It’s really important to understand the rules in any of the disciplines. But even more so, when you’re doing Random Words. You have 20 words per column, five columns per page, and if you make one memorization mistake, that’s half the column. If you make two memorization mistakes, that’s zero. Any spelling mistakes, count to zero points for that word but don’t cancel out other words within the column. 

I’ll give you an example of two competitors. Let’s call them Competitor A and Competitor B. They’ve both done four columns and 12 words on their fifth column. In the last column, you get one point for every word you get correct so they can still score points. The only thing is that in their penultimate column, their fourth column, they both left two gaps at the bottom. Competitor A writes all the words memorised through to his 12 words on his last column. He gets a total of 12 points in his last two columns. Because he got zero for the column with two gaps at the bottom. Whereas competitive B, who understands the rules, crosses out his 12 words in the final column and declares his last column as the one with 18 words. He says he finished at the 18th word so in that case, he gets 18 points with the last two columns. He’s got more points, despite declaring less words. 

Always make sure to understand the rules and declare the option that gives you the highest possible score. If you finish with a compete column, you can write one word in the following column. Because, although it will be wrong, you score half what you’ve attempted, which gives you plus a half, rounded up to one point. You get an extra point, for just any random word you write on your final column, as long as the previous ones are complete and no gaps in those. 

There are other things that you can do in terms of knowing the rules, just to help you check what you’ve recalled. The makeup of the words are 80% concrete nouns, 10% verbs as they are found in the dictionary, in their infinitive form, and 10% abstract nouns. 

Because the verbs are exactly as they’re found in the dictionary, you can be sure that, for example, if you write “walking” down it’s going to be wrong, whereas “walk”- the infinitive – would be correct. Also, as in the dictionary, there don’t tend to be abbreviations. Things like telephone rather than phone, refrigerator, rather than fridge will be the words that will be used. We also try to avoid any words that have an American English vs British English different spelling. If in doubt, always use the British English equivalent. We try to avoid these but there may be some instances where it can get through. Of course, we won’t use words that only exist in America like “sidewalk” or “popsicle”. In these things we’ll use the English equivalent of a “pavement” and an “Ice-lolly”, that sort of thing. Note no plurals because of course, plurals aren’t in the dictionary generally. This is unless it has to be a plural like “trousers”, “scissors”, “pliers”. These are things that you can only have a plural. We won’t use for example “singers” that would be “singer”.    

There’s a thing called the “MouSe Rule”, which relates to instances where you’ve got both a spelling mistake and a memorization mistake. In the word mouse – ‘M’ comes before ‘S’. This reminds us that, when we’re marking, we first consider the memorization mistake, and then apply any spelling mistakes after that. It means that we’re not going to be discounting spelling mistakes by rounding up. If you’ve got one mistake in a column, that scores 10 and then one spelling mistake will give you nine. Obviously, you can have more than one spelling mistake, whereas two memorisation mistakes gives you zero.

The thing with spelling mistakes is be careful that they don’t make another word. If a spelling mistake like “dairy” is written as “diary”, that’s a different word. Therefore, it’s counted as a memorization mistake, even though it might be just a slip of the pen writing it down. So always check very carefully, that the words you’ve written, are correctly spelled because you could lose a lot of points by just careless mistakes, such as that. 

There are lots of things you can do in Random Words. Just check to be sure that your recall is accurate before you submit the paper. Also, of course, check that you’re making best use of the rules, so you’re not throwing away points by losing columns that you could otherwise have gained, just by declaring when you finish. It’s always a great shame when we see competitors who memorise quite a lot, but they’ve just made sufficient mistakes to score very low or zero in the discipline just because they didn’t understand the way in which it would be marked. 

Hopefully that’s been useful and of interest. 

Next week, next discipline. 

Thanks for listening. Bye for now. 

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