The star of Quizlet’s tech talk this past week was a retired master of her craft—and she’s only twelve years old. On Friday we welcomed Ananya Vinay, the winner of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee, to Quizlet HQ in San Francisco.
The anything-but-ordinary orthographer clinched her victory at the beginning of June with the word marocain, a type of ribbed fabric (language of origin: French). Since then, she’s been busy making media appearances and watching the Golden State Warriors secure a victory of their own in the NBA Finals. We couldn’t contain our excitement when Ananya reached out to us to stop by the office for a visit, especially when she told us that she used Quizlet to prep for the big bee. In fact, she said, after being eliminated from the 2016 bee for a “silly mistake,” (she got tripped up on the word multivalent in the third round), she found out about Quizlet from her fellow competitive spellers and started creating her own sets to help her practice not only spelling but also word definitions and origins.
“It really worked for me, so I started using it more frequently,” she said.
Speaking in front of nearly the entire Quizlet staff, Ananya wowed us with her Quizlet stats. Over the past year, she told us, she created nearly 600 sets that contain a total of more than 130,000 words from the dictionary. That means her account has more terms in it than 99% of Quizlet users!
Ananya said she used a combination of the site’s features—like Flashcards and Learn—to practice. Dividing her sets into 250 words related by origin, she would study each study set for about an hour or so, she said, until she knew it. Impressively, once she spent an hour with a study set, she only needed to review it two or three more times to commit it to memory 100 percent. The super speller spent two to three hours a day during the school year and five hours a day in the summer studying for her shining moment.
“It’s taught me hard work and concentration and focus,” she said.
That’s a lot of working with words. Of all the words she’s studied, her favorite, she said, is spizzerinctum, the “ambition to succeed.” With so much studying pre-bee, Ananya said she knew every word she was presented with, from the first round through the championship round.
Now that Ananya can claim the champion’s title, she’s not allowed to compete in the spelling bee anymore. But her plans don’t stop there. Next stop: back to the bee to open next year’s spell-off. And then on to math and science competitions. It’s clear that Ananya is a student with strong spizzerinctum herself. We were glad to be one stop along her way!