Challenge Rules


1. Eligibility

A speller registering for the 2016 I-Spell Challenge (the Challenge) must meet these requirements:

  • The speller must not have reached the age of 14 on or before November 5, 2016.
  • The speller must not have passed beyond JSS3 on or before November 5, 2016.
  • The speller must not have repeated any grade/class for the purpose of extending spelling bee eligibility. If the speller has repeated any grade/class, the speller must notify I-Spell Challenge of the circumstances of grade/class repetition by September 30, 2016; and I-Spell Challenge will, in its sole discretion, determine the speller’s eligibility status on or before November 11, 2016.
  • The speller — or the speller’s parent, legal guardian or school official acting on the speller’s behalf — must not have declared to another entity an academic classification higher than JSS3 for any purpose including high school graduation equivalency or proficiency examinations and/or examinations such as WAEC, NECO or UTME.
  • The speller must not have earned the legal equivalent of a high school certificate (SSCE or GCE).
  • The speller must not bypass or circumvent normal school activity to study for spelling bees. Normal school activity here is defined as adherence to at least four courses of study other than English language, spelling, Nigerian languages, linguistics, vocabulary and etymology for at least four hours per weekday.
  • The speller, upon qualifying for the Challenge, must submit a completed Speller Profile form with the Parental Consent duly signed and a hard or electronic copy of a photo to the Challenge. The speller will notify the Challenge, at least 24 hours prior to the first day of competition, if any of the statements made on the Registration Form are no longer true or require updating.

I-Spell Challenge may disqualify prior to or during competition any speller who is not in compliance with any of the above Eligibility Requirements; and it may — at any time between the conclusion of the 2016 spelling bee and October 31, 2017 — require any speller who is found to have not been in compliance with any of the Eligibility Requirements to forfeit any prizes, rank, and other benefits accorded to the speller as a result of participation in the 2016 I-Spell Challenge.

2. The Vocabulary Test

The Vocabulary Test is the first of two distinct segments of the competition: Vocabulary Test and Oral Spelling.

The Vocabulary Test has Three sections:

In Section A, the speller will respond to 15 multiple-choice vocabulary questions. These responses (written) will count toward the speller’s Vocabulary score — one point per each correctly answered vocabulary question. Score vocabulary questions are the same for all spellers. This part of the test will be labeled as Round One.

In Section B, the speller will match 5 words to their respective meanings. These will also be labeled as Round One Vocabulary questions and, if correctly answered, count five points toward the speller’s Vocabulary score.

In Section C, the speller will spell 5 words on paper. All 5 spellings, if correctly answered, count five points toward the speller’s Vocabulary score. These spelling words are the same for all spellers and will be given by the pronouncer. This part of the test will also be labeled as Round One.

Eliminations: There are no immediate eliminations for misspelling or providing an incorrect answer in the Vocabulary Test.

3. The Oral Spelling Finals

The Oral Spelling Finals is the second of two distinct segments of the competition: Vocabulary Test and Oral Spelling.

The Oral Spelling onstage has two sections:

The first section consists of one round of oral spelling onstage and is designated as Round Two. Here each word is unique to the speller, and correct spelling counts 5 points to the speller’s total score.

Eliminations: There are no immediate eliminations for misspelling in Round Two.

However, after Round Two, each speller’s total score from Rounds One and Two is computed (over 30) and only the top-scoring 50% (or as determined by the Challenge officials, in case of ties) make it to Round Three.


The second section consists of rounds of oral spelling beginning with Round Three and continuing until a champion is declared.

All spellers who have not been eliminated from the competition spell one word in each round. Upon incorrectly spelling a word, the speller is eliminated from the competition except as provided under “End-of-Challenge Procedure” in the rules. All spellers eliminated in the same round are tied for the same place.

4. Official Dictionary/Source of Words:

In competition, all words will be chosen from official lists compiled from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 8th ed. and used by the Challenge officials.  This is the final spelling authority for the competition.

5. Timing:

During oral spelling rounds in the Challenge Finals; the speller’s time at the microphone has a limit of 1 minute, 30 seconds. Time begins when the pronouncer is satisfied that the speller understands the word. For the first minute, the speller will have the benefit of asking questions, if necessary. The judge(s) and pronouncer will not communicate with the speller during the final 30 seconds. The judge(s) will disqualify any speller who does not attempt spelling before the expiration of time. If the judge(s) and pronouncer need to discuss a competition-related matter while a speller is contemplating a word, they may pause the time clock, and they will inform the speller when they pause and resume the time clock.

6. Pronouncer’s Role

The pronouncer strives to pronounce words according to the diacritical markings in Oxford’s Eighth.
Homonyms: If a word has one or more homonyms, the pronouncer indicates which word is to be spelled by defining the word.
Speller’s requests: In oral competition the pronouncer responds only to the speller’s requests for repetition of the word’s pronunciation, a definition, sentence, part of speech, language(s) of origin and alternate pronunciation(s). The pronouncer will grant all such requests as long as they are in accordance with time constraints outlined in Rule 5.

Pronouncer’s sense of helpfulness: The pronouncer may offer word information — without the speller having requested the information — if the pronouncer senses that the information is helpful and the information appears in the 2016 I-Spell Challenge word list or Oxford’s Eighth.

7. Judges’ Role

The judge(s) will listen carefully, determine whether or not words are spelled correctly and uphold the rules. The decisions of the judge(s) is/are final.

Misunderstandings: The judge(s) will not respond to the speller’s question(s) about the word and its pronunciation but, if the judge(s) sense that the speller has misunderstood the word, the judge(s) will direct the speller and pronouncer to interact until they are satisfied that reasonable attempts have been made to assist the speller in understanding the word within the time constraints outlined in Rule 5. It is sometimes impossible to detect a misunderstanding until a spelling error has been made, and the judge(s) is/are not responsible for the speller’s misunderstanding.

Pronouncer Errors: The judge(s) will compare the pronouncer’s pronunciation with the diacritical markings in the word list. If the judge(s) feel(s) that the pronouncer’s pronunciation does not match the pronunciation specified in the diacritical markings, the judge(s) will direct the pronouncer to correct the error as soon as it is detected.

Conditions for disqualification of a speller:

  • If it is ascertained that a speller got help from the audience to spell a word during an oral spelling round.
  • If a speller engages in unsportsmanlike conduct;
  • If a speller, in the process of retracing a spelling, alters the letters or sequence of letters from those first uttered.
  • Officials may disqualify any contestant who ignores a request to start spelling his or her word within the allotted time. Also, a speller whose spelling of a word is not audible to the officials may have his or her spelling ruled incorrect.

Speller activities that do not merit disqualification:

The judge(s) will not disqualify a speller:-

  • for failing to pronounce the word either before or after spelling it,
  • for asking a question, or
  • for noting or failing to note the capitalization of a word, the presence of a diacritical mark, the presence of a hyphen or other form of punctuation, or spacing between words in an open compound.

The Pronouncer, judge(s) and other officials will be in complete charge of the contest. Any questions or protests about the spelling(s) of a word or the running of the contests must be referred to the officials immediately (before the beginning of the next round). Their decisions will be final in all matters. No protest will be entertained after the contest has ended.

8. Speller’s role:

In a spelling round, the speller should make an effort to face the judges and pronounce the word for the judges before spelling it and after spelling it. The speller while facing the judges should make an effort to utter each letter distinctly and with sufficient volume to be understood by the judges.

The speller may ask the pronouncer to say the word again, define it, use it in a sentence, provide the part of speech, provide the language(s) of origin and/or provide an alternate pronunciation or pronunciations.

Once a contestant has begun to spell a word, he or she may not ask for a word to be re-pronounced, defined or used in a sentence.

In an oral spelling round contestants must spell the words orally; the use of pens and/or pencils and paper will not be allowed.

Having started to spell a word, a contestant will not be given any opportunity to change letters already pronounced. A speller may retrace provided that letters and their sequence are not changed in retracing.

The speller must spell each letter of any given word separately and distinctly or be disqualified. Example: The word “mirror” must not be spelt as “m-i-double r – o-r”.

Apostrophes, capitalization and other forms of punctuation are not required.

Misunderstandings: The speller is responsible for any misunderstanding of the word given unless,

  • the pronouncer never provided a correct pronunciation;
  • the pronouncer provided incorrect information regarding the definition, or part of speech, or
  • the speller correctly spelled a homonym of the word and the pronouncer failed to either offer a definition or distinguish the homonyms.

Other Rules:

Correction of a misspelling: The pronouncer and judges will not ask the speller to correct another speller’s misspelling, except in “End-of-Challenge” circumstances.

 Errors: Upon providing an incorrect spelling of a word, the speller immediately drops out of the competition, except as provided in “End-of-Challenge Procedure”.

End-of-Challenge procedure:

If all spellers in a round misspell: If none of the spellers remaining in the spelling bee at the start of a round spells a word correctly during that round, all remain in the competition and a new spelling round begins.

Ties: All spellers eliminated in the same round are tied for the same place. After the champion has been determined, spelling challenge officials may opt to conduct tiebreakers (of their own design) if tiebreakers are necessary for the awarding of prizes or the determination of qualifying spellers for the next level of competition.

 If three or fewer spellers are left in a round:

  • If three or fewer spellers are left in a round, the next round begins with a 20-word list. A winner is declared if other spellers misspell and the remaining speller correctly spells two words in a row, i.e. a new one-word spelling round begins and the speller is given an opportunity to spell an anticipated championship word. If the speller succeeds in correctly spelling the word in this one-word round, the speller is declared the champion.

N/B: The elimination procedure changes when the number of contestants is reduced to two. At this point, when one contestant misspells a word, the other contestant will be given the opportunity to spell the same word. If the second contestant spells the word correctly, plus the next word on the pronouncer’s list (anticipated championship word), then he or she will be declared champion. If the contestant misspells the word on the pronouncer’s list, then both spellers continue in the contest. If both contestants misspell the same word, then both continue in the contest.


2 Responses to Challenge Rules

  1. Pingback: Commencement of registration for I-Spell Challenge 2016 | I-Spell Challenge

  2. Pingback: I-Spell Challenge 2016 postponed till November! | I-Spell Challenge

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