April 30, 2004

PPBSO reforms amateur solo scoring system

The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario (PPBSO) this summer will launch a dramatically different approach to scoring amateur solo piping competitions.

Replacing the traditional and often contentious points system, where each competitor’s performance is allocated points on a scale of one to 100, the new method calls for judges to place each competitor in quadrants. Each quadrant denotes how well the competitor performed in relation to the overall expected standard of the grade in which s/he competed.

While every competitor will be placed in an appropriate quadrant, the judge will designate the top six in the competition, awarding first through sixth prizes.

For example, a judge would check “Level 4” on the score sheet for a competitor playing at the top level of his or her grade; a piper playing at a very good standard would be marked “Level 3”; one who needs considerable improvement in one or more areas, “a Level 2”; and a competitor not meeting the standard for the grade would be assessed “Level 1.”

Score sheets will include a description of each level, as well as an expanded area for the judge’s comments.

The implementation of the new system is intended to alleviate confusion and acrimony that can arise from the traditional point system. At the whim of judges, a competitor with relatively equal performances may receive a mark of 60 in a contest one week, and 90 the next. It also eliminates the embarrassment that young competitors experience finishing last in an event, with their mark publicly posted.

If the system proves successful, the PPBSO will be able to determine with better accuracy whether a competitor should be up- or down-graded at the end of the competition season.

The new system will apply only to amateur solo piping competitions in its first year, but, according to the PPBSO, may be applied to solo drumming and professional piping, depending on its success. Solo drumming and professional piping will continue the existing points system.

The inspiration for the model comes from now common grading practices in the Ontario public school system. Students are now longer given letter grades or percentage marks, and their work is instead assessed in terms of expectations within their grade level.

The quadrant grading system originated with and was developed by the PPBSO’s Music Board, and was then passed to and approved by the organization’s executive. The model will be discussed in detail at the PPBSO’s Adjudicators Seminar on May 29.


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