EDUCATION

More than memory: Vocabulary makes National Spelling Bee more fair, but some miss old format

File-This May 30, 2012, file photo shows Vanya Shivashankar, of Olathe, Kan., smiling as she answers her question during the third round of the National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md.  Participants and bee officials say the competition is fairer now that kids are tested on what words mean. But it’s also taken some of the drama away from the semifinal rounds. Thirteen-year-old Vanya Shivashankar says she misses the simplicity of the old format, which she called “spelling till you drop.” Now, there are two semifinal rounds, and test scores determine who makes it to the finals. Vanya was eliminated at that stage last year.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

File-This May 30, 2012, file photo shows Vanya Shivashankar, of Olathe, Kan., smiling as she answers her question during the third round of the National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md. Participants and bee officials say the competition is fairer now that kids are tested on what words mean. But it’s also taken some of the drama away from the semifinal rounds. Thirteen-year-old Vanya Shivashankar says she misses the simplicity of the old format, which she called “spelling till you drop.” Now, there are two semifinal rounds, and test scores determine who makes it to the finals. Vanya was eliminated at that stage last year. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)  (The Associated Press)

Two years after vocabulary became part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the first time, the integration of testing into the competition remains a work in progress.

Participants and bee officials say the competition is fairer now that kids are tested on what words mean. But it's also taken some of the drama away from the semifinal rounds.

Thirteen-year-old Vanya Shivashankar says she misses the simplicity of the old format, which she called "spelling till you drop." Now, there are two semifinal rounds, and test scores determine who makes it to the finals. Vanya was eliminated at that stage last year.

But this year, for the first time, the test scores will be announced, and spellers in the semifinals will know where they stand.