Vocabulary test takes away some National Spelling Bee drama

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.