Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Introduction to Spelling Bees

Hi aspiring spelling champions and parents!

Gr8 spelling is a new all-in-one blog where one can find resources to study for every level of spelling bees, all the way up to capturing that elusive Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship. This blog will serve as a guide for every stage of the bee as I intend to add a vast repertoire of important words, tips, and rules.

Several people have approached me asking how to get their kids started on spelling bees. Others have asked  how to make it to the more advanced levels. As I was trying to answer these, I realized that I didn’t have a single source of information while I was preparing for my competitions. My parents and I had to scour through various sources to help me prepare. This was very time-consuming and instead we could have utilized that time more efficiently. Believe me, you don't have much time! Hence, this is my humble attempt to collate a list of  all the free and paid sources of information and tips into one place.  I hope you will find it useful!

General information on the whole process:

For Class and School Bees:
Free resources:
·      The graded word lists provided by Scripps through your school, which Scripps prohibits posting on the web
· – this is a source that Scripps recommends for the next level but a serious speller should go in strong by preparing at the next level.

Paid resources:
At this level you don’t really need paid resources with all the free material out there, but if you are interested there are many available options.

District and County Bees:
Usually the school champions progress to their district or county bees. Depending on your area, this might be a national-qualifier bee.

Free Resources:
·      CWL (Consolidated Word List). Scripps has changed their mind several times on publishing this online. So here * and here *are a few 3rd party sources where the documents are preserved. This is a must read source for anybody wishing to go to the nationals!

Paid Resources:
Merriam Webster’s Third Unabridged Dictionary CD-ROM Version

Word Power made easy : is a great book to go through, irrespective of spelling competitions as it improves your vocabulary and also helps you later with your SAT.

Usually Scripps has a habit of repeating previous years’ national and regional words in the later rounds of the qualifier bees. So it is a good idea to study them.

Regional/State/National Qualifier Bees:
These bees can mostly cover spell it, CWL, and previous years’ national and regional words in the later rounds of the qualifier bees. The type of words, again, really depends upon your area. In the larger and more competitive bees they can go out of these sources and ask words that are not in any of these lists.

Scripps National Spelling Bee:
Written Round:
The Written Round is a computerized test that includes 50 words out of which 25 words are chosen that will actually count towards your qualifying score for the semifinals. (I had the privilege of scoring the 2nd highest score in this round at the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee.)
·      These words will usually be covered in the CWL, Words of Wisdom, and other words from the dictionary. The format has changed since 2013 to include emphasis on vocabulary in the written rounds. The contestants need to pass two written rounds to get to the finals. The written rounds now have equal emphasis on vocabulary and spelling. Sounds complicated? Yes. The Scripps infographic has the details of the process.

Preliminary Rounds:
The preliminary rounds’ words will be straight from the Spell It and the preliminary round word list that will be provided by Scripps once you qualify for the nationals. 

Semifinals and Finals:
These rounds will cover words from previous year’s national and regional bees, CWL, Words of Wisdom, and words from the dictionary. For the killer rounds, which are usually the last 1 or 2 rounds of the semifinals, there will be a mix of words from the sources mentioned above and other tricky words from the dictionary. 

(More information coming soon!)

One last word about spelling bees. While hard work will get you further in the competition, there is a huge element of luck in this. For example, the top two highest scorers  in the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee written round (including yours truly), did not make it to the Finals. So take up spelling not just for the competition, but to learn about the world around you through words and its roots. Understanding roots helps you in your future academic pursuits to understand scientific and legal terminology.


* The links I have given here are to 3rd party sources. If those links stop working, you can google for the given title, or send me an email and I will try to locate another source. 

About me:
I am Sivateja Tangirala, a junior in high school, having retired from active spelling bees in 2012 after a few years of devoting  most of my hours to it. Some of my spelling accomplishments:
  • 2nd highest score in the written round of Scripps National Spelling Bee 2012 and semi-finalist
  • Houston PBS champion two years in a row (2011 & 2012)
  • 42nd (tie) in Scripps National Spelling Bee 2011
  • 2nd place in North South Foundation's National Senior Spelling Bee 2010
  • 4th place in South Asian Spelling Bee National Finals 2010
  • 5th place in Arizona State Spelling Bee 2010
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Youtube

1 comment:

  1. Great job with the weblog, Sivateja.
    I would just like to make it aware that there is a new vocabulary portion added to this year's competition in the written round. It may be useful to talk about that in future blogs, just for reference.