Last minute studying . . . Kavanagh College pupils (from left) Tobias Devereux (13), Mitchell Stewart (13), Riley Mortimer (13) and Rosa Latton (14) prepare for the South Island spelling bee semi-finals, held on Tuesday. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

Reading a wide range of books and practising whenever they can has helped four Kavanagh College pupils prepare for a spelling bee.

Year 9 pupils Riley Mortimer, Tobias Devereux, Mitchell Stewart and year 10 pupil Rosa Latton were among the 13 secondary school pupils to compete in the lower South Island semifinal of the New Zealand Spelling Bee at Otago Museum on Tuesday.

When The Star caught up with the pupils on Monday, they were nervous but excited about the spelling bee.

They had all spent time during the school holidays getting their spelling up to scratch and had different ways of doing so.

Rosa said she found it helpful to have her friends test her “every now and again” and would break up a word to make it easier to spell.

Tobias said he had been taking tests online.

“If you do it three times it just kind of sticks in your head,” he said.

Riley practised spelling words from a set list and random words from the dictionary to make sure he was at the top of his game.

“If I got it wrong, I would repeat it,” he said.

Mitchell credited reading a lot of books for becoming a good speller.

In order to qualify for the semifinals, the pupils did a test at school and had to correctly spell 71 out of 100 words.

Half of the words were from a list they had been given to study and the other half were random words from the dictionary.

They all agreed the word that left them guessing was “gallimaufry”, which means a confused jumble or medley of things.

Mitchell and Wakatipu High School year 10 pupil Om Alva are the two lower South Island finalists who will compete in the New Zealand Spelling Bee in October.

Event organiser Janet Lucas said the pair “battled their way through 10 gruelling rounds until they were the last two remaining and both correctly spelled their words”.