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Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for some help? You've come to the right place. If your question isn't answered below, you can get in touch via the email address 500words@bbc.co.uk

Help For Kids

When will 500 Words return?

500 Words 2019 has now closed - More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon.

What is 500 Words and how do I enter?

500 Words is a story writing competition for children.

You need to be between 5 and 13 years old and a full time resident of the UK.

To enter you need to write an original story that is no more than 500 words long.

Once you've written your story, you can enter it into the competition using the entry form on this website.

When is the competition open?

The exact dates are currently being decided. More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon.

What is the prize for 500 Words?

Prizes for 500 Words are yet to be decided. More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon.

Prizes for 2019 were awarded to the 3 finalists in each age category:

1st Prize – Gold Winners
• Chris Evans' height in books. That’s 1.88 metres!
• 500 books for their school library.
• An invitation to tour the set of a CBBC production.
• A one-of-a-kind illustration of their story, created by an amazing UK illustrator.

2nd Prize – Silver Winners
• HRH's height in books.
• A one-of-a-kind illustration of their story, created by an amazing UK illustrator.

3rd Prize – Bronze Winners
• Their own height in books.
• A one-of-a-kind illustration of their story, created by an amazing UK illustrator.

How are the stories marked?

The first round of judging will be done by volunteer teachers and librarians across the UK.

The second round of judging will be done by trained professionals at The Reading Agency; 50 stories (25 in each age category) will be shortlisted.

The writers of these 50 stories will be the competition’s finalists.

Our final judging panel will convene in May and decide on the 6 winning stories.

These 6 stories are Bronze, Silver and Gold in each age category.

When will you announce the Top 50 stories?

The exact dates are currently being decided. More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon, but usually the Top 50 stories are announced in April/May.

Can I submit more than one story?

You can only enter one story - and it has to be all your own work.

If you enter more than one story then we'll only consider the first submission as part of the competition.

Can I write a story in Welsh/Gaelic?

All stories must be submitted in English.

Can people overseas enter?

While we would love to extend the reach of 500 Words, we already are a HUGE competition - we received over 100,000 entries last year. We're a tiny team (of three) working on this, so you can imagine that we currently don't have capacity to do so!

Can a story be submitted without an adult’s approval?

No - we need an adult to approve the entry and agree to these Terms and Conditions (including the BBC’s use of the story submitted and the fictional nature of the story) on behalf of the entrant, by way of a check-box in the online form.

The adult could be the child’s parent, guardian or teacher.

The adult must provide their own contact details (not the child’s) and the region in which the child lives.

Why do you need personal information?

The personal data provided will be used for the purposes of administering the competition and in accordance with the BBC’s Privacy and Cookies Policy.

The BBC will use the contact details provided by the adult to send general updates as to the progress of the competition by email.

For further information please see the BBC’s Privacy and Cookies Policy

Does the story have to be original?

Your story must be all your own original work - you must not copy someone else's story.

Any entry deemed to be a copy by our judges will be disqualified.

Your story must be an original piece of fiction and not an account of real events – either historical or current.

However, your stories can:

  • feature well known public figures from today or from history (e.g. Wayne Rooney or Charles Darwin)
  • take place in historical eras (e.g. the English Civil War)
  • use real-life experiences as a creative springboard as long as the story is fictional.

Can I write about a character from a book I've read?

Entrants can use fictional or real-life characters, as a creative springboard but we're looking for made up stories, which will be marked for characterisation, as well as originality, plot, language and enjoyment.

Can visually impaired students enter?

We’ve had a great success rate among visually impaired students previously, including a finalist! Should your student win, we will make sure that the prize is appropriate.

Is there a minimum word limit?

Stories can be 500 Words or under. There is no lower limit, however the more you write, the more content our judges have to mark!

Is the title included in the word limit?

The title will not be included in your word count.

Can an adult correct the spelling of a child's story?

You may correct spelling where the meaning of the word might otherwise be misconstrued. However, we ask that none of the words used are changed. Grammar also has to stay the same.

Stories are marked on their creative use of language, not on correct spelling.

May I scribe for my child?

You may scribe for your child, as long as none of the words used are changed.

Stories are marked on their creative use of language, not on correct spelling.

Will I be penalised if I write a story including violence?

We accept that stories of a dark or troubling nature will be submitted to us and while we don’t have any hard and fast rules regarding depictions of violence, we recommend that graphic depictions of extreme violence may be marked down.

What are the criteria for judging the stories?

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • originality
  • plot
  • characterisation
  • language
  • enjoyment.

For more information about the judging process please see the Terms and Conditions.

How did we come about 5-9 and 10-13 as our age categories?

When we decided upon the age categories, we consulted the National Literacy Trust, the children's department at the Hay Festival and BBC Learning - all of whom have extensive experience of competition for children's reading and writing - and all of whom agreed our age categories were appropriate to our aim of promoting literacy in the UK.


In an ideal world with limitless funds, we would run an enormous 500 WORDS competition with lots of age categories that everyone could enter with a good chance of winning. But sadly this is not possible, so we have selected two age categories that we feel can be reasonably compared to each other.

Is the competition appropriate for children with special needs or learning disabilities?

Right from day one, Chris Evans' vision for 500 WORDS was to get children excited about reading and writing. All children, no matter what their ability.

And when considering the parameters for the competition, we consulted with the National Literacy Trust, the children's department at the Hay Festival and BBC Learning, who all have considerable experience of running competitions for children.

The emphasis of 500 WORDS - which we communicate to absolutely all of our judges at every stage - is on originality and creativity. To this end, we would like to think that children with special educational needs could still be selected to progress. Every year we get e-mails confirming that this is the case!

We do also work closely with a multitude of organisations on subjects like dyslexia, learning disabilities and vision impairment and our marketing campaign is weighted towards schools with high pupil premium. We work with about 20,000 schools on this competition, a lot of whom teach the competition in schools. We've had a number of medal winners with learning disabilities, and many among our finalists. Increasing the diversity of our finalists is a constant fight, but we are working very hard on it.

Does my story have to be written in prose?

Any submission will be judged on the same marking criteria. Your story can take any form - be that a poem, play, dialogue etc - but it will be marked on plot, enjoyment, originality, language and characterisation like any other story, and not receive any special consideration because of its structure.

I made a mistake on my story submission form - what can I do?

You will not be able to change any details or edit your story after it has been successfully submitted to us.

I didn't save a copy of my story - can you please send me a copy?

We’re sorry but we can't return stories.

This was made clear on the submission page because, with the huge number of entries to this competition, it would not be possible to cope with the extra administration required.

I've sent in my story - when will I hear back?

The competition is now closed for 2019.

More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon.

Once your story has been submitted you will receive an automated email receipt.

You will be notified if you have or have not been long listed from our first round of marking. Sometimes emails go astray, so please do check your junk mail folder. If you think you are missing an update, we'll endeavour to get one to you as soon as possible.

The parents or guardians of the top 50 successful entrants will usually be contacted by a member of the production team in April/May.

Those who have not been shortlisted will also be notified.

When is the 500 Words Final?

The 2019 final was on the 14th June 2019. The competition is now closed.

More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon.

Can I go to the 500 Words Final?

The 2019 final was on the 14th June 2019. The competition is now closed.

More information on 500 Words 2020 will be available soon.

The Top 50 shortlisted entrants will receive a pair of tickets to the final (for the entrant and a parent or guardian).

All entrants of the competition will be asked if they wish to be entered into a random ballot to receive a pair of tickets (for the entrant and a parent or guardian) to the final.

This ballot will be run among the remaining entrants after the finalists have been selected.

Winners of the ballot will be notified. We cannot notify unsuccessful members of the ballot.

The BBC cannot pay for the travel and accommodation of winners of the ballot.

Help for Judges

Who can apply to be a volunteer judge?

Anyone who is a teacher or librarian (or a retired teacher or librarian) and a full time resident of the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) can apply to be a volunteer judge as part of 500 Words.

You will be asked to supply contact details of someone who can validate your application. Retired teachers are advised to put down an old colleague as a referee if possible.

Can teaching assistants or trainee teachers apply?

We're happy to confirm that we welcome volunteer judge applications from teaching assistants and trainee teachers. If you've got the qualifications or experience to assess the written work of children, aged 5-13, then please apply online!

Why can only teachers or librarians apply?

We need our volunteer judges to have the experience of assessing children’s written work, because we’re relying upon them to bring this expertise to the first stage of our competition.

The question we ask is whether they’re able to “assess the written work of children aged 13 and under?" We receive thousands of requests to judge for the competition, and are delighted to receive them. However, we need a point of qualification or comparison by which to say that our judges definitely are eligible to mark our stories; experience in marking children’s work is crucial.

My child or class is entering the competition, can I become a judge?

Parents or teachers of children entering the competition are very much welcome to sign up to be a judge. We use a complex database which assigns stories to judges from a region different to their own, so there shouldn’t be any crossover.

Who can validate my application?

This should be a manager (e.g. Head Teacher, Deputy, or Head of Department) who can vouch for your professional eligibility and confirm they are happy for you to volunteer your time.

If you are retired or on a career break, please use your last boss or someone you deem qualified to vouch for you.

If you are having trouble getting someone to verify you get in touch with the 500 Words administrators at 500words@bbc.co.uk.

I was a judge last year - can I help again?

Yes please!

Due to the new Data Protection rules that came in after last years competition we have had to delete all data of previous judges - so if you have been a judge before and want to do it again we need you to re-register before 8th March.

If you've got any questions please get in touch with the 500 Words administrators at 500words@bbc.co.uk.

When does the judging period take place?

The judging period starts in March 2019.

Volunteer judges will need to read and score the stories by Monday 1st April 2019.

How many stories will a judge be asked to mark?

Volunteer judges will be asked to read a batch of about 30 stories. Each one will be no more than one A4 side.

As a volunteer judge can I come to the 500 Words final?

All teachers and librarians taking part in the judging will invited to enter into a draw.

The winners of this draw will be randomly selected to receive a pair of tickets to attend the broadcast of the Final on the 14th June

Further proof of identity may be required at this stage.

Need further help?

If you have a question that we haven't answered above, you can contact the 500 Words team on 500words@bbc.co.uk

Please read the full Terms & Conditions before submitting a story as part of 500 Words.