The X Factor has five stages before the winner is eventually decided. Contestants must progress through each stage to win, no exceptions. Occasionally, the judges use a wildcard to bring one act back into the competition (as in Diamond White's case), but aside from that, all eliminations are final.
Annually, auditions are held at five cities across the country. Hopeful contestants must show up, register, and then wait for their turn. When it's time for their audition, they must have three songs prepared, with no backing track. They sing for a number of the show' producers, who are in charge if deciding who can audition in front of the judges. This is, essentially, an audition to audition, if they pass this, they again wait to be called up in front f the panel of judges. This audition does not have to be acapella, but it can if the contestant wishes. They must still have three songs ready, though, in case the judges aren't pleased with their song choice. After a brief interview, often involving questions like "Why do you think you have the X Factor?" and "What makes you different from the other contestants?", they sing a short bit of the song for the judges. The four judges then give the contestant some constructive criticism, then proceed to the voting. At least three of the four judges must give the contestant a "yes" to go on in the competition. If the judges are tied with two answers of "yes" or two answers of "no" or if they give a majority of "no" (say for example you get exactly 3 answers of "no", the act is then asked to go home, and do not continue in the competition. However, if they get the necessary count "yes", they go on to bootcamp.
Many contestants who have participated in this stage agree that it is the most challenging of them all. The contestants are up early in the morning working with vocal coaches and the training doesn't stop until late at night. However, the structures of bootcamp vary from season to season.
Season One (2011) For the show's first season, all contestants who passed their auditions sang another song for the judges, called their "Bootcamp Audition" or "Second Audition". The judges then spent one day after all these performances deciding on the eight acts they were to put through to the Judges' Homes for each category. The day after bootcamp, the contestants were called up on the stage in their categories, and the names of the acts moving on were called.
Season Two (2012) In most ways, the bootcamp stage for the show's second season was similar to the previous one. The acts performed again individually for the judges to progress, but many more went on than the thirty-two that advanced the season previous. The remaining contestants did a second "task" at bootcamp, which involved them being out into pairs to sing a duet. The pairs could be of any category, age, sex, etc. The judges would then decide on twenty-four acts to go to the Judges' Homes, only six in each category. Both the people in a pair could advance, or only one, or neither. It didn't matter who they were with or how many of the pair advanced, only how the judges felt about the performance and their potential in the competition.
At this stage in the competition, each judge is assigned a category to mentor throughout the remainder of the competition. The categories used vary from year to year, but there are always four, one for each mentor. After hearing what category they've received, the judges bring all the acts from that category who made it through bootcamp to their own home, which can be located anywhere in the world. The judges, with the help of a guest judge, watch all the contestants perform for them and decide which four they want to bring through to the live shows. After twenty-four hours, the judge again meets with each contestant individually and delivers the news about whether or not they will go on to the live shows.
The live shows are often considered the peak of the entire competition, as each elimination has been leading up to this point. The acts who passed Judges' Homes are the contenders for the live shows, and the live shows contestants are the only ones who can win. Weekly, there are two shows, the first being a performance show, the second for results.
Performances Each week, the live shows are themed, and the mentors make a song choice for each of their acts to fit the theme. After a week of rehearsals the acts perform, being broadcast live. For the first week of the live shows, the public cannot vote. Instead, each judge chooses one act from their own category to immediately eliminate. However, the judges often come to the decision that one act eliminated (Melanie Amarofor Season One, Diamond White for Season Two), is too good to leave and bring them back as a wildcard. After the first show, the public is allowed to vote for their favorite acts after they sing. The public can vote for as many acts as they want, as many times a they want. They vote by calling, texting, online voting, or via the X Factor app. At the end of the show, and after the voting lines are closed, the results of the votes are broadcast the night after the performances in a results show.
Results The night following the performance nights are for the results shows. Usually, a host/presenter for the show lines up the acts and announces the act who received the fewest votes from the public and that goes home immediately (if there's a double elimination). Then, in a random order, the acts that are continuing to the next week are announced, leaving two. The "bottom two" are the acts who received next to the fewest votes, after the first elimination of the night. For example, in the Top 10, the act who got 10th place in the votes would go home immediately. The acts who got 8th and 9th place in the votes would be the bottom two. Unlike the act who goes straight home, the bottom two have a chance to stay. Both acts sing one song they believe will keep them in the competition. After singing their songs for survival, the four judges vote on which act will go home. If there is a majority of the judges voting against an act, they go home. However, if two judges vote against one act and two against another, there is a deadlock. In this case, the act who got the fewest votes out of the two that sang for survival is eliminated.
Semifinals and Finals
The Semifinals come down to the Top 4 contestants, and they sing two songs each rather than just one. For the results show, there is no sing-off, instead, the contestant with the least amount of public votes is eliminated, and the remaining three go on to the finals. For the finals night, each of the Top 3's performances are preceded by an introduction video giving a brief story on how music has affected their lives, and how desperately they want to win. There are three performances from each of the Top 3, and one of them is chosen by the contestants to reflect their musical styles. The next night, the host/presenter lines up the three acts and announces the one who got the fewest votes and is immediately leaving the competition. After a break (usually involving guest performances), the winner is, after about six months, the winner is finally revealed (Melanie Amaro for Season One, Tate Stevens for Season Two.