The X Factor is a British reality competition television series created by Simon Cowell with the aim of finding new singing talent and contested by aspiring singers drawn from public auditions, in which the judges double as mentors and coaches to the finalists, who are divided into four groups and voted for by the viewing public.
The X Factor gives viewers the opportunity to help discover the next global superstar or breakout music group. The superstar team of judges travel the nation searching for talent in the form of both solo artists and vocal groups, who are willing to brave the panel for a chance to make their dreams come true.
In a departure from other singing competition series, contestants not only audition in front of The X Factor judges but, and perhaps more importantly, they sing for an audience of thousands, which is often referred to as the 'fifth judge' because their enthusiasm - or lack thereof - can help determine the fate of these hopefuls.
This initial audition is the ultimate test to prove they have the vocal ability, charisma and stage presence it takes to become a global superstar or breakout music act and win a recording contract with record label Syco Music with a stated value of £1-million.
Those contestants who survive the first auditions graduate to Boot Camp and are divided into four categories, each of which is mentored by one of the show's judges. Not only is it a competition between the hopefuls to stake their claim for the coveted win, but it's also a showdown among the judges as to whose acts will dominate the competition and make it to the finals.
The categories change over the years but the basics are Boys, Girls, "Overs" (typically Over-25s) and Groups.
The judges may have their say in how the competition progresses, but it is up to the UK to decide who ultimately has The X Factor.
Stage 1: The Auditions
It's tough enough to sing in public, but when you step in front of the judges the pressure is through the roof. Now add in a live audience of thousands and you've got an audition for The X Factor.
Thousands try, few advance. If a majority of the judges (and the audience) think you might have what it takes, you make it through to the next round.
Stage 2: Bootcamp
If you make it through auditions, it's straight to boot camp; a performance pressure cooker that will put your nerves to the test.
You'll be sorted into categories – guys, girls, older singers or vocal groups – and you'll have to prove yourself by singing, dancing and performing under greater scrutiny than ever before.
Make it through boot camp and you're on your way to the big time.
Stage 3: Judges' Houses
After the boot camp selection, each constant category – guys, girls, older singers or vocal groups – is assigned to a particular judge.
The contestants then travel to their respective judge's house where each judge selects the best acts, with the biggest chance of winning, to take to the live show.
Stage 4: The Live Show
When the show goes live, only the best are left. Drawing from their experience, the judges coach the acts in their individual categories on what to sing, what to wear and how to "own" the stage.
The judges then critique the live acts every week, but ultimately it's the audience who decides who has the "X Factor" and wins a recording contract worth a million pounds.
The X Factor has spawned numerous worldwide music artists, creating more international stars than any other TV talent show. Artists discovered by The X Factor have sold more than 160 million records worldwide with the show's alumni including One Direction, Olly Murs, Leona Lewis, JLS, Little Mix, Ella Henderson and Cher Lloyd.
Created by Simon Cowell, The X Factor is produced by FremantleMedia's Thames (previously Talkback Thames) and Cowell's production company SycoTV.