Changes to The National Spelling Bee

Ever wonder if those spelling bee kids know the meanings of some of those big words? Now they'll have to prove that they do.

Organizers of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday announced a major change to the format, adding multiple-choice vocabulary tests to the annual competition that crowns the English language's spelling champ.


The changes make it easier to nail down the nine to 12 competitors who make it to the final round, which will look the same as it has for years to primetime TV viewers, with spellers taking turns until only the champion has avoided the familiar doomsday bell. The changes do add a wrinkle to the televised semifinals, however, as even the best on-stage spellers could find themselves eliminated from the finals if they perform poorly on the multiple-choice test.


The Scripps National Spelling Bee is making a change in its rules that will for the first time in its 86-year history require the student contestants to know the definition of the words, with multiple-choice vocabulary tests being added. The changes won't affect the final round that TV viewers have seen for years, instead the spellers will earlier take a computer vocabulary test, with the results counting for 50 percent of the point totals that determine the semifinalists and finalists. Scripps National Spelling Bee Executive Director Paige Kimble said the change was driven by the desire to reinforce the competition's purpose of encouraging students to improve their spelling and broaden their knowledge of the English language. The spellers readying for this year's competition, which will take place from May 28th to 30th, now have less than two months to prepare for the change.