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Category & Sub-Category Selection

Instructions for Selecting a Category & Sub-Category for Intel ISEF

As a finalist completes the online questionnaire and abstract, he or she will be faced with a decision that will affect how his or her project will be judged. The categories are new for 2015 and so deserve a close review. What follows is a short explanation and instructions on how to make this a well-informed decision.

Category & Sub-Category Selection

The Intel ISEF is divided into 20 scientific categories and the grand award judging is based on the competition within each respective category.  The awards are distributed by a percentage across all categories. Therefore there is not an advantage to selecting a smaller category.  It is also allowable that a student change the category from the one in which they originally competed at the regional or state level.  Ultimately, the decision about the category should be one that is made based on what best reflects a finalist’s work.

Ask the following questions to help in the selection of a category and sub-category:

  1. Who will be the most qualified to judge my project? What area of expertise is the most important for the judge to have? (For example, a medical background or an engineering background?)
  2. What is the emphasis of my project? What characteristic of my project is the most innovative, unique or important? (For example, is it the application in medicine or the engineering of the machine? Is it inserting the proper gene or the method of computer mapping to demonstrate the results?)

Once a category has been selected, finalists are urged to take the time to review the sub-category designations.  This will ensure that the appropriate judges are assigned to review your project.  The system matches judges to projects first at the sub-category level and then at the category level.  The response of “other,” will get a random selection of judges within the category and will not provide the expertise advantage of a sub-category match.


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