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National History Day in Colorado

Judging Process - How Entries Will Be Judged

Click here for useful judging tips and rules summary for all categories

Introduction:  Benefits of the Judging Process

The goal of National History Day is to provide students with a high-quality, educational experience – regardless of whether they win a prize. The judges' evaluation is part of the learning and skill-building process of NHD. The judges' evaluation helps students improve their skills and provides positive feedback and constructive criticism for the hard work students have put into producing their projects. The judges' comments also provide students with ideas for revisions and enhancements as they move from one contest level to the next.

How Does the Judging Process Work?
  • Judges are trained on how to judge and given detailed instructions.
  • Judges do NOT need to be historians or be experts in the field.  
  • Judges work in teams of three with at least one veteran leading.
  • Judges interview students and talk with them about their research.
  • Judges evaluate students’ projects using a rubric, and rank the projects.
  • All projects are evaluated—and all students interviewed—in the first rounds when finalists are determined.  Finalists are evaluated in the final rounds when winners are determined.
 How long is the event? 
  •  7:30-1:00 for preliminary round judges. 
  • 7:30-4:00 for those who want to judge preliminary & final rounds.
  • Noon-4:00 for those who want to judge final rounds only.
  • The Awards Ceremony is held at 5:00 pm, and judges are encouraged to attend.
 Category Specific Judging

 Judging Paper and Web Site Categories:

  •  Students who enter the Paper or Website categories send their entries to the competition coordinator BEFORE the date of the competition. 
  • Coordinators will provide judges with their entries at least a week in advance for viewing.
  • Paper judges will receive their entries in the mail and Website judges will be provided with a list of entry URLs.
  • The judges will review the entries BEFORE the day of the competition.
  • On the day of the competition, the judging teams will get together to interview the students and evaluate the entries.

Judging Performance and Documentary Categories:

  •  In the Performance and Documentary categories, students display their entries before a live audience which includes a judging team. 
  • Students have five minutes to set up their performance or documentary, ten minutes to display their performance or documentary, and five minutes to take down their props or equipment. 
  • Judges will interview students during the last five minutes during takedown.

   Judging Exhibits:

  •  Students set up their exhibits in the Auraria Events Center/Gym.
  • The exhibit hall is closed to all students and spectators while the judging teams make their initial evaluations. Judges will have one hour to preview the entries before interviewing the students.
  • Judging teams will call students into the exhibit area for interviews according to a schedule.
 The Interview
  •  The judging teams will interview the students as part of the judging process.
  • The judges use the interview as an opportunity to meet the students and learn more about the process the students used to develop their project.
  • Information that the students provide in the interview is not included in the judges' evaluation of the entry. For example, if students state clearly in the interview how their project relates to the annual theme, but the entry itself does not convey that information clearly, the judges cannot include the additional information that the students provided in the interview. Each entry must stand on its own, without any extra input provided during the interview.
  Consensus Judging
  • Judges work as a team to rank the entries in their group.
  • Judges are required to consult with each other to determine individual rankings and provide feedback to the students by highlighting the strong features of each entry and suggesting possible enhancements. 
  • Judges assign a final ranking to each entry by consensus.
  • The teachers will receive the evaluation forms at the end of the contest and return them to their students.
 The Subjective Nature of Judging
Judges evaluate certain aspects of the entry that are objective (e.g., were primary sources used? Does the written material have correct spelling and grammar?). Judges must also evaluate aspects of the entries that are subjective (e.g., how well did students analyze and draw conclusions about the historical data?).

Historians often reach different opinions about the significance of the same data. Therefore, it is important for students to base their interpretations and conclusions on solid research. Judges will evaluate whether students used primary sources that were readily available, and if students were careful to examine all sides of an issue and present a balanced account of their research in their presentations. The process paper and annotated bibliography that the students prepare are important to assist the judges with this process.

The Decision of the Judges is Final
Students, parents, and teachers should realize that inadvertent inequities may occur in judging and that contest officials do want to be informed of any problems. But the decisions of the judges are final.  
Judging Forms and Instructions

Click here to access the judging forms and instructions from National History Day.  

How Do I Prepare to Judge?
  • Attend a judge training at CU Denver on the Auraria Campus. Dates TBD--check back in early 2017.


  • Complete our online judge training at
  • Judging procedures are reviewed—and questions answered--on May 6th before the contest begins.