The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties
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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Why do the Bee’s organizers want to eliminate ties?
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  • brooket1-ver
    4/21/2017 - 03:19 p.m.

    This is interesting because it's good that they have to change the rules. It mean more kids are willing to learn words and practice for them. Plus it shows that more and more kids are getting smarter everyday. Furthermore the change is also good because if the kids keep getting better and better and there will be more ties, kids won't get all the prize money and might not be as willing to try. Hopefully this change will help with ties and make sure there is only one champion this year.

  • ldawson-dav
    4/24/2017 - 07:52 a.m.

    In response to "The National Spelling Bee adjusts its rules to prevent ties",
    I agree that it was a good idea to make sure there is only one winner for the spelling bee. One reason I agree is that all the kids work really hard to get there and no one wants to share first place with anyone else. At least I would not. Another reason is that if they have to give first place winners $40,000, that is a lot of money to give to more than one person. It says in the article "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." . A third reason I agree with this is because they are doing a vocabulary test to see who the winner will be if there is a tie. That will be one more thing the winner can say they beat everyone at. Even though everyone works hard to get to the national spelling be, I think there should only be one winner.

  • genesisj-
    4/24/2017 - 01:03 p.m.

    The organizers want to eliminate ties because if to kids end up in ties, they would have to maybe split the money.

  • natalies-
    4/25/2017 - 08:38 a.m.

    They are already giving out a high amount of money to the winner, so it's probably very hard to give out that high amount of money to two different people.

  • grantl-bur
    4/26/2017 - 02:33 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to take away ties because they only want to have one speller win the contest. The text says that the spelling bee only wants 1 winner over them all. Personally, I believe that the national spelling bee was a hard work paid off and that it was perfectly fine before. However, the organizers think different.

  • joshuaa-bur
    4/26/2017 - 04:44 p.m.

    They want one champ because they don't have to spend as much money on the champs, per say if 5 people won the bee that's 5X$40000. A lot of money. If I was the guy that judged I would split the money or have a really wierd word (like 3).

  • isabellab3-bur
    4/26/2017 - 05:43 p.m.

    They want to eliminate ties most likely to make the competition look more elite. One prize, one winner, and a bigger title. And they probably don't want to give out $80,000. I know I wouldn't.

  • khadijan-bur
    4/26/2017 - 08:51 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers want to eliminate ties because they only want one winner to emerge as the champion and not as co-winners or equally a tie.

    This relates to me because in every grade that I have been in, I have done a spelling bee in which i placed in the top five and last year I came in fourth with another contestant and we really wanted to see who would take the bigger trophy home.

  • jasmina-bur
    4/26/2017 - 10:05 p.m.

    The Bee's organizers probably tried to eliminate ties for two main reasons. One of which being that they want one child to come out victorious in the end to get that feeling of hard work. When you get in a tie it takes off most off the feeling of winning off. Secondly, when a speller wins a competition they are rewarded with a prize of $40,000. When two spellers battle it out but yet two still come put for the win the organization stainless has to pay but of the winners $40,000 when if one of them won the organization would have to pay two times less.

  • madisong-bur
    4/27/2017 - 09:54 a.m.

    The Bees organizers want to eliminate ties because when there is a tie then they would have to double the money given the the winner for each of them.In the passage it said that "for the pass thee years the Scripps National Spelling Bee has ended in a tie".

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