Reading & Literacy

Knowing How to Spell Won’t Be Enough for National Spelling Bee Competition

By Gina Cairney — April 10, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Knowing how to spell words like guetapens and cymotrichous won’t be enough to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, now less than 50 days away. In a change to the competition announced this week, the competition will now include an “evaluation of vocabulary knowledge,” according to a press release.

“This is a significant change in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but also a natural one,” Paige Kimble, the director of the Bee said in the press release. It represents a commitment to helping students “improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives,” she added.

Organizers of the Bee announced Tuesday that the new format will include a multiple-choice vocabulary test taken during the preliminary round which, the Associated Press reports, will make it easier to identify which competitors will advance to the semifinals and then the championship finals.

During the oral competition, spellers will still have the opportunity to ask for the word’s definition to help them spell it, but the vocabulary test will allow the spellers to test their word knowledge on a conceptual and developmental level.

The vocabulary test will include questions similar to the following:

Something described as refulgent is:
a) tending to move toward on point,
b) demanding immediate action,
c) rising from an inferior state,
d) giving out a bright light


Which of these is an example of onomatopoeia?
a) chrome
b) novella
c) haiku
d) buzz

The Bee also prepared this flow chart for those who want a better understanding of the competition’s format.

In addition to the multiple-choice element, other changes include a time limit of 45 minutes to complete the computer-based test, and elimination in rounds two or three if a word is misspelled. Previously, a misspelled word wouldn’t result in an immediate elimination.

The rest of the Bee’s format will stay the same, with spellers taking turns until the last speller remains.

(By the way, guetapens and cymotrichous were the winning words for 2012 and 2011 respectively.)

Photo: The six remaining spellers wait during a break in competition during the finals of the National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., last year. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP-File)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.