< roolz > n. - written guide for conduct or action

Our goal is promote best practices for fairness in conducting a first-class online spelling bee. As we are leading the way in mostly uncharted waters, the rules below are subject to change and a date will be provided when updates are made.

RULES FOR 2020 ONLINE SPELLING BEE - Updated 7/25/2020


  1. The speller may not have been in any higher level grade than the 8th grade as of the completion of the 2019-2020 school year.
  2. The speller must not have reached the age of 15 on or before August 31, 2020.
  3. The speller may not be a relative or an employee of Hexco Academic or any active participant in the Kaplan-Hexco Online Spelling Bee who is privy to confidential lists or information.
  4. The speller may not have won the National Spelling Bee.*
  5. The speller, or speller’s sponsor, must pay the $125 entrance fee. Once capacity is reached, registration will be closed.
  6. Spellers must have access to a computer with a working webcam and microphone. Spellers will be required to install Zoom.


Cash prizes will be awarded to those placing in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The minimum prize amounts will be:

  • Champion - 1st Place: $10,000
  • 1st Runner-Up - 2nd Place: $4,000
  • 2nd Runner-Up - 3rd Place: $1,500

Additionally, Kaplan will provide the three winners with free access to Kaplan's pre-college programs (PSAT, SAT and/or ACT prep). A massive 26" trophy will go to the winner and the top 50 will be awarded medals. All spellers will receive participation awards.


Registration is open until July 19, 2020 or until capacity is reached. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis for all interested participants who had not completed 8th grade by July 1, 2020.


The word list will be generated by Hexco Academic and will remain confidential at all stages of the bee and shared only with the Pronouncers for their study prior to the Bee. All words will be taken from the Online Merriam Webster’s Unabridged dictionary, This is the official source of all words given in the Kaplan and Hexco Online Spelling Bee.


Written Test - This consists of two tests (Preliminary and Tiebreaker) that will be taken at an assigned time prior to the Bee, and both tests must be completed in a 60-minute time slot each so please allow at least two hours total for the written rounds. The written test is timed and spellers will get 15 seconds to spell after each word (after the word info is given the 2nd time, there will be 15 seconds), then the next word will appear. The spelling section requires a correct spelling, and we ignore capitalization, spaces or hyphens between words, and accents. The vocabulary portion of the test is multiple-choice, and the speller simply enters the letter of their selection.

  • Preliminary Test - This consists of 25 spelling words plus 25 multiple-choice vocabulary questions and answers will be entered from speller’s keyboard. Each correct answer will be worth one point for the speller’s score.
      • Ten of the words on the spelling portion and ten on the vocabulary portion will cover words from the Bee Study List.
      • All remaining words will be selected prior to the Bee and will be in a Pronouncers’ Guide that pronouncers and judges will use to conduct the Bee.
  • Tiebreaker Test - This will be 25 very difficult spelling words and 25 multiple-choice questions on the difficult words from the dictionary. There will be no words from the Bee Study List. (See End of Bee Procedure.)
Oral Rounds 1-2 - These will happen at an assigned time slot with 25 to 50 spellers online at the same time concurrently. These are both on the miss-and-out rounds.

For Oral Rounds 2 and onward, spellers may ask for all or any of the following: (1) a repeat of the pronunciation; (2) alternate pronunciations; (3) part(s) of speech; (4) definition; (5) etymology; and/or (6) a sentence. Root questions will be entertained only for Oral Round 2 and thereafter because a study list is provided for Oral Round 1 words.

  1. Each speller will use his/her webcam to show the entire room including closed doors and spellers’ ears.
  2. Speller’s computer will be on a table with speller facing the wall.
  3. Speller will have his/her face and hands visible the entire time he or she is spelling.
  4. Oral Round 1 word will be given from the Study List provided. If this word is missed, speller is out of the competition.
  5. If spelling for Oral Round 1 word is correct, speller will immediately be given an Oral Round 2 word.
  6. If speller’s Oral Round 2 word is correct, that speller is eligible to advance to the final rounds, depending on placement determined by the Preliminary Test.
  7. During these two oral rounds, spellers may request any of the following: alternate pronunciations, part of speech, definition, etymology and a sentence. Spellers may request for the word to be repeated.
  8. Root questions will be limited to data given in the Bee Study List for all Oral Round 1 words.
  9. After Oral Round 1, any root questions will be entertained based on the word entry in the Unabridged Online Merriam-Webster, but the speller must provide the language of origin, root/combining form, and meaning for root questions to be answered.
  10. All oral rounds will be timed. The speller will have two minutes with one minute 30 seconds to gather information, and 30 seconds to finish spelling.

Advancing to Final Oral Rounds (3 and higher) - Upon completion of Oral Rounds 1 and 2, all spellers who are still in the competition will have their scores from the Preliminary Test used to determine who advance.

  •  All spellers’ scores from the Preliminary Written Test will be ranked from high to low, and spellers will advance at each consecutive scoring level until a level is reached that is no more than 50 spellers.
  • These top spellers will continue on to the final rounds, and all spellers not placing in this group of spellers will be eliminated from the remainder of the Spelling Bee.
  • Oral Rounds 3 and onward will be on a miss-and-out basis.
  • If all spellers in any round miss their word, all are reinstated.


The Champion must spell two more words correctly than the runner(s)-up.

  • No matter how many contestants are in the round when only one speller correctly fields his or her word, the lead speller must spell one additional word to win.
  • If the lead speller misses this deciding word, all spellers in the previous round are reinstated in original order.
  • We will make every effort to avoid a tie for champion, but if this does occur, the Tiebreaker Written Test will be used to break the tie. 
      • If the tie cannot be broken and if two tie for Champion, the prize money for the first two places will be combined and split equally.
      • If the tie cannot be broken with three or more spellers tying for Champion, the prize money for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will be combined and divided evenly.
  • If a Champion has been declared, and there is a tie for 2nd place, the Tiebreaker Written Test will be used to break the tie.
      • If a 2nd place tie cannot be broken, the spellers tying will be called back after the Champion is declared to participate in a Bee Off to determine placement.
      • If the tie still cannot be broken, the monies for the 2nd and 3rd places will be combined and split evenly between the spellers tying.
  • If there is a 1st place winner and a 2nd place winner, and there is a tie for 3rd place, the Tiebreaker Written Test will be used to break the tie.
      • If the 3rd place tie cannot be broken, the spellers tying will be called back after the Champion is declared to participate in a Bee Off to determine placement.
      • If the tie still cannot be broken, the prize money for 3rd place will be split evenly.


Due to the online nature of the bee, various security requirements will be in place throughout the competition. The written test and oral rounds will be monitored at all times and spellers must follow the following protocols or they will be eliminated from the competition and forfeit all entrance fees and prizes. If at any time, a speller does not abide by the following rules, he or she may be disqualified from the competition.

  •  Written/Computerized Test protocols
      • Spellers must use a webcam to pan the room at the start of the written/computer-assisted test.
      • The speller must take the test in an isolated room with no others present.
      • Doors to the room must remain closed until the written test is completed. (NOTE: If there are no doors in the room, the use of a sheet or curtain can be used to cover room openings. We retain the right to make accommodations as needed.)
      • A speller may not leave the room at any time during the written test.
      • All spellers screens must be shared with those monitoring the test for the duration of the test.
      • If at any time another browser is opened, another person is determined to be present, or the integrity of the test is determined to have been compromised by any break in protocol, the speller will be eliminated from the contest.
  • Oral Round protocols
      • Spellers must be in a room alone using a computer that is on a table with a wall as a backdrop.
      • Oral Rounds will be held on Zoom, recorded, and/or streamed online.
      • At the start of his/her spelling, each speller will be asked to use his/her webcam to show all parts of the room, including all doors which are required to be closed.
      • Spellers may not access outside help or resources at any time during the competition. This includes people, devices, word lists, books, an additional computer monitor, earbuds, or software of any kind.
      • At any time while a speller is online spelling, he or she may be asked again to pan their environment with the computer’s webcam.
      • At all times a speller is fielding and spelling a word, he or she must be visible for the judges to watch remotely, and his/her hands must also be kept visible. Sound may not be turned off at any time while a speller is spelling their word.
      • A speller may not use a computer, written material, or get outside help at any time.
      • At any time a speller is connected to the online bee, test monitors may ask that he/she share their computer screen.
      • If at any time another browser is opened, an additional person is determined to be present, or the integrity of the test is determined to have been compromised by any break in protocol, the speller will be eliminated from the contest.
      • If there is a failure in the speller’s Internet connection after a speller has been given a word to spell or during their attempt to spell, it is automatically declared a missed word and the speller may not continue. 


The pronouncers for all rounds will be independently contracted by Hexco Academic. The pronouncers will alternate pronouncing by round. The lead pronouncer in a round will give all available word information requested by the speller for the round.


If a judge feels that the pronunciation of a word is incorrect, they may request that the pronouncer corrects his pronunciation. The judges’ decisions are final. 

Appeals must be made via Zoom chat prior to when the speller would have received his/her next word. If in a late round, the speller must appeal immediately, or the appeal will be automatically denied. Appeals will only be entertained if a speller offered a correct spelling of a given word listed in the official dictionary that exactly matches the pronunciation, definition, and etymology given. Archaic variants are not appealable. Appeals based on a speller’s misunderstanding, mispronunciation, or any other reason other than a correct spelling, will be denied.

All portions of the Hexco Online Spelling Bee will be recorded and potentially live streamed via live-stream technology by Kaplan. The contestant’s parent or guardian consents to allow use of the contestant’s name and likeness, performance, voice and image in any form by Hexco, Inc. and Kaplan for the purpose of promoting and delivering this event. No individual or business entity may use either the Hexco or Kaplan name on their website to sell word lists from this bee. We reserve the right to blur any images of items or individuals in the bee at our own discretion.


A note from Hexco - Keep studying and learning as many words, definitions, and roots as possible to be as prepared as you can for the spelling bee of a lifetime! We intend for this to be challenging and fun for all -- truly an event you don't want to miss!

*Applies to official Scripps spelling bee winners in any year. While other companies have used the term "national" for advertising, to date, there is only one National Spelling Bee.