Where Have All the Spelling Tests Gone?

In my last blog, I discussed a few strategies to use to maximize vocabulary. Today, I’m going to discuss one of the most common ways to determine our knowledge of vocabulary words: spelling tests.

Spelling tests are synonymous (identified)* with the English subject.   Rather simply, a list of words are given to students to study in preparation for a test or the ‘dictation’, as it was once called, scheduled to take place by the end of the week. As a child, I looked forward to such tests; they afforded me accessible (easy) opportunity to see 100% on my paper with a star, sticker, or other congratulatory remark from my teacher.  Today, we are facing a new culture where the relegation (banishment) of spelling tests is taking place. In fact, some schools have completely dismissed this tool.  According to Mark Pennington of Pennington Publishing, they are an ineffective method for reinforcing correct spelling and improving vocabulary (Pennington, 2011).


In it is my observation that our society has foregone (given up) the need for correct spelling. All too often, I read eBooks riddled (marred) with typos, store signage with a plethora (plenty) of misprints, and even my child’s writing assignments returned without correcting misspelled words. Moreover, to make matters worse, texts submitted through traditional SMS, various apps, or social media postings lavish (present) us with truncated (abbreviated) words more often than I care to mention.  This ever-increasing use of abbreviations to communicate expressions rather than employment of a diverse (varied) vocabulary is getting out of hand. LOL? OMG? SMH? Enough already!


Written language, in all its glory, is a key component (part) in the line of tools used to generate effective, clear and precise communication. J. Richard Gentry Ph.D., author of several books including the only research and technological based spelling textbook available on the market, has conducted research on spelling for over thirty years.  He insists and abides by the necessity (need) for spelling tests, albeit (although) differently. Instead of flatly tossing a list of words to students to study through rote memorization, he suggests to initially observe and assess students individually (because children have multiple intelligences), introduce a pretest, teach a variety of practical (simple) spelling strategies, and conclude with a post-test to determine the rate of success.  (Gentry, 2001)

Pre-order your copy of Vocabulize TODAY!

Pre-order your copy of Vocabulize TODAY!


In my new book, I share how delivering a spelling test is an outstanding way to measure how well one is developing their word bank. However, discarding (trashing) spelling tests is fast becoming a growing trend.  Perhaps, we are not far from a time spelling tests may entirely (totally) becomes a strategy (method) of the past. While that thought saddens me a bit, I recognize it is a means to an end, not an end itself. Therefore, I am in support of multiple ways to afford children and adults every possible opportunity (chance) to succeed at the spelling game.  As Rita Stradling wrote, “The means are inconsequential (unimportant), only the ends matter.”

What are your thoughts?

How helpful you do belive vocabulary tests are/can be for your child?

Does your child’s school even conduct spelling tests?

I’d love to hear from you, so please share your comments.

*Words in italicized parenthesis are synonyms of the preceding (previous) word.


  1. Tabatha

    My kids had spelling tests routinely in elementary school and middle school (they’re in high school now). I think knowing how to spell words correctly is important, so I’m glad they did, but I think they expanded their vocabulary largely by reading rather than the tests. Have you read “Word Nerds”? I think you would appreciate what they have to say about the value of developing a strong vocabulary.

    1. admin (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment and the book suggestion. I agree: spelling tests are just one way to expand vocabulary. Reading and writing are certainly other suggestions.


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