National Spelling Bee Finals
There are 2 levels of competition in Spelling Bee:
- JSB (Junior Spelling Bee): Grades 1, 2 and 3
- SSB (Senior Spelling Bee): Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8
- A 1st rank winner at the Scripps National Spelling Bee or the National Finals of the North South Foundation Senior spelling bee is not eligible for competing in this and future NSF spelling contests. (The 1st rank winner of JSB can, however, participate in the senior spelling bee.) A contestant who participated in a higher level bee cannot participate in a lower level bee in subsequent years.
- Both spelling bees (JSB and SSB) are held in three phases: Phase I is written, while Phases II and III are oral rounds. Pronouncer pronounces words in all phases. Contestants are seated by the badge number order from left to right. Contestants are responsible to bring their own pencils and erasers. No parents are allowed in Phase I.
- The pronouncer and judges face the audience. The contestants face the judges and pronouncers. The judges are in complete control of the competition and their decisions are final. Pronouncer and judges use both NSF material and Merriam-Webster 3rd International Unabridged Edition as sources in conducting the contests.
- Phase I is a written test with 30 words. First ten words are selected from the published list of 1000 words, ( contestants can download these practice words after registration and uploading a photo for bee book ) provided to the contestants, and the remaining twenty words are from external sources. All contestants write spelling for the same 30 words.
- The pronouncer provides the pronunciation of the word, its definition and any applicable alternate definitions, parts of speech, language(s) of origin, and alternate pronunciation(s), and uses the word in a sentence for each of the 30 words. Each contestant is given a sheet with 30 blank rows to write the spelling for each of the 30 words. Alternate definitions rule does not apply to the published words. On each word, the contestants get 30 seconds to write the spelling.
- Unclear and illegible writing might be open for misinterpretation. Contestants are expected to write clearly and legibly. All Phase I sheets should be returned at the end of the contest. It is the responsibility of the contestant to write the badge number on the answer sheet.
- All contestants advance to Phase II. In Phase II, contestants will be divided into groups of about 20, and each group is seated in a separate room by the badge number order. Badges contain the group number.
- Phase II contains 3 oral rounds. All words in Phase II are from the published list of 1,000 words. In each round, each contestant gets a new word. The contestant faces the judges and speaks into a microphone.
- The pronouncer pronounces a word to the contestant. The contestant pronounces the word, spells it, and pronounces it again. The contestant is awarded zero points for failing to follow this order or failing to spell the word correctly. Pronunciation after spelling is optional, and points are not deducted for failing to pronounce after spelling. The pronouncer pronounces words as per the diacritical markings given in the sources. If the pronunciation of the contestant does not match, pronouncer and/or judges will request the contestant to pronounce again until a reasonable match is achieved. The pronouncer and judges make every attempt possible to detect a contestant’s misunderstanding of the word that is being asked to spell and hence it is important for the contestant to enunciate the word clearly before starting to spell.
- A contestant may request to have the word pronounced again or ask for a definition, language origin, parts of speech, or a usage of the word in a sentence. No alternate definitions are given.
- A contestant is allowed 30 seconds to start spelling a word. The judge may award zero points to any contestant who ignores a request to start spelling. This 30 second period excludes the time expended in step 11 above.
- Once a contestant starts spelling, he/she may stop and start over. In retracing, there can be no change of letters or their sequence from that of the previous attempt. If any letter or the sequence is changed in the respelling, the contestant will be awarded zero points.
- In case more than one spelling is listed for a word in the Webster's dictionary, the particular spelling enunciated by the contestant shall be accepted as correct, if the word either matches the pronunciation and definition provided by the pronouncer, or is clearly identified as being a standard variant of the word the contestant has been asked to spell. No other source is allowed in this regard.
- If a word has one or more homonyms, the pronouncer shall indicate that the word is a homonym and define it so as to distinguish the homonym. If the listed word is not properly identified, any correct spelling of any homonym is acceptable.
- It is the contestant’s responsibility to say each letter distinctly and with sufficient volume to be clearly understood by the judges. The contestant is awarded one point for the correct answer and zero for an incorrect answer. If a contestant gives an incorrect answer, the pronouncer provide the correct answer and the next contestant will be given a new word from the list.
- Based on the cumulative scores of Phase I (30 words) and II (3 rounds), for a total score of 33 , the judges determine a list of up to top 15 contestants who advance to Phase III. Because of potential ties, the judges use the tie-breaker rules outlined below to arrive at the top contestants to go into Phase III. While contestants are divided into groups in Phase II, those selected for Phase III are seated in one room. This is an elimination phase. The words in this phase are selected from external sources.
In Phase III, all the rules for Phase II apply with the following changes:
(a) An alternate definition for the word is provided by the pronouncer if asked by the contestant.
(b) If the spelling provided by the contestant is incorrect, the contestant is eliminated.
(c) Contestants who provide the correct spelling advance to the next round.
(d) If no contestant spells correctly in a round, all contestants remain and advance to the next round.
- The First, Second and Third place winners are decided based on multiple elimination rounds in Phase III. The first place winner shall be ahead by at least one point to be declared as the champion. If any of these top three positions remains tied after a maximum of 20 rounds, it will be broken as per the tie-breaker rules outlined below. Since the Foundation recognizes only the top 10 ranks, any tie is broken among the next seven places by using the tie-breaker rules outlined below.
Tiebreaker Rules for Ranks 1-3, for Ranks 4-10, and selecting the top 15 into Phase III:
To break the ties, the scheme outlined below is followed in the order given:
- Combined Phase I and Phase II score
- Phase I score alone
- Phase I score among questions 26-30
- Phase I score among questions 21-25
- Phase I score among questions 16-20
- Phase I score among questions 11-15
- Phase I score among questions 1-10
Phase I (Written):
Phase II (Oral):
Phase III (Oral):
Winners and Ranks:
The following page contains tips and resources for preparation for the Spelling Bee conducted by NSF. NSF is committed to encourage children to improve their language skills and encouraging the same. The links below provide some sample words for the Spelling Bee tests -- please note that these are examples of words and DO NOT COVER all the words that might come in the tests.Sample Words
Sample Practice words for Junior Spelling Bee: click here
Sample Practice words for Senioir Spelling Bee: click here
- Spelling Bee Preparation
- NSF Online Spelling Bee Game
Since 2003, NSF launched an Online Spelling Bee game. click here for more details on the game
- Merriam-Webster word of the day http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/mwwod.pl
- Dictionary.com Word of the Day: (C) 2002 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. http://www.dictionary.com/wordoftheday/
- For Beginners: 71 Revised "Orton" Phonograms For Correct Spelling http://www.riggsinst.org
Spelling Bee Strategies (From Building Spelling Skills Grade 2)
- LISTEN AND SAY THE WORD CORRECTLY - Don't leave out or mispronounce sounds. Write the sounds in the correct order.
- THINK ABOUT WHAT THE WORD LOOKS LIKE - Think about how the spelling pattern looks. Write it, look at it, and decide if it looks correct.
- LOOK FOR SMALL WORDS IN SPELLING WORDS - e.g. Spin - pin, in Cupcake - cup, cake
- USE RHYMING WORDS TO HELP SPELL A WORD - If you can spell book, you can spell look.
- USE RULES FOR ADDING ENDINGS - Drop silent e before adding a suffix , Double the final consonant before adding a suffix.
- THINK ABOUT WHAT THE WORD MEANS - Some words sound the same, but have different meanings and are spelled in different ways. Match the spelling with its meaning.
- USE OUTSIDE HELP - Use charts, banners and lists. Ask someone for help. Use a personal spelling dictionary.
Dr. Tadipatri's TOP TEN TIPS for Spelling Bee:
- Never get discouraged seeing long or tough words and never get discouraged if one or more words are misspelled in any spelling bee. On the flip side do not be overconfident if you get the first three or four words correct. Stay focused during the entire session.
- The spelling bee, like any other academic exercise, is a long term and steady process. Do not expect overnight results.
- Remember to ask as many questions (that are permitted) as possible so that you can get to the spelling. Despite all questions, if you cannot come up with definite answers, try to make a most educated guess, based on the information. Never be content with a wild guess.
- The meaning of the word is very important. It helps eliminate the homonyms. It may also help in the formation of the word. If possible, try to break up the word, based on the meaning and any other information.
- Language origin is another important factor. This tells about the word formation and its etymology
- Part of speech and sentence usage give a confirmation of the idea about the word. Sometimes this may even correct the notion one may have about the word.
- The final goal is to combine 4, 5 and 6 in the spelling preparation. Try to concentrate on all - meaning, language origin and part of speech.
- Try to follow how others attack the words and implement any good techniques, you may observe in others. Learn form their mistakes. One can learn as much from others' mistakes as from others' good techniques.
- For parents, try to be a part of the process and encourage your children. However, at centers where parents are allowed to watch the kids in session, please make sure that you do not show immediate reactions of “Yes!!” or “Oh hoL” as this can spoil the child’s concentration.
- Have a long term goal and realize that irrespective of winning a trophy, the knowledge one gains in the process will be a life-long companion.
Create your own database!
- Another useful suggestion from Govindan family whose children Ramesh and Mallika have been participants in spelling and vocabulary bees: "We found it valuable to make a database of the list words provided for the regional and national competitions with their definitions, pronunciation, and language of origin, and then study from it. This way the children not only learned the words but also improved their vocabulary. We also did the same with the list words for the vocabulary bees. Children themselves created the databases (i.e., looked up the meanings and typed it into the Excel program), which provided them additional practice. The task became a lot easier when we installed the Merriam Webster Dictionary on the computer".
Tips during the contest
- Make sure the pronouncer fully agrees with your pronunciation of the word. You can eliminate most misunderstandings right here. For example: If the pronouncer says ?except' and you say ?accept' he/she will be able to correct you right away. If you are still unable to get to the right pronunciation, you can ask for the word to be put in a sentence eliminating discrepancies.
Books & References
Tips & Strategies
With the popularity of the computer spell checker, youth are losing their spelling skills. Spell check programs cannot detect a mistake, if the misspelled word exists in the dictionary with a different meaning. Learning to spell correctly is necessary in all walks of life. Many children and their parents are not fully aware of the importance of developing English vocabulary as a stepping stone for success. The preliminary selection for National Merit Scholarships is solely based on a student's PSAT score. In this test, 67% weight is given to English and 33% to Math. SAT scores assume great significance as one of the most important selection criteria in college admissions. In an effort to encourage children to excel in English early on, the Foundation has embarked on nationwide spelling and vocabulary contests.
The spelling bee contest by Foundation is one of the few in the US based on cumulative scoring where in a contestant is allowed to participate in several oral rounds even though he(she) misspell a word in one or more rounds. This is different from a typical spelling contest one is familiar with in which if you make a mistake in the very first round you are eliminated.
In addition, a written phase is also administered prior to the oral phase and those scores are added to oral scores.
This cumulative scoring would provide a fair assessment of contestant's spelling abilities.
This contest is specially customized for the needs of the NRI community. Additionally, the NSF Spelling Bee is conducted where Indian American population is significant and other contests may not be available in those locations.
No, a participant can only participate in one spelling bee and in one regional center only. Eligible contestants from the Regionals Contest will be invited into the same bee for the NSF National Finals event
Yes, a child in KG is allowed to participate in the Junior Spelling Bee, on an equal basis without any special privileges. Parents should bring young children into the contest with the aim of getting them acquainted. Over the last several years, many 6- and 7-year olds participated and have done exceedingly well in the contests.
Beginner level words are generally used for Junior Spelling Bee, and Intermediate words are generally used for Senior Spelling Bee. See the section on contest rules for further details.
No, each participant is allowed to participate in all oral rounds in the Regional contests and a misspelling in any round will only give zero points and does not lead to elimination immediately. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why NSF spelling bee differs from a spelling contest at your child's school in which a contestant is eliminated after the first misspelling. Also, during the NSF spelling bee contests, there will be a written phase where in all the contestants write the spelling of the same set of words.
What appears to be so tough at first glance may not be really that tough. A simple analogy is a mountain. Don't be scared of its height! Take one step at a time. Eventually, when you reach its summit, you feel exhilarated! Next time you are ready to try even bigger mountains
Similarly, try the given list by sitting with your child and tackling the words. Even if the child finds the words difficult initially, after some practice, the child will find them easy (relative to when he/she started for the first time).
"Practice makes perfect.”
There are many tricks to mastering the spelling. Teach your child how to look at the root of a word, for instance. There are Spelling Bee workshops in certain centers for more help and training in this area. Also, refer to the section on contest preparation.
Online registration via NSF homepage is generally available, starting early January. You can also refer to the NSF Contest Calendar or ask your Regional Coordinator about registration deadlines and contest dates.