How to Prepare for the Oral Recitation Round

October 5, 2022

“Oral Recitation Round.” Do those words fill you with excitement and anticipation or a sense of impending doom? Whether you’re a veteran of the National Bible Bee Competition (NBBC) or a first time qualifier, the Oral Recitation Round of the competition can be intimidating. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for it can make it seem much less daunting, so here’s what I wish I’d known before my first Oral Recitation Round. 

What to expect during the Oral Recitation Round: 

You (the contestant) will be dropped off at the designated meeting area, where NBBC staff and Division Guides will direct you to your assigned judging room and line you up in preparation for the Oral Recitation Round. After meeting your judges and reviewing the rules, you will be directed to the staging area directly outside your judging room. One at a time, you will be called in and your judge will confirm your name, age division, and Bible version, and then you will be asked to recite 12 of your Memory Passages in 8 minutes. The judges will give you a reference verbally along with holding up a card with the reference on it, and once you finish that passage you will be given the next reference. The timer will be visible throughout your recitation unless you request otherwise. You will be scored live by one of your judges, but your recitation will also be recorded and reviewed by review judges (note that your final score will not be released until after the NBBC). Once your recitation is finished, you will be asked to take a seat with your family (in the audience of the judging room) until the round is over. After the recitation round ends, you will be dismissed until the Semi Finalist announcement – during this time, please do not discuss your Oral Recitation Round with other contestants until after all the rounds have ended. Once the Oral Recitation Rounds are complete and the Semi-finalists are announced, you are free to discuss the round with other contestants and enjoy the rest of the competition. 

For more details about the schedule and format of the Oral Recitation Round, please read pages 8-10 of the NBBC Family Handbook.

To review all the rules and scoring guidelines, please read pages 14-18 of the NBBC Rulebook.

How to prepare for the Oral Recitation Round: 

  1. Memorize your Memory Passages 

The best way to prepare for the Oral Recitation Round is to memorize your memory passages.* This sounds extremely obvious, but it’s important to know what “memorized” means. Reading over your memory passages two or three times probably isn’t going to cement them in your memory. Being able to stumble through a passage with many prompts is a stage in the memorizing process, but it isn’t the final step. Even reciting it perfectly once isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to recite it perfectly from that point on. If you can consistently and confidently recite the entire passage with minimal or no mistakes or prompts, you will be much better prepared for the Oral Round (please see the NBBC Rulebook to clarify what counts as a mistake). 

*You can find a checklist of all your memory passages on your dashboard to keep track of which passages you have memorized. 

  1. Practice reciting for others

One of the more intimidating aspects of the Oral Recitation Round is that you’ll be reciting for a judge you probably haven’t recited to before, in front of a small audience of people. To help prepare for this, practice by reciting to people you don’t normally recite to, whether that’s a parent or grandparent, a sibling, a relative, a friend, another contestant, someone from your church, or anyone else who is willing to listen to you recite. No matter who you’re reciting to, it’s helpful if they have a way to check your recitation so that they can correct any mistakes you make. Another great way to practice is to recite in front of a small audience, whether that’s your family, a group of friends, or your Sunday school group at church. If you can become comfortable reciting to others, you will find the round at the NBBC less stressful.

  1. Practice reciting with a timer

Another aspect of the Oral Recitation Round that can be unnerving but important to get used to is the timed format, especially with the visible timer. Learning how to pace yourself while reciting can be challenging, even without watching the timer tick away in front of you. To familiarize yourself with this, pick 12 of your shortest passages and recite them while timing yourself with a visible timer. Once you’re comfortable pacing yourself on the short passages, choose a few slightly longer ones. Practice with different passages until you get used to reciting while being timed. However, if you find a visual timer too distracting during the Oral Recitation Round, you can ask your judge to hide the timer.

  1. Practice reciting in unfamiliar situations 

If you always recite in the same place in the same way, it’s easy to recite on “autopilot” without thinking about what you’re saying; unfortunately, you’re much more likely to make mistakes on autopilot without realizing it. To counteract this, practice reciting in different situations and staying focused on what you’re reciting, even when there are distractions around you. Switch up what you normally do, whether that’s standing instead of sitting, being outside instead of inside, reciting while you do something else, reciting with background noise (like conversations), using accents, funny voices, dramatic emphasis, or whatever else is unfamiliar. An additional benefit of this is that it serves as review of your passages, helping you learn them better.

  1. Practice reciting clearly

Whenever you recite, make sure you enunciate your words clearly and speak at a reasonable pace and volume so you’re easy to understand (this is why it’s helpful to recite to different people, because what one person finds easy to understand might be challenging for someone else to follow). This is important to practice beforehand because nerves often make people speak faster than normal, and you’ll want the judges to be able to hear and understand every word. 

It’s easy to focus so much on being able to recite every passage perfectly that you lose sight of the reason you do this, so just remember that the outcome of the Oral Recitation Round cannot influence the one thing that matters more than how many verses you have memorized, or how many mistakes you make, or what your final score is: Christ. Whether you have a perfect score or a score of zero, the Lord is glorified by the proclaiming of His Word, and He has promised that it will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Amid all the nerves of the competition and the desire to do well, take time to thank God for His Word, and the opportunity you have to glorify Him by proclaiming it to others, even if you never have the chance to recite on stage in front of thousands of people. 

Written by NBB Alumna: Janese Hurst

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