Category judging takes place on Friday evening, where each category is assigned a group of judges with a captain. Judges are asked to arrive at the judges' room by 6:30 p.m. to get their project assignments from the captain and instructions from the Judging Coordinator. Judging of projects takes place from 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. During this time, judges will meet with students at their project displays and evaluate their work. Each project is judged by a minimum of 3 judges, with only one judge interviewing a student at any given time (i.e. no judging in teams). At 9:30 p.m., the judges reconvene in the judges' room to discuss the projects and determine which projects will be awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places. Category judging is usually completed by 10:00 p.m.
The category judging follows a common standard for all categories based on the NJRSF judging criteria. To the extent feasible, projects are not placed based on the relative quality within a specific category. As a result, a category may include two projects that can receive the same placement (i.e. two projects can be awarded first place). Similarly, it is not necessary that every category will award a first, second and third place. For example at the discretion of the judging committee, no first place may be awarded based on the quality of projects in that category.
Special awards judging takes place on Saturday morning. Judges are asked to arrive at the judges' room by 9:00 a.m. to determine their project assignments with their team and to receive instructions from the Judging Coordinator. Judging of projects takes place from 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. During this time, judges will meet with students at their project displays and evaluate their work. At least 2 judges on the award team should see each project under consideration. At 12:00 p.m., the judges reconvene in the judges' room to discuss the projects and determine which projects will be awarded. Judging of special awards is usually completed by 1:00 p.m.
The types of special awards range from specific science areas, like the Material Science Award, to more general awards such as the Innovation Award. Hence, projects may be visited by a varying number of judges depending on their eligibility for the different awards. So judges are allowed to conduct interviews in groups.
Captains lead their team in the category judging on Friday night. On Saturday, the captains from the individual categories serve on the ISEF Trip Award judge panel which selects five projects to represent the NJRSF at the annual ISEF competition in mid-May.
On Saturday morning, the ISEF panel determines the finalists that will advance to the ISEF symposium and compete for the ISEF trip awards. A maximum of twelve finalists are selected from the first place category winners. At least two finalists are selected from the junior division. A maximum of two group projects can advance to the symposium.
All finalists give a ten minute presentation to the judging panel at the ISEF symposium, which is held Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Each presentation is followed by three minutes of Q&A with the ISEF panel. After the ISEF symposium, five winners are chosen for the trip awards, with at least one from the junior division. Thus, captains judge on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.