How Do DCI Scores Work? How Are DCI Rankings Determined? Here's A Guide

How Do DCI Scores Work? How Are DCI Rankings Determined? Here's A Guide

How are DCI rankings determined? How do DCI scores work? Here's a guide to help you understand everything you need to know about DCI scores and rankings

Sep 21, 2023 by Natalie Shelton
How Do DCI Scores Work? How Are DCI Rankings Determined? Here's A Guide

How are DCI rankings determined? How do DCI scores work? Here's a guide to help you understand everything you need to know about DCI scores and rankings.

An overview of DCI's scoring system

One way in which drum corps is a unique sport is in how it's scored. Rather than one judge delivering an overall score to every ensemble, multiple judges score a corps in individual "captions" which, when added up, results in the corps overall score. Additionally, there is a timing and penalties judge who may deduct points based on any infractions. Any deductions get taken out of the overall score (so if an ensemble earns a 98 with a 0.8 point deduction, they will receive a 97.2 for their overall score).

"Individual judges evaluate three separate visual captions and three separate music captions: Visual Analysis, Visual Proficiency, Color Guard, Music Analysis, Brass, and Percussion, which is sometimes covered by two judges. In addition, two judges cover General Effect, one with a Visual background, the other with expertise in Music." - DCI

So it really takes excellence across every caption in order to have a high-achieving score in drum corps! If you want to learn more about the captions and what each caption means, check out this article on DCI's website.

Let's talk numbers

Each caption is worth a set max amount of points. If you check out these 2023 DCI Finals scores, you can that the numbers break down in this way:

  • General Effect makes up 40 points on the scoresheets
  • Visual makes up 30 points on the scoresheets
  • Music makes up 30 points on the scoresheets

The goal is fairly simple: get as close to the maximum number of points possible in each caption.

This is where things get a little tricky and we have to do some math. In the screenshot below, you'll see an overview of the General Effect caption at the 2023 DCI World Championship Finals competition.

The overall caption is worth 40 points total toward a corps' score. However, you can see that in the sub-cations 'General Effect 1' and 'General Effect 2,' a corps can earn 20 points total in each sub-caption from the four judges. Now you may be thinking, 'But that equals more than 40 points!' Well, once a judge has input their scores, here's how we fix that problem and how the overall caption score for General Effect is calculated. For the sake of this demo, we're going to be using the Blue Devils numbers:

  • The two judges for General Effect 1 input their numbers
  • The totals for GE1 (19.600 and 20.000) are averaged (which means the numbers are added up and divided by 2)
  • The same is done for the GE2 numbers
  • When averaged, you get 19.800 for GE1 and 19.875 for GE2
  • Add 19.800 and 19.875 and you get the overall total score for the caption which equals 39.675 (as you can see in the 'TOTAL' column on the far right-hand side of the scoresheet)
  • Following their performances, all the competing corps are given a total for the caption and where their scores rank in each caption when compared to the scores achieved by competing corps (designated by the number under the total score)

And there you have it! That's how caption scoring works. The same process is done across all of the captions until a total, final score encompassing all caption scores and any possible deductions is tabulated.

DCI also gives out caption awards at DCI Finals, which means that ensembles that score the highest in the General Effect, Visual, Brass, Percussion, and Color Guard captions receive an award for their achievement. These additional awards are more for the sake of "bragging rights," as the winners don't necessarily determine who will win the overall gold medal at DCI World Championship Finals.

Okay, so a competition is over and all the corps have their scores. What next? Well, that's where rankings come in.

How rankings work in DCI

Rankings in DCI serve the same function as they do in other sports; rankings are another way to order opponents within a sport against each other. There are two popular methods of rankings within DCI: by averaging scores and by most recent scores.

1. DCI rankings by average score - You'll see many examples of DCI rankings based on average scores across the activity. On its website, DCI itself ranks corps by averaging the last 3 scores a corps has earned (check it out here). This method of ranking is great for giving a more holistic view of the competition field because this method smooths the curve of those really high and really low scores a corps can sometimes get from the judging panel. Some would also argue that averaging scores shows a more accurate picture of the score a corps is achieving when compared to other methods of ranking. 

2. DCI rankings by most recent score - Ranking by most recent score is a pretty straightforward method of ranking: whatever score a corps last achieved is how they're ordered in the rankings list. Flo uses this method of ranking most often because it delivers the most up-to-date information to DCI fans who have their eye on head-to-head competitions and any back-and-forth battles between two (or three) specific corps. The downside to this way of ranking is that if a corps has a tour schedule that has a longer span of time without any competitions on its schedule, corps will likely move down in the rankings solely because they haven't had as many performance opportunities. 

In conclusion...

There is a lot that goes into scoring and understanding those scores, especially since drum corps scoring has a lot of moving parts. It's okay if it takes time to understand what, exactly, goes into those scores and how they're earned. It's also important to remember that drum corps, like many activities within the arts, is subjective! Don't put too much stock into scores because, at the end of the day, the marching members having a great experience and learning how to be better musicians and performers is what drum corps is all about!