The Big Spell 2017

Key dates, registration, terms and conditions


RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship 2017 (NSC) aims to develop a greater appreciation of the importance of spelling in literacy development among Primary 4, 5 and 6 pupils in Singapore.

The competition is open to pupils nominated by primary schools within the Singapore school system. The competition is designed to provide pupils with the opportunity to pit their spelling skills against one another by applying strategies to help them spell words both familiar and unfamiliar to them. In the process, pupils will gain an awareness of phonemes and syllabication while enriching their vocabulary through the study of prefixes, suffixes and root words.


Preliminary Round: Saturday, March 11, 2017

Closing date for pupil registration: Friday, March 3, 2017

Semi-final Round: Saturday, April 1, 2017

Grand Final: Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 Registration

Schools can send up to 10 pupils each

Registration is capped at 1,000 pupils.

Pupils who are not registered will not be allowed into the venue. The organisers reserve the right to remove any pupil who is not eligible to participate.


By submitting the registration form to us, you (a) warrant that where you disclose the personal data of the students and/or their parents/guardians to us and RHB Banking Group ("RHB") or our agents or service providers, you have obtained the prior consent of such students and/or parents/guardians for the collection, use and disclosure by us and RHB or our agents and service providers of the personal data of such students and/or parents/guardians for the purposes of organising and conducting the competition as well as contacting them on matters relating to the competition, and (b) agree that you will indemnify us and RHB and our agents or service providers in respect of any penalties, liabilities, claims, demands, losses and damages as a result of your breach of warranty.

Photographs and video and sound recordings at this event may be used for publicity and in newsletters, websites or marketing and promotional materials by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and its service providers.


1. Preliminary Round

Participants are required to take a pen-and-paper test of about 60 minutes. Pupils will have to spell 50 words that are read out to them. Each word is contextualised with an example so that the meaning and form of the word are clearly understood. The top 15 participants coming from schools in each zone will be invited to take part in the Semi-final round, held at two locations.

2. Semi-final Round

Participants will take their seats on stage. They will take turns to individually spell aloud words read to them by a Pronouncer. Participants can ask up to five questions to help them figure out the spelling. (Please refer to Rules Section in these notes.)

A participant who spells his word incorrectly or is unable to spell the given word within a time limit of 1 minute will be eliminated.

The words will become increasingly difficult with each new round such that fewer competitors will remain at the end of each round. (Note that there is no fixed number of rounds at the Semi-final round or the Grand Final as this is dependent on the number of pupils eliminated at the end of each round.) The elimination process will continue until the top participant of the Semi-final emerges.

The top Semi-final participant at each of the two locations will get a confirmed slot at the Grand Final. All competitors at this round will be rank-ordered. The top 15 pupils ranked nationwide will be invited to compete at the Grand Final.

3. Grand Final

The format of the Final will be similar to that of the Semi-final round. Participants will be eliminated at each round of the competition until one speller emerges as the Champion. The Champion, 1st runner-up and 2nd runner-up will receive trophies and certificates. The rest of the finalists will each receive a certificate.

The Champion will also win $5,000 cash and the Challenge trophy for his school; the 1st runner-up and 2nd runner-up will be awarded with a $3,000 and $1,000 cash prize respectively.

If joint winners are declared, the prize money will be split evenly between the winners.

Winning schools, in alphabetical order, will share the challenge trophy.


A) Eligibility

Participants in the competition must meet these requirements:

The pupil must be from Primary 4, Primary 5 or Primary 6 in any Primary School or Primary Section of a Full School under the MOE.

The pupil must be nominated by the school to participate in the Preliminary Round of the competition.

B) Dress Code

Participants must be in full school uniform.

Participants who are sloppily or inappropriately dressed will not be allowed to participate in the competition.

C) Official Dictionary

There are 3 official reference dictionaries:

a) The Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (EPD) (2006), 17th edition.

b) The Oxford Dictionary of English (2010), 3rd edition.

c) The Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (2003), 11th edition.

The Pronouncer will be pronouncing the words according to the diacritical markings in the official dictionary.

The three official dictionaries will serve as the final authority for word spelling and pronunciation.

Some words may not appear directly in the dictionary (plurals, possessives, etc.).

Accepted rules for these words will apply.

IMPORTANT: Please note that due to the ‘live’ nature of the competition at the Semi-final and the Grand Final, only words found in these three official reference dictionaries and their respective online versions will be accepted by the judges.

D) Special Needs

The organising committee will strive to accommodate spellers with special physical needs involving sight, hearing, speech, or physical movement. The organising committee has the discretionary power to amend spelling requirements on a case-by-case basis for spellers with special diagnosed medical conditions involving sight, hearing, speech, or movement if these are made known to them at least two weeks before the event.

E) Conduct Code

Each participating school is responsible for providing adequate supervision for their pupils at all times during the competition. Participants and their supporters will be held to the code of conduct described here at all times while at the competition. Failure to adhere to the code of conduct may result in immediate disqualification, including loss of winner status and forfeiture of prizes, and expulsion from the venue for the remainder of the competition.

Participants and their supporters must demonstrate sportsmanship by being friendly, polite and respectful to spectators, competition officials and other participants at all times. This applies to the duration of both the competition and the awards ceremony.

Participants and their supporters should not act in a manner that may distract another participant while the competition is taking place.

There should be no talking among participants or between participants and members of the audience.

The audience is also requested to remain seated throughout the competition in order to avoid distracting the participant.

Flash photography or videography is not allowed throughout the competition in order to avoid distracting the participant.

If a participant receives assistance from anyone in the audience, he/she will be disqualified.

F) Championship Officials

The officials consist of Pronouncer, Judges, Word Referee(s), Timekeeper(s) and Arbitrator(s).

The Pronouncer pronounces the word to be spelled and interacts with the participants. The Pronouncer will also be the one who will announce whether the participant has spelled the word correctly after conferring with the judges.

The Judges will listen as the contestant spells and determine whether the words are spelled correctly or not.

The Word Referee tracks the sequence of letters spelt and checks that the participant has not changed the sequence of letters when he/she stops spelling and starts over.

The Timekeeper ensures that the participant spells the word within the time limit.

The Arbitrator resolves questions or conflicts regarding rules or procedures raised by the teachers-in-charge.

The officials uphold the rules of the competition and have the authority to disqualify any participant from the competition should the rules of the competition not be met. A participant will be disqualified if he/she refuses to start spelling upon the Pronouncer’s request after the time limit has lapsed; does not approach the microphone when it is time to receive a word; displays unsportsmanlike behaviour; alters the letters or sequence of letters which are different from those he/she first uttered; utters unintelligible sounds in the process of spelling.

All officials share the responsibility for making decisions. Their decision is final in all the rounds of the competition.


Spelling Procedure

1. The Pronouncer will pronounce the word and read out a sentence that shows how the word is used in context before asking the participant to spell it. The participant must:

Speak clearly and loudly throughout the competition

Pronounce the word before spelling

The participant must pronounce the word and wait for confirmation from Pronouncer that he has pronounced the word correctly. This is to ensure that the participant has heard the correct word.

The participant is given up to three attempts to pronounce the word correctly, after which the Pronouncer will ask the participant to spell the word. Note that the timekeeper will start keeping time once the Pronouncer has informed the participant to spell. If the participant has difficulty pronouncing the word correctly, the timing will start after the third/final try at pronunciation by the participant.

Spell the word orally

Once the Pronouncer has informed the participant that he/she has pronounced the word correctly, the participant must spell the word orally. The participant must look at the Pronouncer when spelling the word.

Pronounce the word again after the word is spelled.

Participants need to say the word once after they have spelt it so as to inform the judges that they have completed their spelling of the word.

2. If the participant needs more information about the word in order to determine its spelling, he/she may request any of the following before spelling:

• Definition of the word

• Part of Speech

• Language of origin

• Root word

• Alternative pronunciation (if there is any)

NB: The time taken to ask and receive the answers to any of these questions is done within the 60 sec allocation for spelling the word.

3. The participant may ask for any pronunciation, meaning, or sentence to be repeated for clarification before spelling. If a participant takes undue advantage of this rule, he/she will be advised by the Pronouncer.

4. Having started to spell a word, a participant may stop and start over, retracing the spelling from the beginning. However, in the retracing, there can be no change of letters and their sequence from those first pronounced. If any letters and/or their sequence are changed in the respelling, the participant will be disqualified.

5. The participant will be informed if he has spelt the word correctly by the Pronouncer after the Pronouncer has conferred with the Judges. The officials' decision is final in determining the correctness of the spelling.


The participant has 1 minute to complete spelling the word. The timekeeper will start keeping time immediately after the pronouncer has informed the participant that he/she has pronounced the word correctly and asked the participant to spell the word (that is, after point 1b in the previous section).

Elimination Procedure


When a participant misspells a word, he is eliminated from the competition and will leave the stage to join the competitors’ seating area. The next word is given to the next participant.

Special circumstances

The elimination procedure changes when there are only two contestants left on the stage. These rules then apply:

To be declared champion, a contestant must be able to spell a new word as well as the word that his opponent was unable to spell.

If the first contestant (according to order determined before the start of the competition) misspells his word, the second contestant must spell that word and the next word on the list correctly in order to be declared the champion.

If the first contestant has spelled his word correctly and the second contestant misspells his word, the same word is given to the first contestant. If the first contestant succeeds in spelling the word, then he shall be declared the champion.

If there are only three contestants left on stage and the first two misspell the words given to them while the third contestant successfully spells his word, the third contestant will be declared the champion.

The other two will then proceed to an oral face-off round to determine second and third place.

For this round, contestants will only be given the word, the sentence with the word in context and the definition of the word. Contestants can only ask for the word to be repeated twice (up to a maximum of two times) i.e. they can hear the word a total of 3 times. They cannot ask any other questions.

Each of these two contestants will be given new words to spell orally until one of them misspells his word while the other contestant spells his own word correctly. The contestant who spells correctly will be declared the first runner-up while the other contestant will be the second runner-up. In the event that both contestants misspell their new words, the face-off round will continue with both contestants receiving new words to spell.

If two contestants are vying for third place, similar rules and gameplay apply.

If there are more than two contestants vying for second or third place, the contestants will proceed to a written face-off round. For this round, contestants will only be given the word, the sentence with the word in context and the definition of the word. Contestants can only ask for the word to be repeated twice (up to a maximum of two times) i.e. they can hear the word a total of 3 times. They must then spell. They cannot ask any other questions.

The contestants in these written face-off rounds will all have to write out the given word at the same time on the given writing pad. A contestant who misspells the given word will be eliminated while the others move on to the next round. This will continue until the second or third placing can be determined.



During the competition, it is the responsibility of the teacher-in-charge (as indicated in the nomination form) to raise a protest against any perceived discrepancy. The question should be referred to event officials who will communicate it directly to the Arbitrator(s). Please do not approach the Officials' Table directly.

Pupils may also raise their hands on stage or communicate their protests off-stage to event officials, who will refer the protests to the Arbitrator(s). They should not approach the Officials' Table directly.

All protests should be lodged before the participant's supposed next turn so they can be reinstated if their protest is valid.

The officials will have access to the word list, the official dictionaries, the rules of the competition and the Judges’ record sheet. If the challenge cannot be resolved from one of the above resources, the Pronouncer will call for a brief time-out to confer with the other officials. The officials’ decision shall be final.

Special circumstance (Protests)

The procedure changes when only two contestants are left. 

When only two spellers remain, a protest must be made immediately.

This means that the protest must be made before the second speller has started to spell the word given to him.

The officials will have access to the word list, the official dictionaries, the rules of the competition and the Judges’ record sheet. If the challenge cannot be resolved from one of the above resources, the Pronouncer will call for a brief time-out to confer with the other officials. The officials’ decision shall be final.


An example of a word read out to a participant during the Semi-Final or Grand Final rounds of the National Spelling Championship.

Pronouncer: Spell ‘octogenarian’.

The octogenarian just celebrated his 88th birthday with his family last evening.

Spell ‘octogenarian’.

Participant: Ohk – Toh – Gee – Nah – Rean

Pronouncer: That is correct. Spell ‘octogenarian’.

The timekeeper starts timing. (60 secs)

Participant: What’s the language of origin?*

Pronouncer: Latin

Participant: Is there any root word?*

Pronouncer: The root word is ‘octo’.

Participant: Can I have the definition of the word? *

Pronouncer: ‘octogenarian’ refers to a person between 80 and 89 years old.

Participant: What is the part of speech?*

Pronouncer: It is a noun.

Participant: Is there an alternative pronunciation?*

Pronouncer: Yes, the alternative pronunciation is _____________. You have used all your questions. Please spell ‘octogenarian’.

Participant: (after 5 seconds)

o-c-t-o-g-e-n-a-r-i-a-n, octogenarian

Judges indicate to pronouncer that the spelling of the word is correct.

Pronouncer: That is correct!

* Participants are NOT required to ask questions. They may choose to proceed to spell.

 Questions may also be asked in any order.