Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee (4)

Spelling Bee - FAQ

Why is the Spelling Bee conducted?

With the popularity of the computer spell checker, youth are losing their spelling skills. Spell check programs cannot detect a mistake, if the misspelled word exists in the dictionary with a different meaning. Learning to spell correctly is necessary in all walks of life. Many children and their parents are not fully aware of the importance of developing English vocabulary as a stepping stone for success. The preliminary selection for National Merit Scholarships is solely based on a student's PSAT score. In this test, 67% weight is given to English and 33% to Math. SAT scores assume great significance as one of the most important selection criteria in college admissions. In an effort to encourage children to excel in English early on, the Foundation has embarked on nationwide spelling and vocabulary contests.


 Why is the Foundation conducting Spelling Bee when there are other contests in the US?

The spelling bee contest by Foundation is one of the few in the US based on cumulative scoring where in a contestant is allowed to participate in several oral rounds even though he(she) misspell a word in one or more rounds. This is different from a typical spelling contest one is familiar with in which if you make a mistake in the very first round you are eliminated.

In addition, a written phase is also administered prior to the oral phase and those scores are added to oral scores.

This cumulative scoring would provide a fair assessment of contestant's spelling abilities.

This contest is specially customized for the needs of the NRI community. Additionally, the NSF Spelling Bee is conducted where Indian American population is significant and other contests may not be available in those locations.


How can my children prepare for the NSF Spelling Bee contest?

See the section on Spelling Preparation.


 Can a Junior Spelling contestant also participate in the Senior Spelling Bee?

No, a participant can only participate in one spelling bee and in one regional center only. Eligible contestants from the Regionals Contest will be invited into the same bee for the NSF National Finals event


 Can a kindergarten (KG) child participate in the Junior Spelling Bee?

Yes, a child in KG is allowed to participate in the Junior Spelling Bee, on an equal basis without any special privileges. Parents should bring young children into the contest with the aim of getting them acquainted. Over the last several years, many 6- and 7-year olds participated and have done exceedingly well in the contests.


 What words are used for each level?

Beginner level words are generally used for Junior Spelling Bee, and Intermediate words are generally used for Senior Spelling Bee. See the section on contest rules for further details.


 Is the participant eliminated on first misspelling?

No, each participant is allowed to participate in all oral rounds in the Regional contests and a misspelling in any round will only give zero points and does not lead to elimination immediately. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why NSF spelling bee differs from a spelling contest at your child's school in which a contestant is eliminated after the first misspelling. Also, during the NSF spelling bee contests, there will be a written phase where in all the contestants write the spelling of the same set of words.


I find words given in the list provided very hard; what do you suggest I do?

What appears to be so tough at first glance may not be really that tough. A simple analogy is a mountain. Don't be scared of its height! Take one step at a time. Eventually, when you reach its summit, you feel exhilarated! Next time you are ready to try even bigger mountains.

Similarly, try the given list by sitting with your child and tackling the words. Even if the child finds the words difficult initially, after some practice, the child will find them easy (relative to when he/she started for the first time).

"Practice makes perfect.”

There are many tricks to mastering the spelling. Teach your child how to look at the root of a word, for instance. There are Spelling Bee workshops in certain centers for more help and training in this area. Also, refer to the section on contest preparation.


How can I register for the NSF Spelling Bee contest?

Online registration via NSF homepage is generally available, starting early January. You can also refer to the NSF Contest Calendar or ask your Regional Coordinator about registration deadlines and contest dates.





Spelling Bee - Preparation


The following page contains tips and resources for preparation for the Spelling Bee conducted by NSF. NSF is committed to encourage children to improve their language skills and encouraging the same. The links below provide some sample words for the Spelling Bee tests -- please note that these are examples of words and DO NOT COVER all the words that might come in the tests.


Sample Words

Sample Practice words for Junior Spelling Bee: click here
Sample Practice words for Senioir Spelling Bee: click here.

Books & References

Tips & Strategies
  1. Spelling Bee Preparation
  2. NSF Online Spelling Bee Game
    Since 2003, NSF launched an Online Spelling Bee game. Click here for more details on the game.
  3. Merriam-Webster word of the day
  4. Nat's NotesTM from Hexco (800-725-2627) (only for Advanced level spellers)
  5. The Spelling Rules Book from Hexco (800-725-2627)
  6. Dictionary.com Word of the Day: (C) 2002 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC.
  7. For Beginners: 71 Revised "Orton" Phonograms For Correct Spelling
  8. Spelling Bee Strategies (From Building Spelling Skills Grade 2)
      Don't leave out or mispronounce sounds. Write the sounds in the correct order.
      Think about how the spelling pattern looks. Write it, look at it, and decide if it looks correct.
      e.g. Spin - pin, in Cupcake - cup, cake
      If you can spell book, you can spell look.
      Drop silent e before adding a suffix.
      Double the final consonant before adding a suffix.
      Some words sound the same, but have different meanings and are spelled in different ways. Match the spelling with its meaning.
      Use charts, banners and lists. Ask someone for help. Use a personal spelling dictionary.
  9. Dr. Tadipatri's TOP TEN TIPS for Spelling Bee:
    • Never get discouraged seeing long or tough words and never get discouraged if one or more words are misspelled in any spelling bee. On the flip side do not be overconfident if you get the first three or four words correct. Stay focused during the entire session.
    • The spelling bee, like any other academic exercise, is a long term and steady process. Do not expect overnight results.
    • Remember to ask as many questions (that are permitted) as possible so that you can get to the spelling. Despite all questions, if you cannot come up with definite answers, try to make a most educated guess, based on the information. Never be content with a wild guess.
    • The meaning of the word is very important. It helps eliminate the homonyms. It may also help in the formation of the word. If possible, try to break up the word, based on the meaning and any other information.
    • Language origin is another important factor. This tells about the word formation and its etymology
    • Part of speech and sentence usage give a confirmation of the idea about the word. Sometimes this may even correct the notion one may have about the word.
    • The final goal is to combine 4, 5 and 6 in the spelling preparation. Try to concentrate on all - meaning, language origin and part of speech.
    • Try to follow how others attack the words and implement any good techniques, you may observe in others. Learn form their mistakes. One can learn as much from others' mistakes as from others' good techniques.
    • For parents, try to be a part of the process and encourage your children. However, at centers where parents are allowed to watch the kids in session, please make sure that you do not show immediate reactions of “Yes!!” or “Oh hoL” as this can spoil the child’s concentration.
    • Have a long term goal and realize that irrespective of winning a trophy, the knowledge one gains in the process will be a life-long companion.
  10. Create your own database!
    Another useful suggestion from Govindan family whose children Ramesh and Mallika have been participants in spelling and vocabulary bees:
    "We found it valuable to make a database of the list words provided for the regional and national competitions with their definitions, pronunciation, and language of origin, and then study from it. This way the children not only learned the words but also improved their vocabulary. We also did the same with the list words for the vocabulary bees. Children themselves created the databases (i.e., looked up the meanings and typed it into the Excel program), which provided them additional practice. The task became a lot easier when we installed the Merriam Webster Dictionary on the computer".
  11. Tips during the contest
    Make sure the pronouncer fully agrees with your pronunciation of the word. You can eliminate most misunderstandings right here.
    For example: If the pronouncer says ?except' and you say ?accept' he/she will be able to correct you right away. If you are still unable to get to the right pronunciation, you can ask for the word to be put in a sentence eliminating discrepancies. 


Spelling Bee Rules

In addition to all the general contest rules stated by North South Foundation, the following rules are applicable for Spelling Bee Competition.

Phase I (Written):
Phase II (Oral):
Winners and Ranks:
Tiebreaker Rules:
Invitation to National Finals:
  1. There are 2 levels of competition in Spelling Bee:
    • JSB (Junior Spelling Bee): Grades 1, 2 and 3
    • SSB (Senior Spelling Bee): Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8
  2. A 1st rank winner at the Scripps National Spelling Bee or the National Finals of the North South Foundation senior spelling bee are not eligible for competing in this and future North South Foundation spelling contests. (The 1st rank winner of junior spelling bee can, however, participate in the senior spelling bee.) A contestant who participated in the NSF senior spelling bee is not eligible to participate in the junior spelling bee, irrespective of his/her age.
  3. Both spelling bees (JSB and SSB) are held in two phases: Phase I (written) and Phase II (oral) Parents are not allowed in Phase I. They may be allowed in Phase II at the discretion of the judges, if space permits.
  4. Phase I is a written test with 25 words, and the contestant has to write the spelling for each of the 25 words. Ten words will be selected from the published list, and the remaining fifteen words will be from outside the published list. The published list of 1,000 words will be provided to the contestants after completing registration. This list contains words from SpellIt booklet, from Merriam-Webster as well as words taken from the past Paideia booklets, published by Scripps National Spelling Bee. All the contestants will write the spelling for the same 25 words. Each contestant will be given a sheet with 25 blank rows (the rows are numbered) to write the spelling for each of the 25 words.
  5. During this phase, the pronouncer will pronounce each of the 25 words, and for each of the words, he will give the parts of speech (POS), root of the word, definition, and the use of the word in a sentence. The contestant will have to write the spelling of the each word in the appropriate blank row.
  6. Unclear and illegible writing might be open for misinterpretation. So, contestants are expected to write clearly and legibly. The decision of the judges is final.
  7. There will NOT be any partial credits. There will be NO negative points for any incorrect answer. The contestant will be awarded one point for the correct answer and zero for an incorrect answer.
  8. All Phase I sheets should be returned at the end of the contest. All contestants will advance to Phase II (oral round).
  9. Phase II contains 6 oral rounds. All the words in Phase II are used from the published list of 1,000 words.
  10. During this phase, the pronouncer pronounces a word to the contestant. The contestant shall pronounce the word, spell it, and pronounce it again. The contestant will be awarded zero points for failing to follow this order or failing to spell the word correctly. Pronunciation after spelling is optional, and points will not be deducted for failing to pronounce after spelling.
  11. A contestant may request to have the word pronounced again or ask for a definition, language origin, parts of speech, or a usage of the word in a sentence. This information will not be provided by the pronouncer (as done in Phase I) unless requested by the contestant.
  12. A contestant is allowed 30 seconds to start spelling a word. The judge may award zero points to any contestant who ignores a request to start spelling. This 30 second period excludes the time expended in step 11 above.
  13. Once a contestant starts spelling, he/she may stop and start over. In retracing, there can be no change of letters or their sequence from that of the first attempt. If any letter or the sequence is changed in the respelling, the contestant will be awarded zero points.
  14. In case more than one spelling is listed for a word in the Webster's dictionary (3rd International Unabridged Edition), the particular spelling enunciated by the contestant shall be accepted as correct, if the word either matches the pronunciation and definition provided by the pronouncer, or it is clearly identified as being a standard variant of the word the contestant has been asked to spell. No other source is allowed in this regard. If a word has one or more homonyms, the pronouncer will indicate which word is to be spelled.
  15. During each of the six rounds, each contestant gets a new word from the published list. The contestant will be awarded one point for the correct answer and zero for an incorrect answer. If a contestant gives an incorrect answer, the judges provide the correct answer, and the next contestant will be given a new word from the list.
  16. Based on the combined scores of Phase I & II, the judges will determine the winners. The 1st place winner shall be ahead by at least one point to be declared as the champion. In announcing the ranks 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, the judges will follow these rules:
    • Announce Ranks 1, 2 and 3, if and only if there are at least 10 contestants
    • Announce Ranks 1 and 2 ONLY, if there are 8 or 9 contestants
    • Announce Rank 1 ONLY, if there are 5-7 contestants
    • DO NOT announce any ranks if there are less than 5 contestants
  17. The tiebreaker rules apply ONLY if there are at least 5 or more contestants participating in a given center and at the discretion of the judges/regional coordinator.
  18. After tabulation of scores (out of a total of 31) from Ph I (words 1-25) and Ph II (6 words), if there is a tie, the scheme outlined below is followed in the order given, to break the ties:
    • Phase I score (words 1-25)
    • Phase I score among words 21-25
    • Phase I score among words 16-20
    • Phase I score among words 11-15
    • Phase I score among words 1-10
  19. If the above steps fail to break the tie in question, the foundation may use additional measures to resolve them or award joint ranks.
  20. Invitation to National Finals is based on the relative scores [Phase I and Phase II] of all the contestants nationally and is not based on a direct correlation of ranks achieved by a contestant in a regional contest. Thus, the combined Phase I & II score of each contestant out of 31 relative to all such scores around the country will determine whether the contestant will be invited to the National Finals. The regional tiebreakers are only helpful in determining the winners for a particular center, but have no bearing on the Finals invitation. 

Spelling Bee


  • "____", (A NBA coach) will take charge of a young team still in the throws of a roster overhaul.
  • The school spokesperson commented "Our lunch menu includes a variety of hot entrees and tempting deserts".
  • Please bare with us while we are renovating.

The above spelling bloopers have been taken from various printed media. A little more care in learning spellings, would have prevented the writer from making a full … just kidding … a fool of himself or herself. The need to focus on spellings is all the more now, due to kids using atrocious versions of words when texting and Instant Messaging.

In order to help students excel in English early on, NSF launched Spelling contests in 1993.

The contests are conducted every year in two steps for students in grade 1-8. Qualified winners of the Regional contests are invited to participate in the National Finals. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners from each contest at the Nationals are awarded scholarships of $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively, redeemable in the winners' freshman year of college.

You can download the word-list for the contest after you register for the contest.

Register for the Contest here

Rules for the Spelling Bee Contest here

Preparation for the Spelling Bee Contest here

Have Questions? FAQ here