The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, N.Y., hold up the trophy after being named co-champions at the 2016 National Spelling Bee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties
Lexile

For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie, with two whiz kids each claiming a $40,000 prize for their dizzying winning words (Feldenkrais and gesellschaft; nunatak and scherenschnitte; feuilleton and stichomythia, to be precise). As Ian Simpson reports for Reuters, officials have amended the rules of the Bee, hoping to ensure that one speller - and one speller only - will emerge victorious during future competitions.
 
According to the new rules, the handful of contestants who make it to 6 p.m. on the final evening of the competition will be required to take a written tiebreaking test. The test consists of 12 spelling words and "12 multiple choice vocabulary items," the Bee's website states. If it becomes "mathematically impossible" for a single winner to emerge victorious by 25 rounds, officials will reveal the test scores of the remaining competitors.
 
"The speller with the highest Tiebreaker Test score will be declared champion," the site explains. "If, however, there is a tie on the Tiebreaker Test for the highest score, the spellers tying for the highest score will be declared co-champions."
 
That means there's still a possibility for a tie, but it makes that scenario less likely. The organization revamped its rules in response to a rather pleasant conundrum: young competitors are getting too good at the spelling game. Prior to 2014, there was only one Spelling Bee tie, which occurred in 1962, according to Ben Nuckols of The Associated Press.
 
But in recent years, kid spellers have been expanding their knowledge of vocabulary and word origins, forcing officials to plumb the dictionary for ever-longer and more difficult words. (The Bee's list of winning words reflects the extent to which the competition has evolved since its inception in 1925. In 1936, for instance, Jean Trowbridge won for correctly spelling the word "interning," though the word wouldn't have been as common at the time as it is today.)
 
Last year, the Bee decided to switch from 25 "championship words" to 25 "championship rounds," meaning that judges could hurl as many as 75 words at finalists. Officials were also granted permission to adjust the difficulty of those words during the competition. But two winners, 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar and 11-year-old Nihar Janga, nevertheless tied for the championship prize.
 
Paige Kimble, executive director of the Spelling Bee, tells Nuckols that there "is certainly a point of view that the level of competition has risen to a place where we are likely to see more co-championships unless we further raise the bar."
 
This year's Spelling Bee will take place May 30-June 1, at a convention center outside Washington. The new test will introduce an additional challenge to the already stressful event, but such is the rigorous world of children's spelling championships, where - theoretically at least - only one speller can rule them all.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do the Bee’s organizers want to eliminate ties?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (8)
  • monicas-ste
    4/20/2017 - 01:07 p.m.

    I think this will make it a lot easier on them so they aren't handing out as much stuff. Ties must be frustrating for the kids and the people hosting the spelling bee. This will definitely improve things.

  • niyyirahy-pay
    4/27/2017 - 09:40 a.m.

    I think it's great that the spelling bee is addjusting their to prevent ties.because that not fair the you would have to share first place with another person.that may also hurts the other person feeling who they tied with because they knew that they worked hard to get to first place but now they have to share it with someone else and nobody wants that sadly.

  • brendanw-kut
    5/01/2017 - 07:55 a.m.

    Humans are competitive. Almost everyone knows that. When ever you want to play a game, we state it's all about the fun. While that is true face it, you still really want to win even though it's just a game. I believe this because of are primitive ways when we had to fight for usually land but it can be other things. Adding a prize only makes the competitive feeling stronger as there is something at stake. Back then, there were no ties. One person won and the other lost. So when we tie now, you don't feel like you earned anything or that the "battle" was pointless. So eliminating ties means the winner feels like they earned their victory. Not by "surviving" but by actually doing something.

  • irisp-ste
    5/01/2017 - 11:08 a.m.

    I am glad to see that action is being taken to eliminate more ties in spelling bees. If I worked that hard to make it to the top and receive first place for such an amazing achievement, I would not want to have to share it with another person. I wonder what the scores will look like on the tiebreaker test, I'm sure some of the kids could easily get all of them correct.

  • kaileew-ste
    5/01/2017 - 02:07 p.m.

    Due to the last three years of the spelling bee ending in a tie, there are now new rules. Now, spellers will take a multiple choice test and then if it ends in a tie, they will look for the test as the tiebreaker. It would be cool to be able to spell all these insane words.

  • parkerz-cel
    5/03/2017 - 10:01 a.m.

    Bee organizers want to eliminate ties because in the end there can truly only be one winner. Kids deserve the right recognition for being the best speller, and you cannot do that if you tie and have to share the rewards. Kids these days are so use to getting their stuff handed too them and by eliminating ties, then youre taking the first step to teaching the kids that you win some and you lose some and teach them what it takes to win.

  • charlesj-bur
    5/06/2017 - 02:47 p.m.

    I believe the organizers want to eliminate ties because they want to see who is actually the best. I can relate to this because I watch shows and videos every time and some of the fights end in ties and I wish I could change it but its up to the animators and producers.

  • DLee17
    5/08/2017 - 01:48 p.m.

    I think that if there has been ties for three years, then we must have really smart people in america!

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