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
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For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie. Two whiz kids each claimed a $40,000 prize. They were able to correctly spell a dizzying array of winning words. Those included Feldenkrais and gesellschaft; nunatak and scherenschnitte; feuilleton and stichomythia.
 
As Ian Simpson reports for Reuters, officials have amended the rules of the Bee. The officials are hoping to ensure that only one speller will emerge as champion.
 
According to the new rules, the handful of contestants who make it to 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." This is according to the Bee's website. If it becomes "mathematically impossible" for a single winner to emerge 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."
 
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 problem. The young competitors are getting too good. Prior to 2014, there was only one Spelling Bee tie. It occurred in 1962. This is according to Ben Nuckols of The Associated Press.
 
But in recent years, kid spellers have been expanding their knowledge of vocabulary and word origins. This has forced officials to plumb the dictionary. They are seeking 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." However, 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." That means 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 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar and 11-year-old Nihar Janga still tied for the championship prize.
 
Paige Kimble is executive director of the Spelling Bee. She told 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." That is, "unless we further raise the bar."
 
This year's Spelling Bee is May 30-June 1. It will be held 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 (84)
  • gabriellem-har
    4/20/2017 - 12:20 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because when they have a tie, they have to give each of the kids the amount of money that they were supposed to get. This means that the Bee's organizers end up paying double what they would have to if there was only one winner. In the article, "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties" the author, Brigit Katz states, "For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie. Two whiz kids each claimed a $40,000 prize" (paragraph 1). This quote proves that everytime their is a tie, the Bee's organization has to pay a lot more money.

  • brandona52163-
    4/20/2017 - 01:05 p.m.

    they only want one kid to be named champion of the spelling bee so they do a tie breaker test.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    4/20/2017 - 01:33 p.m.

    The Bee's want there to be a fair race and one champion. Also, I would not want to give out $80,000 more than once.

  • hlily-dav
    4/20/2017 - 04:44 p.m.

    In response to "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties" I agree that they should change the rules to prevent ties. One reason I agree is that with this new test in place, it will motivate the kids to work harder, in preparation for the bee. Then these kids will get even better at spelling and continue to raise the bar. Secondly, it will reduce how much money they have to give out. It states in the article,"Two whiz kids each claimed a $40,000 prize." This means the spelling bee officials had to give out $80,000 dollars for the past three years which is an insane amount of money, that could have been used on something else. Finally, ending in a tie is very disappointing. These kids have been training hard for this only to become co-champion, which doesn't feel or sound as good as champion. Even though, this new test will add a whole new level of stress to the event, I think it is a great idea to prevent future ties.

  • plaura-dav
    4/20/2017 - 05:15 p.m.


    In response to "the nationalist spelling bee adjusts its rules to provent ties," I agree that they sould have done this. One reason I agree is that when they have ties they have to do more work than they planned . Another reason is that people don't like having ties. It says in the article that for three years in a row they have had a tie. A third reason is that ties can go on for a long time. Even though some people may not like this Change, I think
    It was a good idea.

  • djw1-har
    4/20/2017 - 08:31 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because people are getting smarter and smarter and more people are going to tie in the near future. The Bee's organizers also want to eliminate ties in the spelling bee because with these kids that keep trying they might want someone else to have a chance to win.

  • fpresley-dav
    4/20/2017 - 08:46 p.m.


    In response to "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties," I agree that spelling bees should not have ties. One reason I agree is that kids will like it more if they can truly get first instead of having to share the win with the other person. Another reason is that the people that put on the spelling bee would be less likely have to give away as much money. It says in the article, "For the past three years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie. Two whiz kids each claimed a $40,000 prize."
    A third reason is that kids will have to work harder which will make them better spellers in the long run. If kids know the spelling bee will be harder they will work harder which could lead to better competitions. Even though it is still possible to get a tie, I think it is good that they are making it harder too.

  • fbella-dav
    4/21/2017 - 07:37 a.m.

    In response to "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties," I agree with the decision to change the rules of the spelling bee to make it more challenging to try to ensure that only one speller can win. One reason I agree is that for the past three years, there has been two winners each year due to a tie. It says in the article that "prior to 2014, there was only one Spelling Bee tie. It occurred in 1962." Another reason I agree is because the young competitors are getting too good. Their knowledge of vocabulary and word origins have expanded greatly in recent years. A third reason I agree with the rule changes is that it will make the spelling bee more interesting to have it more challenging. Plus, the winner will win more money because they won't have to share their winnings. Even though this change will make it more stressful to the contestants in the spelling bee, I think it's time to "raise the bar" to prevent co-championships.

  • aidenj57-
    4/21/2017 - 08:32 a.m.

    they want to eliminate ties because if two people win then they wont get as much fame as if one of them won

  • zakrym-ste
    4/21/2017 - 01:20 p.m.

    That is good. There should not be ties. We have to have a clear winner. No more participation trophies!!!

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