Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

The 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee promises to be more difficult than any of the 89 bees that preceded it.

The bee got underway Tuesday morning when 291 well-read elementary and middle-school students gathered at a convention center outside Washington to take a written test. The nerve-racking exam goes a long way toward determining who will be among the 50 or so spellers to advance past Wednesday’s preliminary rounds.

Last year, the bee extended the final rounds and made the championship words tougher in an attempt to avoid a third straight tie. But two spellers still ended up sharing the title. This year, the top spellers will take another written test that will be used as a tiebreaker if necessary. (AP)

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Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Maggie Sheridan, 13, from Mansfield, Ohio, ponders her word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Erin Howard, 12, from Huntsville, Ala., reacts after spelling her word correctly during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Alex Iyer, 14, from San Antonio, Texas ponders spelling his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Sreeniketh Vogoti, 14, from Saint Johns, Fla., right, celebrates with his fellow spellers after spelling his word correctly during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Varad Mulay, 13, of Novi, Mich., listens to competition with other finalists in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, June 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Samhita Kumar, 11, of Gold River, Calif., is surprised to hear that she spelled her word correctly during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, June 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Maggie Sheridan, 13, of Mansfield, Ohio, reacts in disbelief on hearing that she spelled her word correctly with one second to spare during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, June 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Alex Iyer, 14, from San Antonio, Texas, reacts after spelling his word correctly during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Will Lourcey, 14, of Fort Worth, Texas, contemplates a word during the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., May 31, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Joel Miles, 14, from Greenwood, Mo., reacts after spelling his word correctly in the third round of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Sheridan Hennessy, 11, from Cincinnati, Ohio, correctly spells her word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Grant Taylor, 14, of Lubbock, Texas, reacts after spelling his word correctly in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Aiden Jeffrey Arnett (C) of Morgantown, West Virginia, waits on stage during round two of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center May 31, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland. Close to 300 spellers are competing in the annual spelling contest for the top honor this year. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Tanay Nandan, 10, from Short Hills, N.J., thinks about his word in the third round of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. Nandan spelled his word correctly. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Mandy Granz, 12, from Imlay City, Mich. reacts after correctly spelling her word in the third round of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Joel Miles, 14, of Greenwood, Missouri, spells a word during the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., May 31, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Sheridan Hennessy, 11, of Cincinnati, Ohio, contemplates a word during the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., May 31, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Ben Lenger of Niwot, Colorado, yawns as he waits on stage during round two of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center May 31, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland. Close to 300 spellers are competing in the annual spelling contest for the top honor this year. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Will Lourcey of Fort Worth, Texas, correctly spells his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Haven Griggs of Lawndale, N.C., misspells her word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Sreeniketh Vogoti, 14, of Saint Johns, Fla., left, thinks about how to spell his word, as Rebekah Zeigler, 12, of Polo, Ill., waits her turn, during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Daniel Larsen, 13, of Bloomington, Indiana, struggles with a word during the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., May 31, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Casper Smith, 13, from Clayton, N.C., celebrates after correctly spelling his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Ryan Crawford, 12, from South Boston, Va., correctly spells his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Will Rooke, 13, from Deephaven, Minn., jumps off the stage after the second round of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Akshansh Ajay Kumar, 11, from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, ponders his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Ishaan Akula of Morganville, N.J., reacts after spelling his word incorrectly during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Edith Fuller, 6, from Tulsa, Okla., waits to spell her word in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Kodai Speich, 13, of Rockford, Ill., competes during the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, May 31, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

David Firestone from Palm City, Fla., reacts after misspelling his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Brandon Anderson of Mount Vernon, N.Y., misspells his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Arin Bhandari, 12 of West Haven, Conn., correctly spells his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Parents take pictures of their children who are participating onstage in round two of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on May 31, 2017. Close to 300 spellers are competing in the annual spelling contest for the top honor this year. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Jack Miller, 13 of Abilene, Texas, correctly spells his word during the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Minh Nguyen of Gilberts, Ill., reacts as he tries to spell his word during round two of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Edith Fuller, 6, of Tulsa, Okla., right, the the youngest speller in history in the national spelling bee, sits next to Lucinda Storz, 14, of Lyndonville, Vt., as they wait to compete in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Michael Goss of Crowley, La., tries to spell his word during round two of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

David Scot Firestone of Palm City, Fla., reacts after he misspelled his word during round two of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Julian Joseph Connaughton of Shohola, Pa., spells his word during round two of 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Faces of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Avril Regis, 14, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, stifles a yawn during the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., May 31, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)