There are rules governing the scoring of a dive. Usually a score considers three elements of the dive: the approach, the flight, and the entry. The primary factors affecting the scoring are:
- if a hand-stand is required, the length of time and quality of the hold
- the height of the diver at the apex of the dive, with extra height resulting in a higher score
- the distance of the diver from the diving apparatus throughout the dive (a diver must not be dangerously close, should not be too far away, but should ideally be within 2 feet (0.61 m) of the platform)
- the properly defined body position of the diver according to the dive being performed, including pointed toes and feet touching at all times
- the proper amounts of rotation and revolution upon completion of the dive and entry into the water
- angle of entry – a diver should enter the water straight, without any angle.
- amount of splash – many judges award divers for the amount of splash created by the diver on entry, with less splash resulting in a higher score.
Each dive is assigned a degree of difficulty (DD), which is determined from a combination of the moves undertaken, position used, and height. The DD value is multiplied by the scores given by the judges.
To reduce the subjectivity of scoring in major meets, panels of five or seven judges are assembled; major international events such as the Olympics use seven-judge panels. For a five-judge panel, the highest and lowest scores are discarded and the middle three are summed and multiplied by the DD. For seven-judge panels, as of the 2012 London Olympics, the two highest scores and two lowest are discarded, leaving three to be summed and multiplied by the DD. (Prior to the London Olympics, the highest and lowest scores were eliminated, and the remaining five scores were multiplied by 3⁄5, to allow for comparison to five-judge panels.) The canceling of scores is used to make it difficult for a single judge to manipulate scores.
There is a general misconception about scoring and judging. In serious meets, the absolute score is somewhat meaningless. It is the relative score, not the absolute score that wins meets. Accordingly, good judging implies consistent scoring across the dives. Specifically, if a judge consistently gives low scores for all divers, or consistently gives high scores for the same divers, the judging will yield fair relative results and will cause divers to place in the correct order. However, absolute scores have significance to the individual divers. Besides the obvious instances of setting records, absolute scores are also used for rankings and qualifications for higher level meets.
In synchronised diving events, there is a panel of seven, nine, or eleven judges; two or three to mark the execution of one diver, two or three to mark the execution of the other, and the remaining three or five to judge the synchronisation. The execution judges are positioned two on each side of the pool, and they score the diver which is nearer to them. The 2012 London Olympics saw the first use of eleven judges.
The score is computed similarly to the scores from other diving events, but has been modified starting with the 2012 London Olympics for the use of the larger judging panels. Each group of judges will have the highest and lowest scores dropped, leaving the middle score for each diver’s execution and the three middle scores for synchronization. The total is then weighted by 3⁄5 and multiplied by the DD. The result is that the emphasis is on the synchronization of the divers.
The synchronisation scores are based on:
- time of take-off
- height attained
- synchronisation of rotations and twists
- time of entry to the water
- forward travel from the board
The judges may also disqualify the diver for certain violations during the dive, including:
- receiving a score of 0 on all dives performed in the event
- improper equipment usage (e.g., female divers not using hair ties)