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Rules for National Spelling Bee Finals
  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Phase I (Written):
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Phase II (Oral):
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Phase III (Oral):
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Winners and Ranks:
  23. 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.
  24. 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
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