The Scripps National Spelling Bee — which holds its finals in May near Washington, D.C. — announced the change this week, reports the Associated Press.
Now, in addition to knowing the letters that spell a word, contestants will have to take tests to prove they know the definitions as well. The tests will be computerized and similar to the SAT. Contestants will have to pass a combination of the test and the traditional on-stage spelling competition to advance to the semifinals and finals.
Kimberly Page, Executive Director of the contest, says the change is designed to make the participants broaden their knowledge of English.
“What we know with the championship-level spellers is that they think of their achievement in terms of spelling and vocabulary being two sides of the same coin,” she told the AP.