Spelling Tests

Reporter: Clare Brady

When it comes to champions it seems spelling is losing the fight -- in fashion terms its seen as 'last season's green' -- outdated and irrelevant.

"There's a school of thought that spelling is best left in the past, more comfortable on the pages of history and the precision of letters has been overtaken by modern technology", said David Warner, Principal of Eltham College.

David says spelling fits in: "As one of those minor skills that are part of a broader skill of how do people communicate, how do people collaborate, how do they work together and so forth".

But for recruiting chief Heath Brennan -- from the Morgan Consulting Team -- spelling itself can spell success or failure when it comes to landing a dream job.

They have learned to be patient. "It's starting to creep into senior level people as well, so we're often seeing people at MBA level with atrocious spelling mistakes coming through and I put that down to the fact that they're seeing it everyday, therefore not driven themselves enough to maintain their own standards", Heath said.

"I think its important to remember for every job there is potentially 10, 20, 40, 50 people that are equally qualified and it does come down to minor things that can set you apart. As a hiring manager, if you're looking at a lot of resumes, sometimes those things just turn away -- thinking well yes I could put you in the mix but I've go ten other people that can actually spell and perhaps there more qualified", Heath said.

"These young people that you've been talking to half the jobs that they will have in 10,15 years time haven't even been invented so why would we get bogged down with simple narrow focus skilled that belonged to 30 years ago? Spelling is important but only in context of the way in which its going to enhance communication, enhance collaboration and the way in which young people are expected work in this world today", David Warner said.

Those words make education expert Dr Kevin Donnelly, livid. "I'd say spelling is 9 out of ten and very important. If you don't get the basics right in the beginning, then you're in danger of being left behind when it comes to secondary school", Kevin said.

Spelling Tests continued…

So we put the theory to the test with a nationwide state of origin spelling bee.

Under Dr. Donnelly's direction we sourced the words from a 1970's spelling list and got the red pen out for random groups of 13 year old students around the nation.

The pressure was on in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane --

99 students were putting pen to paper -- and the results?

On average, our random class of 2009 scored four out of fifteen words wrong.

So what's the solution? If a uniform system is the key, it may take a little convincing to have such an approach accepted across the board. "To have people shaking in their boots because 30 years ago spelling was more important than it is now, is probably a sad indictment of those people who are forgetting that they're also in this world that's changing, they're also in this world where the labour market has changed enormously", Mr. Warner said.

Younger minds are keen to try anything -- the real competition is the texting genie. Mobile phone and phonetics are now at a crossroad. "I know for a fact that when they tested students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne, the Asian students are better at spelling in English than we are, even though it's their second language", said Dr. Donnelly.

"You know a sloppy attitude in a resume is likely to be represented in a sloppy attitude towards work or commitments in other areas", Heath said.

If you'd like to test your own spelling, here is the list:

  1. accident
  2. bandage
  3. blossom
  4. business
  5. celebrated
  6. colour
  7. disappeared
  8. engineer
  9. favourite
  10. instrument
  11. museum
  12. neighbour
  13. received
  14. scissors
  15. whether (as in "he didn't know whether to have an apple or an orange)