NSW Premier's Spelling Bee

How to set up and run a spelling bee

This is a guide only for running in-school Spelling Bees, according to the format used at Regional and State Finals. It is recommended but not compulsory for selecting students to represent at regional level.

Organisation before the day

  • Compile competition word lists from the posted lists. These can be tailored to particular curriculum areas or class relevance, but do not present the word lists in alphabetical order. Contact the spelling bee coordinator for a Word version of the PDF lists to make that job much easier.
  • Arrange a suitable venue—your school hall or other large space is ideal. You may wish to invite some other students as an audience.
  • Set up the space with chairs and tables according to the instructions below.
  • Arrange 2 students to help - one as chairperson, one as timekeeper.
  • Provide a stopwatch and bell for the timekeeper.
  • If possible, provide 3 microphones for the contestant, chairperson, and announcer. The Announcer and Chairperson can share if necessary.


The venue should be arranged so the contestants are angled towards the Announcer rather than directly towards the audience. This is to avoid contestants being distracted by audience members and to limit audience members inadvertently prompting the contestants.

Chairs should be arranged in rows and contestants should be seated in spelling order as indicated on the draw. As each student takes their turn, they come up to the microphone to spell. At the end of each round, eliminated students should join the audience, and the remaining contestants move up to take the vacated seats.

We recommend a table and chairs for the chairperson, scorer and timekeeper to sit at during the final. Depending on the shape of your hall, this could be on one side, either on the stage or in front of the audience.


The chairperson’s role during the competition is to announce contestants to the audience each time they spell. It is important to keep track of which contestants have been eliminated and announce only students remaining in the competition. The best way to do this is by using the elimination sheets with space to write each contestant’s name. After each spelling attempt, place a tick or a cross next to each contestant’s name. As contestants are eliminated, a line should be drawn through their name.


The timekeeper times the length of each contestant's spelling attempt. Timing begins once the announcer has finished speaking. A warning bell is rung at 30 seconds, with 2 bells at 45 seconds to indicate that the contestant’s time has expired. If a contestant has not finished spelling the word by the second bell, their answer is judged incorrect.

Announcers and scorers

The announcer’s role is to read the words and the sentences which indicate the meaning of the word. It is important that announcers guard their facial expressions. Announcers should carefully read through the lists of words to be used in each round and follow the pronunciation guides provided. Scorers record the students’ spelling and (with the announcer) determine if a word is correct.

In short, each student is given a different word but of the same difficulty level for each round. Those who misspell are eliminated, and the rest go on to the next round. This continues round by round until one student spells correctly in a round where all others misspell.

Finals procedures

  • All students should begin seated. They should stand up and walk to a common microphone to spell and then return to their seats.
  • There is a demonstration round, in which the first 5 students in each session get a practice word to demonstrate the competition format and procedures. Note: this is not an elimination round. At the State Finals, this practice round is extended to all competitors.
  • Elimination rounds of increasing difficulty follow this.
  • The Announcer reads out each word, followed by a sentence including the word, and then repeats the word.
  • Each contestant must repeat the word to the satisfaction of the Announcer before they spell, spell the word, then say the word again to indicate they have finished spelling.
  • Students have 45 seconds to spell the word. A warning bell is rung at 30 seconds and two bells at 45 seconds to indicate that the contestant’s time has expired. At the second bell, any incomplete spelling is taken as the contestant’s final answer.
  • Contestants may ask the announcer to repeat the word within their 45-second time limit.
  • Students may also self-correct within their time limit if they have not yet clearly finished by stating the word for the second time. To do this, they need to indicate that they are starting again and follow the same procedure: say the word, then spell it from the start, then say it again.
  • Students will not be judged incorrect for failing to indicate that the first letter of a proper noun is capitalised (e.g. Australia).
  • When a student has finished spelling a word, the Announcer states, ‘That is correct’ or ‘That is incorrect'. The correct spelling is …’
  • Students who misspell a word should remain seated on stage until the end of the round. At this point, the Announcer will instigate a round of applause and ask those who have been eliminated to join the audience. This will make it clear how many students are still spelling.
  • For each round of the competition, a new round of words is used, even if there were unused words left over from the previous round. This ensures all students are given a word of an equivalent level.

Determining a winner

  • To win the competition a contestant must spell more words correctly than all the other contestants.
  • In each round, each contestant is given a different word to all the other contestants.
  • A contestant is only eliminated if at least one other contestant in the same round spells a word correctly. If all contestants in a particular round misspell their given words no one is eliminated and the competition continues.
  • If all but one contestant misspells their given word, then the sole correct speller is deemed the winner. In this instance there will need to be a play off for runner-up between the remaining contestants, using the words from the existing round. The runner-up acts as a reserve should your winner be unable to attend a regional final.
  • At Regional Finals there is one junior and one senior winner. These winners compete in the State Final in Sydney in November. The runners-up do not. 

The 2024 NSW Premier’s Spelling Bee is proudly supported by Major Sponsor Grok Academy, Supporters, Primary English Teaching Association AustraliaABC Radio Sydney and ACCO Brands Australia, and Word List Partner Macquarie Dictionary