Spelling Bee changes: Kids will now get vocabulary test


For prime-time TV viewers, the competition's final round will look the same as it has for years, with spellers taking turns until only the champion has avoided the dreaded bell.

But the changes will make it easier to nail down the nine to 12 competitors who make it to the final round.

Executive Director Paige Kimble said the changes were driven by the desire to reinforce the competition's purpose, which is to encourage students to improve their spelling and broaden their knowledge of the language.

The vocabulary tests will take place in private rooms and will not be part of the television broadcasts, but they will count for 50 percent of the point totals that determine the semifinalists and finalists. A sample question provided by the Spelling Bee reads as follows:

"Something described as refulgent is: a) tending to move toward one point, b) demanding immediate action, c) rising from an inferior state, d) giving out a bright light."

The correct answer is d.

The change adds a wrinkle to the televised semifinals, as even the best onstage spellers could find themselves eliminated from the finals if they perform poorly on the multiple-choice test.

Vocabulary has been a regular part of the bee during its 87-year history, but it's always been the spellers asking for the definition to help them spell the word.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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