Do Not "Bee"tray the Traditions of the Spelling Bee Felicity Jenkins

Paige Kimble, director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the 1981 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, announced a major change to the Bee in 2013.
Each year, spellers at the Scripps National Spelling Bee take a written test at the beginning of the Bee to whittle down the field of spellers to a more manageable number for competition.
Ms. Kimble's announcement was that this preliminary test would now include questions about the definitions of words that spellers would have to answer. They would also have to spell words correctly, as they had with all written tests in prior Bees.
Prior to 2013, spellers never had to display knowledge of anything but spelling. Definitions were only used to provide spellers with clues to the correct spelling of a word.
This change was highly controversial, due to the fact that it occurred mere weeks before the National Bee and spellers had to drastically and rapidly change their approaches to studying. It is also much more difficult for one to determine the definition of a word if one has never heard it before than to sound out the spelling of a word that one has never heard.

Knowing the definitions of spelling words is far more difficult than one might think. For example, what is the definition of "feuilleton", one of the winning words in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee?

While learning the definitions can be difficult, the vocabulary aspect of the Bee can be positive. For example, learning the definitions of words can drastically help a speller in the future when he or she takes standardized tests such as the PSAT or SAT.

Doing well on these tests, at least partially due to vocabulary knowledge, can help a student get accepted into college and perhaps even receive valuable scholarships, such as National Merit. Thus adding vocabulary to the Bee does have it benefits, though it is still inconvenient for the spellers to alter their study patterns.

Despite the positive aspects, the vocabulary words hold too much value in the Bee. On the written test, a speller's score is half spelling, half vocabulary.
I propose that the Bee officials reform the test to shift the point values more heavily toward spelling once again. A possible suggestion would be making vocabulary worth a quarter of the total points, and spelling worth three-quarters of the points.
As a former speller, I firmly believe in upholding the traditions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and rewarding spellers more for spelling, not vocabulary.


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