Thorough knowledge of the dictionary is a way to increase a student's ability to find the information that is needed for classwork as well as everyday living. Each Dictionary Skills test consists of 40 objective and short answer questions to be completed in 20 minutes. Contestants use dictionaries during the competition, which may be tabbed. Contest questions cover word origins and histories, parts of speech, pronunciation, variant spellings, plurals, alphabetizing and other such elements. Test questions are also taken from charts, tables and lists contained in the dictionary.
The subject matter of all tests is taken from the Merriam Webster's Intermediate Dictionary. Beginning in 2016-2017, only the 2011 and 2016 versions will be used. Contestants may use other dictionaries in the contest, but the contest subject matter will be found in Webster's Intermediate.