For the first time since it began in 1927, the contest is requiring young spellers in preliminary and semifinal rounds to take a vocabulary test. Organizers say it is part of the Bee’s commitment to deepening contestants’ command of English.
Since 2002, a written or computer spelling test has been a component that, along with onstage spelling, factored in determining which spellers advanced to the semi-finals.
This year, competitors will advance to the semi-finals and finals based on their onstage spelling, as well as computer-based spelling and vocabulary questions. Vocabulary evaluation will count for half of a speller’s overall score.
Why? Because while being able to spell well is an excellent skill, it is, ultimately, a short-sighted one. Deep knowledge begins with knowing what the word means.