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Nation/World

April 10, 2013

Spelling bee kids will have to know definitions

(Continued)

Vocabulary has been a regular part of the bee during its 87-year history, but it's always been the spellers asking for the definition to help them spell the word.

Now the tables will be turned, with the spellers taking a computer test that looks like something from the SAT. A sample question provided by the Spelling Bee reads as follows:

"Something described as refulgent is: a) tending to move toward one point, b) demanding immediate action, c) rising from an inferior state, d) giving out a bright light."

The correct answer is d.

The vocabulary tests will take place in private rooms and will not be part of the television broadcasts, but they will count for 50 percent of the point totals that determine the semifinalists and finalists.

"In the long run I think it's a change for the better because it tests spellers' all-around knowledge of the word as opposed to just the spelling of the word," said 13-year-old Arvind Mahankali, also one of the favorites after finishing third the past two years.

But what about right now? Arvind and the rest of the 281 spellers in this year's bee now have less than two months to change their study habits ahead of the May 28-30 competition near Washington.

"I'm just going to review all the words for their meanings one more time, if I have enough time," Arvind said. "But it's going to be a little difficult to adjust to this right now."

Shivashankar, who coached daughter Kavya to the 2009 title and now coaches Vanya, said he thinks there's a good purpose behind the changes, but he wishes they had been announced at the start of the school year.

While Shivashankar was concerned about the anxiety the changes could add to an already nerve-racking competition, his daughter already sounded ready to tackle the challenge.

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