Can YOU Use It in a Sentence? Vocabulary Test Coming to National Spelling Bee

Vanya Shivashankar, getting ready to spell a word at last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee

Eleven-year-old Vanya Shivashankar – the girl in the picture above this story – is considered one of the favorites to win this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.

But if she wants to take the top prize home next month, she’ll have to do more than just spell words correctly.

She’ll have to know what they mean.

On Tuesday, the organizers of the National Spelling Bee announced that this year, for the first time, the bee will include a computerized vocabulary test– a test that will count toward 50% of the score that determines who gets to advance to the semifinals.

Not only will the kids have to spell words such as “refulgent.”

They’ll also have to define them correctly.

(For the record, “refulgent” means “shining brightly.”)

“A lot of the returning spellers were really, like, shocked,” when they got the news, Vanya told the Associated Press (AP).

But the spelling bee’s executive director, Paige Kimble, says spelling and vocabulary are “two sides of the same coin.”

So the kids should know the meanings of the words they spell.

“(The vocabulary test) 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,” Kimble added.


The format of the semifinal and final rounds of the spelling bee will still be the same.

So kids won’t have to define the words in those rounds before spelling them.

But for some, getting to the semis won’t be as easy as it used to be.

The vocabulary test will be multiple-choice, according to published reports.

So even if the spellers don’t know a word’s meaning, they’ll at least have a 25% chance of getting the right answer anyway (assuming there are four choices for each question).

Thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali – another one of the favorites at this year’s spelling bee – told the AP it’ll be “a little difficult to adjust” to the change.

“I’m just going to review all the words for their meanings one more time — if I have enough time,” he said, an interview with AP reporter Joseph White.

“We have to spend more time on each word, understanding every single part of it,” Vanya added, talking about how she’ll prepare for the test.

But she sounded more optimistic than Arvind.

“It’s going to be really cool and fun to see how the bee will be,” she said.