How is Archery Scored? A Friendly Guide to Understanding the Scoring System

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
Picture showing a target and its different scores and colors. This will make it easier for you to understand the socring system in archery.

Archery has been a popular sport and recreational activity for centuries, drawing on the skills of precision, concentration, and patience. Whether you’re a seasoned archer or just starting, knowing how to score in archery is essential to measure your progress and to determine the winners in competitions. In this article, we’ll explore the thrilling world of how is archery scored and help you understand how it works and how this ancient sport is still capturing the hearts of many today.

The scoring system in archery varies across different competitions and formats, but the main principle remains the same: the closer the arrow lands to the center of the target, the higher the points awarded. While this may seem simple at first glance, multiple layers of intricacy come into play across various formats – from traditional target archery to more modern and sophisticated forms like Olympic and field archery.

With an understanding of the different scoring systems and methods applied in various archery competitions, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the sport and heighten your experience during practice and competitions. By recognizing the value of every arrow shot and mastering your own scoring technique, you’re sure to improve your archery skills and stay motivated in your pursuit of the mesmerizing art of bow and arrow.

Key Takeaways


    • Understanding archery scoring helps measure progress and determine winners in competitions.

    • Scoring systems vary across different formats, but the closer to the center, the higher the points.

    • Familiarity with various scoring methods enhances your experience and motivation in archery.

Basics of Scoring

In archery, scoring is based on where your arrows hit the target. The closer the arrow lands to the center, the higher the score. Targets typically have rings of different colors, with each color representing a different point value.

The center ring, often called the “bull’s eye,” is usually gold and worth 10 points. The rings surrounding the center have decreasing point values. The colors from highest to lowest points usually go from red to blue, black, and then white. Each time you land an arrow in a specific ring, you earn the corresponding number of points. For instance, if you hit the blue ring with a value of 6, you score 6 points. If your arrow lands on the line between two rings, you’ll receive the higher of the two point values.

During an archery competition, you’ll participate in multiple rounds, shooting arrows at set targets. In Olympic archery, for example, archers shoot 72 arrows throughout 12 phases, with their total scores determining their rankings.

To make scoring efficient and accurate, follow these basic steps:


    1. Always shoot a certain number of arrows per round (usually predetermined by competition rules).

    1. Carefully record each arrow’s score based on where it lands on the target.

    1. Calculate your total score by adding up the points for all your arrows.

In the event of a tie between you and another archer, there are a few methods often used to break the deadlock. One common approach is comparing who has the most bull’s eyes or the highest number of arrows closest to the center.

Remember, practice and precision are essential in archery. Keep honing your skills and refining your aim to increase your scores consistently and become a more successful archer in the long run. Happy shooting!

Types of Archery Competitions

Indoor Archery

As an archer, you’ll find that indoor archery competitions typically take place during the colder months and involve shooting at targets set up at a distance between 18 to 25 meters. World Archery and other organizations often hold these tournaments, which provide a comfortable environment for you to sharpen your skills regardless of the weather. With consistent conditions indoors, the emphasis is on precision and accuracy as you shoot.

Outdoor Archery

Outdoor archery competitions are a popular choice, especially during warmer months. They can be further divided into two main categories: target archery and field archery. In target archery, you will find Olympic-style events where competitors shoot at fixed targets over varying distances, usually between 30 and 90 meters. The Olympics and World Archery Championships are examples of such esteemed outdoor target archery events.

Field Archery

Field archery involves shooting at targets set up in a natural environment, usually across varied terrain. As a field archer, you’ll have to adjust for changes in elevation and distance as you move along a course with multiple stations. In these competitions, you will encounter different types of targets themed around the idea of being a hunter, simulating realistic hunting scenarios. Field archery offers a unique challenge that requires you to think on your feet and adapt to the surroundings quickly.

3D Archery

In 3D archery competitions, life-sized foam animal targets are placed strategically in an outdoor setting. The goal is for you to accurately estimate the distance to the target and shoot accordingly. These tournaments typically emphasize your ability as a hunter, focusing on honing your skills in distance judgment and shot placement. Many 3D archery events restrict the use of range-finding equipment, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the competition.

Remember to participate in various types of archery competitions to find events that best align with your interests and skills. Each tournament offers its own unique challenges and opportunities for growth as an archer.

Scoring Systems

In the world of archery, there are different scoring systems to evaluate an archer’s performance. Here, let’s explore the three main systems: Standard Scoring System, Set System, and Cumulative Scoring.

Standard Scoring System

In this scoring system, each arrow you shoot holds a specific point value based on where it lands on the target. Targets are divided into concentric circles, each with different point values. Usually, the center ring is worth 10 points, with the outer rings decreasing in value, often ending at 1 point for the outermost ring. Your total score is calculated by adding the point values of all your arrows.

target board with arrow at the center


The scoring system can be outlined as follows:


    • 10 points: Innermost circle (bull’s eye)

    • 9 points: Second circle

    • 8 points: Third circle

    • 1 point: Outermost circle

Set System

In the Set System, you and your competition are engaged in a match where you shoot a predetermined number of arrows, called a set. For example, in a recurve archery match, each set consists of three arrows.

Take note of the following:


    • A set win earns 2 points

    • A draw earns 1 point

    • A loss earns 0 points

The archer who accumulates a determined number of points (e.g., 6 points in a recurve match) first, wins the match. In the case of a tie, a shoot-off with one arrow per archer determines the winner, with the arrow closest to the center winning.

Cumulative Scoring

In the Cumulative Scoring system, the total score achieved throughout the competition is used to determine the winner. Each arrow you shoot holds point values similar to the Standard Scoring System. However, instead of calculating scores on a per-end basis, the total score achieved with all arrows shot during the competition is added together to find the winner .

In some cumulative scoring tournaments, a perfect score may be achieved by hitting the highest scoring ring with all arrows. For example, a score of 300 points in such a competition is considered perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basic rules for scoring in archery?

In archery, you score points based on where your arrow lands on the target. The target has rings, with each ring holding a certain point value. The center ring is worth 10 points, and the other rings decrease in value from 9 to 1 as you move outward. If your arrow misses the target, no points are scored.

How are scores calculated in different archery competitions?

There are various formats of archery competitions, but most use a similar scoring system. The most common method is the Set System, where competitors shoot a set number of arrows (usually 3) per end. The archer with the highest score in that end wins the set and earns set points. The first archer to reach a certain number of set points wins the match.

What does a perfect archery score look like?

A perfect archery score depends on the specific competition and target size, but generally, it means shooting the maximum number of 10s for every arrow. For example, in a 720 round (72 arrows shot at a standard Olympic target), a perfect score would involve hitting the center ring (10 points) with all 72 arrows, equating to a total score of 720 points.

How does scoring work for archery teams?

In team archery events, each team consists of three members. Each member shoots a set number of arrows per end, and the scores from all three archers are combined. The team with the highest combined score wins the end, earning set points. The first team to reach a certain number of set points wins the match.

What is the significance of an ‘X’ in archery scoring?

An ‘X’ in archery scoring represents an arrow that not only hit the center ring (10 points) but also landed within an even smaller zone. This smaller zone, the X-ring, is used as a tiebreaker in competitions to determine the winner or to break a tie for individual or team rankings.

In what situations are scores determined by the arrow’s position on the line?

In cases where an arrow lands on a line between two scoring rings, the higher score is awarded if more than 50% of the arrow lies within the higher scoring area. Judges make this determination by inspecting the arrow close up and sometimes using a magnifying glass or a specialized tool to help make the call.