The National Spelling Bee is now requiring contestants to know what the words mean rather than just the letters for each one.
Jae Canetti said he screamed "No!" when he learned the National Spelling Bee would be introducing a vocabulary test. He started changing the way he prepared, studying definitions of words on the bus ride to school each day.
At least the extra work appeared to have paid off. When the 11-year-old from Fairfax, Va., took the test Tuesday morning, he felt he did just fine.
"I knew a lot of the words," Jae said. "It definitely was not, like, painstaking."
The 86th edition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee took on new meaning — or rather, lots of meanings — with organizers having decreed that the precocious youngsters need to prove they know more than just how to spell. The 281 competitors took a 45-minute computer test that probed their knowledge of both spelling and vocabulary, with the results to be combined with Wednesday's onstage round to determine who advances to the semifinals Thursday.
For the most part, the spellers had the same reaction to the vocabulary test: Good idea, but they wished they had known about it sooner.