Wearing a headset, S. Priyadarshini a Class XII student, strains her ears to recognise the word she hears, and asks for its meaning. “An official policy of racial segregation formerly practised in the Republic of South Africa,” says the tutor, and Priyadarshini responds ‘a-p-a-r-t-h-e-i-d' immediately.

“I initially thought I heard ‘a party' and not apartheid. Sometimes the British accent is difficult to decipher,” says Priyadarshini who was among the participants at the State-level finals of the MaRRS International Spelling Bee 2010-11. Students from Class I to XII were divided into six categories for the competition.

Every student had a different technique to remember spellings, but what connects them all is their love for words. Class II student Sneha Hariharan has a personal-dictionary in which she jots down any new word she comes across. “Yesterday I heard my grandfather mention ‘famine' to someone that I have it written down,” she says. And Mithali Chordia from Chettinad Vidyashram, who came second in the International level last year, uses a mobile-application which keeps her updated with “weird new words”.

Students went through rounds of oral and written tests. The oral rounds were held in the State-level and the preliminary written tests for short-listing students for the national-levels were also conducted.

In ‘spell-it' one of the oral rounds, students were tested on spellings following which they were presented with words in the phonetic form. They had to identify, give the meaning and spell of the words.

The written round had questions on jumbled letters, word application and picture crosswords.

“We give students and their parents an orientation to the various techniques to remember spellings. Using flash cards, visual thinking methods and mnemonics are interesting ways to remember words. These can be applied not just to learn spellings but other subjects too,” says D. Manivannan, Proprietor, Septcon Ventures that organised the event on behalf of MaRRS Intellectual Services.