New Elements Added to the National Spelling Bee

New Elements Added to the National Spelling Bee

Published by Beth Mader on 5th May 2021

Most of us remember the shock and awe when eight spellers each earned the National Spelling Bee (NSB) championship title in 2019. To avoid another year of potential octo-champions, Scripps announced some modifications to ensure the bee will produce only one winner at the 2021 national finals.

Oral Vocabulary Added to the Rounds

Spellers will face a new, oral vocabulary portion known as word meaning. In between the oral rounds, spellers will answer a multiple-choice question during the preliminaries, quarterfinals, and semifinals leading up to the finals. In previous years, spellers answered vocabulary questions in a written test format. This is the first year the NSB will broadcast the word meaning component.

Scripps has also introduced a spell-off option. In the event that a winner hasn't been declared within the final moments of the bee, a spell-off will be initiated to proclaim a champion. Each speller will have only 90 seconds to spell as many words as they can from a preset spell-off list, and the speller who spells the most words correctly will be named the winner.

So, how can you prepare for these new features? Hexco offers numerous study materials to help you conquer these new elements.

Vocabulary prep:

Spell-off prep:

Sign up for Hexco's hourly Spelling Quizzing to best prepare for the spell-off. An experienced coach or speller will quiz you from Verbomania, New Nat's Notes, or Blitz List during your hourly session.

  • Verbomania – 13,398 words total - random sequence with index or alpha sequence - primarily vocabulary enriching words
  • 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 – 12,000 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

  • Last, but not least, the Crash Course can help launch you to the top. This five-week course is only for spellers who are going to the National Bee. Classes are starting now, and participants will learn how to optimize study time, develop spelling skills, and learn techniques for fielding those unknown words!


    Seven of the eight octo-champions used Hexco. Could you be the next champion? Good luck and good spelling!

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