A competitive solo is not viewed in isolation. It is viewed in comparison to other performances on a certain day to decide which is superior. The individual performances may be variously good or bad but the goal is to find the best skater on that day, not the best work. In free skating criteria and standards exist to guide this decision.

Programmes are judged according to the judges’ appreciation of them. It is worth noting this succinct description of appreciation in Percy Buck’s book, Psychology for Musicians:

"There is one special danger, so persistent and so surreptitious that you should always be on your guard against it,  for it is the enemy of all criticism. It is that we often think we appreciate a thing when our enjoyment and approval are really due to some secondary cause; or, per contra, some secondary reason strangles an appreciation which should be there. Can you be quite sure of giving a just judgement on a performance, independently of whether the performer is a person you are devoted to, or loathe? There is a useful word to add to your vocabulary in this connection: qua, meaning "as an example of". Imagine a man who has never tasted tea. If he were tortured with thirst and you poured out a cup for him, he might well say " What a delicious cup of tea"; but he is appreciating it qua drink, not qua tea... Appreciation passes through three main stages, and so it can be roughly divided into three classes: crude, intelligent and critical.
Crude Appreciation. "If I could appreciate anything as a dog appreciates a bone, I should be satisfied". Now a dog’s appreciation of a bone depends on two things: (1) Is it his first bone? If so he may appreciate it qua food, but not qua bone. (2) If it is not his first bone, can he recall the others for purpose of comparison? Crude appreciation is sensational: i.e. in our first experience of anything we can only say we like or dislike. The cat feeling the warmth of the fire for the first time in its life, enjoys it as an alternative to the cold outside. On the second occasion he has a rudimentary standard of judgement, and is entitled to say " This is a better fire than last night’s". At this point he has entered on the stage of...

Intelligent Appreciation. This involves judgment, at first elementary, but growing in breadth and value as our apperception-masses are enlarged. We have an ever-increasing bundle of experiences of things, not as a rule formulated into any system of valuation, but sufficiently realized to enable us to give a verdict, and possibly to justify it. As these systems of valuation become more and more developed they gradually become for us our principles of judgement, and we are then approaching to...

Critical Appreciation. When you have acquired the feeling of ‘security of judgement’  you have no further to go. You may be right or wrong in your verdicts: that depends on the calibre of your mind. But you will know that your verdicts of good or bad are not founded on personal caprice, since you have built up an apparatus of discriminations and you will know that your private likings and dislikings have not been allowed to over-ride your judgment. ...It is not until you have learnt to love the things which your judgment tells you are fine, and to loathe those you judge to be bad, that you have truly reached the stage of critical appreciation. For it involves both Feeling and Understanding, which is why it has been defined as ‘realization of value, plus appeal.’ "

Judging is subjective, regardless of judging systems, in keeping with a judge's heredity, personality and education as outlined on the
Free Skating Judging chart. Any free skating critic will find his appreciation of performances enriched by considering the following questions.

The Solo as a Whole
  1. Was there a unifying theme that could be identified?
  2. Could the theme and its importance to the skater be understood?
  3. Did the skater develop the theme or rely on stereotypes and cliches?
  4. Where did the skater take a chance?
  5. Was the solo lazy? Obvious?
  6. Were cultural symbols used and if so, how were they treated- thoughtfully or casually?
  7. Was the skater guilty of piracy? How?
  8. Did the spatial patterns promote the theme?
  9. Did the ice pattern promote the theme?
10. Did the element of time work? Did the tempo and rhythm of the music and movement promote the
11. Did the work challenge you think in terms of a new concept of time, energy, space or skating?
12. Was there an element of surprise, tension, humour or drama? Were any of these necessary?
13. Were the individual movements and patterns original and visually interesting as well as logically related        to the whole?
14. Did the skater introduce a concept of performance that was different from what you had previously
15. If you remember just one image of this solo what will it be and how will you feel about it?
16. Did the piece work?
17. Would you like to see the performance again?

Technical Considerations
1. Did the technical support (music, costumes, make-up) generally enhance the performance?
2. Did the music, sound or silence enhance the theme?
3. Was the sound too big or too small?
4. Did the music editing distort the composer’s purpose?
5. Did the costume contribute to or detract from the solo?
6. Did the skater manipulate the costume well?
7. Did it flatter the skater’s body?
8. Were the make-up and hair designs appropriate?

Performance Considerations
1. Was the skater well trained?
2. Did the skater appear to be involved with projecting the idea of the solo rather than with his technique or
    his body?
3. Did the skater seem secure and at ease with the movement and the solo?