Greater Denver Metro NHD




A. Benefits of the Judging Process

The goal of National History Day (NHD) is to provide students with a high-quality educational experience -- whether or not they win a prize. The judges' evaluation and feedback is part of the learning and skill-building process of NHD. The judges' evaluation helps students improve their skills and provides positive feedback for the hard work students have put into producing their projects. The judges' comments also can provide students with ideas for revisions and enhancements as they move from one contest level to the next.

Remember, regardless of how the judges eventually rank each entry, all students can benefit from the experience of participating in National History Day. Students will gain skills in research, in analysis, and in presenting information that will last their whole lives. They will become expert on a topic that fascinates them, and can share their expertise and enthusiasm with others. They will acquire poise and self-confidence and will learn to manage their time. They are all winners!


B. Who Are the Judges?

Historians, educators, librarians and community volunteers interested in history and education serve as judges at each level of the History Day competition.


C. How Does the Judging Process Work?

Each separate History Day division and category (for example, Junior Individual Web Sites) is judged by a team of two-three judges. If there are many entries in a single division/category, several teams of judges will each judge a segment of the entries in a preliminary round of judging. The strongest entries in the division/category will then be judged by a new team of judges in a final round.

Judging Paper and Web Site Categories:

Students who enter the Paper or Web Site categories send their entries to the competition coordinator about two weeks BEFORE the date of the competition. The competition coordinator then sends a copy of the entries to each judge on the team. The judges will individually review the entries in the week BEFORE the day of the competition. On the day of the competition, the judging teams will get together to interview the students and compare their evaluations of the entries to determine the overall rankings.

Judging Performance and Documentary Categories:

In the Performance and Documentary categories, students display their entries at the competition before a live audience which includes the 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 typically interview students during the last five minutes during takedown.

Judging Exhibits:

Students set up their exhibits in the designated exhibit space at the beginning of the contest day. The exhibit hall is then closed to all students and spectators while the judging teams view the entries and make their initial evaluations. Judging teams will then call students into the exhibit area for interviews according to a schedule posted at the competition. After the first round of judging is complete, the exhibit hall is typically opened up for spectators to see the exhibits.


All Categories: 

Judges do not assign a numerical score to each entry. Instead, judges work as a team to rank the entries in their group. Judges consult together to determine the rankings of the entries in their group by consensus.

The judging teams also fill out one evaluation form for each entry, highlighting the strong features of each entry and suggesting possible enhancements.  This feedback from judges is what makes the History Day program an educational experience for students.  Students learn what they did well, and what they could do to improve their entry. Teachers can pick up the evaluation forms for their students after the judging is complete at the regional competition. If teachers are not able to pick up the evaluation forms, then the forms will be mailed to them after the competition.


D. 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, and on evidence that supports their analysis and conclusions. 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.


E. The Role of the Interview in the Judging Process

The judging teams will interview the students who prepared each entry 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. However, 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 in being evaluated and ranked, without any extra input provided during the interview.


F. 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. However, the decisions of the judges are final.



Click here to return to the Judge home page.

Click here to register to judge. 

Click here to access training materials for judges. 




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