Record 1,654 primary school children take part in The Big Spell 2015

SINGAPORE - A record 1,654 primary 4 to 6 pupils took part in the preliminary round of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship on Saturday.

Among the tough words they had to spell were the words "follicle", "abseil" and "extraterrestrial".

Participants from 118 primary schools took part in the qualifying round, in which 50 words were read out.

The fourth edition of The Big Spell is organised by RHB Banking Group (RHB) and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It is supported by Institute of Technical Education College Central and the National Library Board. Sports Hub Library and Suntec Singapore are venue partners.

Valerie Chong, 10, a primary 4 pupil from Casuarina Primary School, said her technique was to study all night "and go to sleep hugging the dictionary".

"It doesn't matter if I get in or not, I'm just here to try for the experience," said Maris Stella High School (Primary) student Xavier Chua, 10.

Once the test was over, the scripts were collected and sealed in a box. The papers will be graded over the next few days and participants will be ranked according to the North, South, East and West zones in which their schools are located.

About 80 of them will enter the zonal round on March 28, and the finals will take place on April 25.

Singapore's champion pupil speller will win $5,000 and a trophy, while his or her school will also get to keep a challenge trophy. The first runner-up wins $3,000 and the second runner-up will get $1,000.

Ms Norazzah Sulaiman, Head of Group Governance & Corporate Services and Group Chief Governance Officer of RHB, said: "The preparations that the participants put themselves through is certainly impressive! I have been told of the extra hours of spelling practice, the avid reading of books of all types of genres, and the search for tricky and difficult words online, in the quest to ready themselves for the Championship."

Ms Serene Goh, editor of The Straits Times Schools programme, said: "This year's turnout is especially meaningful to all of us because we know how packed the school calendar is. It speaks to such a commitment to this competition - among teachers, parents and pupils - and everyone's desire to bring their best to the game."

In the lead-up to the spelling quest and to prime participating pupils, more than 100 teachers joined a workshop at SPH News Centre, where they picked up classroom strategies and ideas to make spelling more exciting. They also learnt tips on better pronunciation from principal master teacher and English Language Institute of Singapore programme director for pedagogy, Dr Ang-Tay May Yin.

Little Red Dot, The Straits Times' weekly school magazine for primary school pupils, will be covering the blow-by-blow excitement of the National Spelling Championship as it unfolds, and providing spelling tips and stories about the origins of various words.

The Straits Times' multimedia news portal SPH Razor will also showcase video clips of the preliminary round, the zonal rounds and the grand final, as well as a series of videos of spelling tips. Kiss92 FM will also air capsules featuring words of the week, on-air spelling competitions, among other things, while its deejays will also visit schools to promote good spelling.

To follow the NSC, go to