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What Judges Look for in a Science Fair Project

Great Science Fair Projects from a Judge's Perspective

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Science fair judging can be fun and rewarding.

Science fair judges want to understand the purpose of your science fair project and what you learned from doing it.

Tim Boyle, Getty Images
How do you know what makes a great science fair project? Here are some pointers for making sure you have a good project, based on what science fair judges are looking for in your project.
  • Be Original

    Science fair judges are looking for inventions and innovations. Try to come up with an original idea for your science fair project. Find a new way to test something or a fresh application for a product or a novel way to process data. Look at something old in a new way. For example, rather than compare different types of coffee filters, you could compare different household materials (paper towels, napkins, toilet paper) for use as coffee filters if you ever ran out.

  • Be Clear

    Have a well-defined, easy-to-understand goal or objective. Make sure the title of your project is related to your purpose. Make it crystal clear what you are doing and why.

  • Understand Your Science Fair Project

    It's not enough to have an easy-to-understand poster or presentation. Judges will ask you questions about your project, in part to see whether or not you understand what you have done. This weeds out people who basically had their parents, friends, or teacher do their project for them. You need to understand what you did, why you did it, and what conclusions you could make based on your results.

  • Be Professional

    Have a neat, professional-looking poster and dress nicely for the science fair. While you should do your project yourself, it's fine to enlist help from a parent or teacher in putting together a poster and an outfit. You are not being graded on your appearance, but taking pride in your appearance will help you radiate confidence. Neatness counts with your project since good organization will making it easier for the science fair judge to follow what you have done.

  • Time & Effort

    Science fair judges reward effort. You can get excellent marks on a science fair project that only took you an hour to do, but you should realize investing time and energy in your project will give you an edge over other good projects. A project does not need to be time-consuming or complicated, but one which requires you to collect data over time will do better than a project you whipped out in a weekend. Spending time on your project demonstrates your interest in it, plus taking the time to think about it usually means you come out of the project with a better understanding of how science works.

  • Answer Questions

    You can impress science fair judges by answering their questions politely and completely. Try to radiate confidence. If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it and try to offer a way you could come up with the answer. Here are some common questions asked by science fair judges:

    • How did you come up with the idea for this science fair project?
    • How long did you spend on the project?
    • What background research did you conduct? What did you learn from it?
    • Did anyone help you with the project?
    • Does this project have any practical applications?
    • Did you try anything that did not work or did not give you expected results? If so, what did you learn from this?
    • What would be the next step in this experiment or study if you wanted to continue your work?
Do you need more help? Here are 10 tips to help you impress the science fair judges.
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