There are two separate elements of the competition, each of which is given two separate scores:

1. The short program, lasting about 2 and a half minutes and worth about one-third of the overall score, consists of a group of required elements that the skater can execute in any order to the music of his/her choice. At the elite level (the level shown on TV just about every weekend throughout the winter), the men and women have three jump requirements, three spin requirements, and two footwork requirements. Failure to execute any one of these requirements results in mandatory deductions in score.

2. The long program, lasting 4 minutes and typically worth about two-thirds of the overall score, provides a bit more flexibility. There are no set requirements, although most of the top skaters today include 6 or 7 triple jumps, several spins, and even some triple-triple combinations.

After each program, a skater receives two sets of scores:

1. The Technical Mark (also called the First Mark) is for required elements (in the Short Program) or technical merit (in the Long Program). It reflects the difficulty of the program as well as the clean execution of all the spins, footwork, and jumps.

2. The Presentation Mark (also known as the Second Mark) reflects the choreography, flow, and balance of the program. It is also a measure of the skaters' ability to interpret their chosen music, make good use of the ice surface, and skate with speed, sureness, and effortless carriage.

These scores range from 0.0 - 6.0. 6.0s are extremely rare (even Olympic gold medalists rarely get 6.0s), so you'll more often see scores ranging from 4.8 to 5.8 for the top skaters.

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