Vocabulary Evaluation Formally Incorporated into Scripps National Spelling Bee

CINCINNATI — April 9, 2013 — For the first time in the 86-year history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the evaluation of vocabulary knowledge will be formally incorporated as an element of the competition.

The 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place on May 28–30 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md.

"This is a significant change in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but also a natural one," said Paige Kimble, director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. "It represents a deepening of the Bee's commitment to its purpose: to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives."

Since 2002, a written or computer spelling test has been a component of the Bee that, along with onstage spelling, factored in determining which spellers advanced to the semifinals.

This year, a speller's qualification for the semifinals and championship finals will be based on a cumulative score that incorporates onstage spelling, computer-based spelling questions and computer-based vocabulary questions.

Vocabulary evaluation will count for 50 percent of a speller's overall score. The score determines which spellers advance to the semifinals (Thursday, May 30 at 2:00 p.m. on ESPN2) and the championship finals (Thursday, May 30 at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN).

Because the computer-based tests of spelling and vocabulary are not part of the onstage portion of the Bee, they will not be broadcast on ESPN or any of its affiliates.

"Spelling and vocabulary are, in essence, two sides of the same coin," said Kimble. "As a child studies the spelling of a word and its etymology, he will discover its meaning. As a child learns the meaning of a word, it becomes easier to spell. And all of this enhances the child's knowledge of the English language."

For the 2013–14 school year, the Bee plans to support the learning of vocabulary at all levels by extending vocabulary content to teachers and local spelling-bee organizers. Implementation will be optional. Vocabulary testing was not part of the local bee championships this year.

The timing of the announcement to formally incorporate vocabulary is consistent with the Bee's commitment to fairness for all spellers. All local bee championships were decided by the end of March, and the timing of this announcement provides each speller with the same opportunity to prepare for the vocabulary component of the competition.

There are other changes being introduced to the competition this year:

  • There will be a time limit of 45 minutes to take the computer-based spelling and vocabulary test in the Preliminaries and Semifinals. In previous Bees, there was no time limit for taking the computer-based test. In 2012, the median time to take the test was 29 minutes and 34 seconds.
  • If a speller misspells in either Round Two or Three of the Preliminaries, the judge will ring the bell and the speller will exit the competition. In recent years, misspelling in Round Two or Three did not immediately result in elimination.
  • A computer-based spelling and vocabulary test will be incorporated into the Semifinals this year. In previous years, the computer-based test was only part of the Preliminaries.
  • In the minutes following the conclusion of Round Six, in general terms no more than 12 spellers will be named as Championship Finalists. In previous years, the rules neither addressed the number of spellers to qualify for the Championship Finals nor the timing of the determination of Championship Finalists.

The complete rules are available (http://bit.ly/SNSB2013Rules) as well as an infographic of the competition format (http://bit.ly/SNSB2013Competition) and sample vocabulary questions (http://bit.ly/SBSBSampleQuestions).

Scripps, which is synonymous with "spelling bee," has sponsored the Scripps National Spelling Bee for seven decades. What started in 1925 with nine contestants today has become a cultural celebration of the English language and academic achievement.

This year, 281 spellers will converge in the Washington, D.C. area from eight countries and Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"The Scripps National Spelling Bee is not only a competition but also a celebration of the English language," said Kimble. "We will continue to foster, leverage and grow our opportunity to inspire children to improve their spelling and increase their vocabularies through the Scripps National Spelling Bee."

If you have questions about rules changes or anything else related to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, please contact us at http://spellingbee.com/contact.