Science Fair judges can be pretty weird. If you
could get into their head and figure out how they think,
you'd have the upper hand in the contest - right?
Well since we can't get into their heads (you don't have
a medical degree yet so don't even think about it), we'll
do the next best thing. Here are some Science Fair
secrets that will help you get a leg up on the competition.
When you're done, be sure to check out the
Top Secret Section F area of
the lab for tons of science experiments you can use to
blow your competition away!
- First, make sure you choose a topic that you find
- Once you have picked a topic, do a lot of research
on it. Learn everything you can about your topic.
This is probably the most important step of all.
Become an expert on your subject because that's
really what science fairs are all about - to teach
students an important science concept.
- Plan your project. State the purpose, figure
out the controls and variables, form your hypothesis.
Then come up with a plan of how you are going to do
the experiment. Also think about the possible
data that will result from your experiment - it's best
to think about this before you do the actual experiment.
- Keep a lab notebook (also called an activity log
or journal). Take notes, lots of notes, in your
lab notebook. Remember to record your purpose,
your procedure, your materials, your variables (these
are the things that change), your controls (these are
the things that stay the same), and your data (what
- Form a hypothesis and then test it. Remember,
a hypothesis is a informed guess - it's not a question.
- Do the work. Don't get discouraged if you
run into problems. This is natural and real scientists
run into this every day. Also, judges like persistence
so keep at it. State whether your hypothesis was
proved true or not - write down your conclusion.
- Figure out what happened and why and document the
- Make your display.
- Rehearse your presentation in front of your parents,
friends, and family dog. Listen to your parents
suggestions but take the dog's suggestions with a grain
- Judges look for creative thinking. They will
look at whether or not your topic was unusual or a new
spin on an existing topic.
- Did you do the work yourself? Believe it or
not, the judges can tell if you got too much help on
your project. A little help is normal and expected
but these guys have judged enough science fairs that
they can tell if your parents did the project for you.
- Judges want to see good notes and lots of them.
Make sure it is well organized and that you have documented
your references (and given everyone proper credit for
- Your display should of course be professional.
It should be clear and easy to understand and fun to
look at. Some think that the project must be
very complicate to win but that's not true.
- Some fairs will ask that you give an oral presentation.
This will be the "short version" of your entire project.
Remember to speak clearly and slowly.
- Some judges will conduct an interview and ask questions
about your project. They don't do this to be mean
or to trick you. They are simply trying to figure
out what you learned. Again, do most of the project
work yourself, including the research, and you will
do fine on the interview.
Below is a good example of what the science fair judges
score card book will look like:
Category: Scientific Method
(32 points max)
- Presented a question that could be answered
- Developed a hypothesis that identified independent and
- Developed a good procedure for testing the hypothesis,
including use of control variables
- Clear and thorough process for data observation and collection
- Ran at least three trials
- Used accurate experimental technique
- Derived conclusions from appropriately organized and summarized
- Related conclusions back to the hypothesis
Category: Scientific Knowledge
(12 points max)
- Used at least three sources for background
- Clearly identified and explained the key scientific concepts
related to the experiment
- Used scientific experiments and/or mathematical formulas
correctly in the experiment
Category: Presentation (12
- Presentation is neat, well organized,
- Included key components to provide a thorough picture
of the project including the purpose/question, variables
and hypothesis, summary of research findings, materials
and procedures, data charts and graphs, results, and conclusions
- Included a lab notebook with the project
Category: Creativity (4 points
- Investigated an original question or used
an original approach or technique
Superior - 4 points
Above average - 3 points
Average - 2 points
Below average - 1 point
No evidence - 0 points
Here are a few more techniques you can use to win the
fair. Note: if you tell anyone you got these tips
here, we'll deny it until the day we die.
- The night before, leave a pumpkin on the
doorstep of your smartest competitor with a knife
sticking through it and a note taped to it that says
- Before the judging begins, walk up to the first
competitor display and say, "Oooh. You didn't
hear about the kid that did that one last year?
God rest his soul..."
- When little Johnny isn't looking, change his
notes to Pig Latin and then tell the judge that it's
his native language.
- Tell little Johnny that on the other side of the
gym, Bobby's volcano display was knocked into
Jenny's yeast experiment and the judges are all
excited because a new life from was created.
When he runs to look, knock over his display.
- Go through all the competitor displays before
the show and paste a cardboard note on each project
that says "FAIL".
- Poke holes in your paper and tell the judges
that on the way in, you were mobbed by a bunch of
- Take a red pen and draw little circles up and
down your arm. When the judge arrives, tell
him you helped the guy next to you set up his
project and now you have this weird rash on your
- When little Johnny isn't looking, mix pepper
into his volcano experiments so when it blows, all
the judges go into sneezing fits.
- When the judge is grading your competitors
project, loudly tap your pencil to the tune of
- When the judge starts grading your project,
whisper in his ear - "I know what you did last
- Bring candles and incense to the contest. Before
grading begins on your project, perform an elaborate
ceremony, entreating the gods to bless the project
and correct all your typos.
- At the top of your project board, write in large
red letters, "This project will self destruct in 10
- When the judge asks questions, answer all of
them using a British accent.
- Instead of writing your notes in a notebook, cut
letters of various colors and sizes from magazines and paste them to a board
like a ransom note.
Stare menacingly at the judge when he arrives to
grade your project.
- Wear your first place ribbon to school the next
day and talk lots of smack to the losers.