’t fail the whole test. Your test is considered “incomplete” until you pass that figure, which you can do by itself. There’s no need to re-skate the figures you’ve passed to finish the test. You do have to pass all the figures in one level before moving on to the next, though. When the test is complete, your program manager registers it with the ISI and you get a cute patch.

Only one judge is necessary for ISI Figure tests 1–6. For 7–9, three judges are necessary, and five judges are required for 10, which consists of special figures. The judges are typically skating coaches who have passed an ISI judging exam. There are restrictions on when and where high-level tests can be taken, which may make them more difficult to schedule.

If you’d like to take ISI tests, talk with your program manager about setting them up. If your rink doesn’t have an ISI program, reach out to a nearby rink that does. They may be happy to accommodate you. The ISI has a list of participating rinks (which doesn’t seem to be working right now).

Some ISI competitions offer figure events (Figures, Creative Figures, and Free Figures). Upcoming events that offer figures are included on this site’s calendar. They are common at ISI national competitions and sometimes appear in local ISI-endorsed competitions. If you want to compete in figures events, but they’re not listed on the application, ask the contact person to offer them. ISI competitions are pretty flexible, and they may be able to oblige you! To compete, you must have passed the corresponding ISI figure test. USFSA tests do not count. Your figure tests determines your level in all three events.

Since the ISI doesn’t include descriptions of all the figure events online, here are some excerpts from the 2012 ISI Handbook. They don’t include all the details, so you’ll want to check the most recent version.


The figure(s) to be skated during the competition may be announced just prior to the competition or in the competition information materials. … All Figure 1 skaters, regardless of age, are permitted to indicate the center of their eight with a scratch of their blade. Some rinks use colored markers to mark centers, where visibility is difficult. … For ISI Figure events, two tracings (instead of the normal three) may be skated if time is of the essence … If the figure does not have a designated starting foot, such as forward outside eight, then the skater may start the figure on either foot as long as the required two (or three) tracings are performed on each foot.

The ISI Handbook, 2012 edition (Plano, TX: Ice Skating Institute), 221.

The figures to be competed change annually and are announced on the competition information page. The figures for national competitions in 2019 and 2020 are in the chart below. Local competitions may make different figure selections.

Level2019 Figure2020 Figure
Figure 1Forward Outside Waltz EightForward Inside Eight
Figure 2Backward Outside EightForward Outside Three to Center
Figure 3Backward Inside EightRight Forward Outside Three
Figure 4Forward Outside LoopForward Inside Loop
Figure 5Left Forward Inside BracketBackward Outside Loop
Figure 6LFO Change LoopLFO One Foot Eight
Figure 7LFO Paragraph ThreeRFO Paragraph Three
Figure 8LFO RockerRFO Rocker
Figure 9LBO Paragraph Double ThreeRFO Paragraph Loop
Figure 10The FlowerLFO Rocker Double Three
Figures selected for ISI national competitions in 2019 and 2020.

Free Figures

In this event, skaters use their imaginations to create variations of the conventional school figures. … These variations should be based on test level figures. The figure is limited in size and may not exceed a conventional 3-lobe figure. One circle figures are acceptable. The design may be laid out once, or laid out and retraced the same way or in a variation, with no more than three tracings. … No turns are permitted from higher test levels. … Competitors must submit a drawing on 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper of their figure to the Referee prior to the start of the event.

The ISI Handbook, 2012 edition (Plano, TX: Ice Skating Institute), 219–220.

The time limit has been 1:30 for all levels since 2016.

Creative Figures

In this event skaters use their imaginations to “draw” pictures on the ice through skating edges (i.e., spell out their names and create their own unique figures). … It should be noted that a higher Technical Merit score will be given for those skating on one foot and utilizing edges. Two foot skating and “drawing” with the heel of the blade should be kept to a minimum … Costumes can be worn to match the figure skated—patriotic for a flag design, a mouse for skating a cheese design, etc. Competitors must submit a drawing on 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper of their figure to the Referee prior to the start of the event.

The ISI Handbook, 2012 edition (Plano, TX: Ice Skating Institute), 219.

There are limits on size (no larger than a regular two-circle figure) and time (1:30 for all levels). Since 2014, skaters must lay out and retrace (two or three tracings), but the retracing can be in a variation.

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