Contest Rules

(This page is in the process of being revised for the 2015 Paris Spelling Bee)

Paris, France

The 2013 Paris Spelling Bee Rules of the Oral Finals are a simplified version of the rules followed by the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

1. Eligibility
2. Format
3. End-of-Bee procedure
4. Speller’s role
5. Pronouncer’s role
6. Judges’ role
7. Time constraints
8. Special Needs
9. Source of words


A speller qualifying for the 2013 Paris Spelling Bee must meet these requirements:
a) The speller must have qualified as a finalist in the Preliminary Written Round and paid for participation in the Oral Finals.
b) The speller must be in CE2-4ème (3rd-8th grade).
c) Previous 1st place winners cannot participate in the same division.


The spellers are grouped into two divisions: the Gazelles, for those in CE2-CM2 (3rd-5th grades) and the Cheetahs, for those in 6ème-4ème (6th-8th grades). The Paris Spelling Bee may disqualify before, during, or after the competition, any speller who does not comply with any of the above eligibility requirements.

The final competition consists of rounds of oral spelling. All spellers spell one word in each round.

Spellers compete in the same order in every round. During every round, the pronouncer calls each speller to come to the microphone. The pronouncer says a word and uses it in a sentence. If the speller misspells the word, then one of the judges rings a bell. The pronouncer provides the correct spelling of the word and then the speller takes a seat in the audience. If the speller correctly spells the word, then he or she continues to sit with the contestants and proceeds to the next round. The next round starts when all spellers of the previous round have spelled a word.

If all spellers in a round spell incorrectly, then a new round begins with all of those spellers—all remain in the competition and spell in their original order. All spellers eliminated in the same round are tied for the same place. When a round is down to five contestants or fewer, all spellers will be asked to remain seated together even if a speller misspells a word. This is in case no speller correctly spells a word during the round and a new round must begin with all the spellers.


If only one speller in a round spells correctly, a new one-word round begins and that speller is given an opportunity to spell the next word on the list. If the speller spells this word correctly, then the speller wins. If the speller misspells the word, then a new round begins with all the spellers from the previous round, continuing in their original order.


The speller must face the judges and spell the word. Spellers are encouraged to pronounce the word prior to spelling and then again after spelling it, however, contestants will not be eliminated for failing to pronounce the word. The speller should enunciate each letter distinctly and loudly enough to be understood by the judges. The Paris Spelling Bee accepts both American and British spellings of given words.

Pronunciation of the American alphabet: The speller must use the correct American/English pronunciation for letters in the given word. Spellers who do not pronounce the letters correctly will be eliminated.

For example, the speller may not mix up “g” and “j”, and “i” and “e.” In English:

“g” sounds like “gee”
“j” sounds like “jay”
“i” sounds like “eye” or the i sound in “bye” “e” sounds like the “e” in “me”

To practice hearing the sounds of the American English letters you can visit: LearningEnglish at

Starting over: Once a speller starts to spell a word, the speller may stop and start over from the beginning, but may not change the letters or their sequence from those first pronounced. If the speller changes the letters or their sequence while respelling, the speller will be eliminated even if they spelled the word correctly.

Speller’s requests: After receiving the word from the pronouncer, spellers may ask for 1) the word and/or the sentence to be repeated, 2) a definition, 3) the part of speech, 4) the language(s) of origin. Spellers may not request the roots of words, nor alternate definitions, nor request words to be pronounced more slowly.

Misunderstandings: The speller is responsible for any misunderstanding of the word unless (1) the pronouncer did not provide a correct pronunciation; (2) the pronouncer provided incorrect information regarding the definition, part of speech, or language of origin; (3) the speller correctly spelled a homonym of the word and the pronouncer failed to distinguish the homonym by using it in a sentence.

Triple SSS suggestion:

The speller is encouraged to use the triple SSS suggestion: Say it, Spell it, Say it again. This gives the pronouncer and the judges a chance to make sure the speller understood and repeated the word correctly. It also gives the speller a chance to think about the word before spelling it. The speller will not be disqualified for failing to use the triple SSS suggestion.

Double letter suggestion:

Although it is accepted if the speller uses the word “double” when there are two letters that are the same in the sequence of a word, they may be misunderstood if they say “w” when they actually meant double “u.” It is best to say each letter separately.


The pronouncer must pronounce words according to American English standards. The pronouncer must say the word and use it in a sentence.

Homonyms: If a word has one or more homonyms, the pronouncer must indicate which word is to be spelled by using the word in a sentence.

Speller’s requests: Spellers may ask for 1) the word and/or the sentence to be repeated, 2) a definition, 3) part of speech, 4) language(s) of origin.
The pronouncer will not accept root word questions, requests for alternate definitions, nor requests for words to be pronounced more slowly.


The judges must uphold the rules and determine whether or not words are spelled correctly. The decisions of the judges are final.

Interaction with the speller: Because seeing lip movements may be critical in detecting misunderstandings or misspellings, the spellers must face the judges when pronouncing and spelling the word.

Misunderstandings: The judges participate in the exchange of information between the speller and pronouncer if they feel that clarification is needed. In addition, the judges listen carefully to the speller’s pronunciation of the word. If they sense that the speller has misunderstood the word, the judges work with the speller and pronouncer until they are satisfied that reasonable attempts have been made to assist the speller in understanding the word within the time constraints described in Rule 7. While the judges are responsible for attempting to detect a speller’s misunderstanding, it is sometimes impossible to detect a misunderstanding until a spelling error has been made. The judges are not responsible for the speller’s misunderstanding.

Pronouncer errors: If the judges feel that the pronouncer has mispronounced a word, they will direct the pronouncer to correct the error as soon as it is detected.

Disqualifications for reasons other than clear misspelling: The judges will disqualify a speller (1) who refuses a request to start spelling; (2) who does not approach the microphone when it is time to receive the word; (3) who, in the process of retracing a spelling, alters the letters or sequence of letters from those first uttered; or who, in the process of spelling, utters unintelligible or nonsense sounds; (4) who engages in or exhibits unsportsmanlike conduct; (5) who fails to spell the word in the allotted time. PSB believes that this event is not only about educational enrichment, but also about character building. If at any point during a Bee-sponsored event, a participant chooses to be unsportsmanlike they will be disqualified from the event.

Speller activities that do not merit disqualification: The judges may not disqualify a speller for (1) failing to pronounce the word either before or after spelling it, (2) asking a question, or (3) noting or failing to note the capitalization of a word, (4) failure to note presence of an accent or other diacritical mark (e.g., circumflex, cedilla, etc.) in a given word (e.g., santé, mére, garçon).


The speller’s time at the microphone is limited to 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Time begins after the pronouncer gives the word and uses it in a sentence.


The Paris Spelling Bee strives, within the limits of its resources, to provide accommodation for spellers who have special needs. All requests for accommodation of special needs involving sight, hearing, speech, or movement should be directed in writing to the PSB committee before March 15, 2013. The judges have discretionary power to amend spelling requirements and speller’s eligibility on a case-by-case basis for spellers with diagnosed conditions involving sight, hearing, speech, or movement.


The study guide for the Oral Finals was compiled from “Spell It!”, which is an official list published by Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States in cooperation with Merriam- Webster, Inc. The study guide for the Oral Finals was emailed to PSB contestants on February 22, 2013. On the day of the finals, the pronouncer will start by using this list. At the discretion of judges, however, the pronouncer may refer to a special list of challenge words that members of the committee have prepared. These words will not be disclosed to the contestants ahead of time. The Paris Spelling Bee accepts both American and British spellings of given words.

The Paris Spelling Bee reserves the right to revise and edit these rules during the course of the year. blog: email:

2013 Paris Spelling Bee Rules – Oral Finals (rev. 25 Feb 2013)