How to Study for a District, County, Region or State Spelling Bee

How to Study for a District, County, Region or State Spelling Bee

Published by Beth Mader on 1st Mar 2021

Spelling bee season is upon us! 

District, county, regional, and state spelling bees are in full swing as spellers around the nation and the world compete for a chance to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Scripps recently announced that the semifinals are scheduled for June 27, 2021, and earlier virtual rounds will be announced later this spring. The top 10 to 12 spellers will travel to the finals on July 8, 2021 , which will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida . To be one of these accomplished finalists, you must first win your upcoming spelling competition. Here are some tips on how to study for your district, county, regional, and state spelling bee.

Spelling Bee Study Lists

District and county bees usually start with a combination of the Scripps' Spelling Bee Study List and the Scripps' Words of the Champions. Region and state spelling bees generally start with Words of the Champions and then go off-list after several rounds. Make sure you master both lists and be familiar with their definitions.

Why should you be familiar with definitions ? In 2013, the National Spelling Bee introduced a vocabulary element at the national level which required students to be able to identify definitions that were asked in a written, multiple-choice format. Since then, all bees, from classroom bees all the way to state spelling bees, have the option to include a vocabulary section. The only way to know whether your bee will include a vocabulary section is to ask your spelling bee coordinator if they plan on having a vocabulary element in their bee. Definition-based questions are very likely to appear in the National Spelling Bee. Additionally, learning word meanings creates the foundation to start recognizing etymological patterns that will later be helpful in 'figuring out' the spelling of words based on their meanings and language of origin and vice versa.

Study Off-list Words to Prepare for the National Spelling Bee

What else should you study ? We get many calls from parents and spellers who ask where the "other words" come from, or "what else should I study?" These "other words" are also known as "off-list" words, or "surprise words" and are used to determine a winner. These words go unpublished.

To increase your chances of knowing all of the words you are given at your bee, you have two options. The most common and most obvious option is to learn a greater number of words. Ranked from beginner to advanced, the following study lists offer thousands of words to enhance your word bank:

  • Verbomania – 13,398 words total - random sequence with index or alpha sequence - primarily vocabulary enriching words
  • Paideia – 11,818 words total - organized by Beginning, Intermediate & Advanced levels - words from beginning, intermediate and advanced levels
  • New Nat's Notes – 18,067 words total - random sequence with index or alpha sequence - difficult words used at National and Regional Bee from most of the last 40 years plus similar words
  • Blitz List – 9,000 words total - random sequence (New! Blitz 4!) - difficult words not used at prior bees or in published lists, at least until these were published - some have been used in last 5 years
  • Webster Detector – 2,506 words total - random sequence - difficult words that were NOT in the printed Webster's Third New International, but are not in the Online Merriam Webster

The other option is to learn more about words. You can improve your performance by mastering spelling rules, etymology, and vocabulary. For building word foundation, check out  The Spelling Rules Book and Etyma Notes.

Or you could do both:  learn more words and learn more about words.

Spelling Bee Coaching Program

If you are interested in coaching for your bee, check out our Coaching Programs ! Our Spelling Crash Course program is specifically for spellers attending the National Spelling Bee. Learn how to optimize your study time while developing spelling skills, and you will also be guided on techniques for fielding unknown words.

If you've already won your bee and are headed to nationals, let us know! We will gift you a 3-month subscription to KEY Regional/National Words eMentor ($149 value) as a reward from Hexco for your hard work and success at your Regional Spelling Bee! Simply let us know  HERE.

We are here to help advance your spelling career. Let us know if you have any questions, and good luck at your upcoming spelling bee!