JEOPARDY! advice

A friend of mine wrote to me. Actually, a very good friend, one of my oldest, who was present at the tapings of my JEOPARDY! appearances.

Her nephew, who has a major in International Relations and Political Science, is trying out for the show! So, she sought my advice:

1) Watch JEOPARDY! A lot. Know how to play the game. (There were some who tested who obviously didn’t.) If it’s on in reruns somewhere, watch it twice a day. Not only do you get a rhythm for the game, you’ll find certain questions are often repeated in one way or another. (The painting Blue Boy by Gainsborough – seen above, or the opera Hansel and Gretel by Englebert Humperdink, e.g.) If he wants to study just the questions go here. Know what Before and After and Stupid Answers mean.

2) Read stuff. The newspaper, especially. Also, be aware of current events, both hard newsworthy stuff and the Entertainment Weekly type of stuff. (I actually started watching – ugh! – Entertainment Tonight for the cause.) It may not help with the test, but it may in the actual game.

3) He’s not gonna know everything, so he should concentrate on boning up on stuff he may already know. Based on his majors: World and State Capitals, US Presidents (the years are VERY useful), significant heads of state. Knowing roughly the times of British and French rulers (royalty and democratically elected) wouldn’t hurt. Second wave, if he has time, US Vice-Presidents (I don’t know how many times Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first VP has shown up, and is often missed;, FDR’s VPs are often popular), states where the Presidents/VPs were from, First Ladies, members of the Cabinet (esp. Sec’y of State, Attorney General), US Supreme Court, esp. Chief Justices; UN Secretaries General (home country and years served). They’re not going to ask any of these questions straight out. It’ll be more like. U Thant was S-G of the UN during these three US Presidencies. (Who were JFK, LBJ, RMN?)

4) When he takes the test, answer all of the questions. If he has one on the tip of his brain, mark it on the sheet – maybe it’ll come. If he passes the written test, they’ll give him a screen test, a simulated game. Keep clicking until they call on someone – think playing with a ballpoint pen. Be upbeat without being phony. They’ll ask for an anecdote – have one.

I didn’t mention, I realize, that at least a perfunctory knowledge of award-winning films, books of the Bible, and the order in which the 50 states entered the Union wouldn’t hurt, but just trying to memorize stuff will probably just stress him out. He should go with what he knows. I’m wishing him good luck this week.
So I wrote all that in an e-mail, then I discovered this on Ken Jennings’ blog for May 10, 2007:
From Becky, a Tuesday Trivia fan:

I’m preparing for an audition on Jeopardy! Do you have any study recommendations? Thank you!

I always hear the same recommendations when I ask this question of Jeopardy! veterans (I almost said Jeopardy! vets, but that sounds like the people that give Alex Trebek’s Chow his heartworm medicine). And I concur with their expert advice:

Don’t try to master the Jeopardy! subjects that intimidate you because you know nothing about them (opera, baseball, whatever). Forget those. Instead, look at Jeopardy! standbys you know but might be a little rusty on (world capitals, presidents, kings of England, etc.) and get them fresh in your mind.
Spend some quality time with The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, which has pithy, what-you-need-to-know capsules on thousands of Jeopardy! subjects. Mike Dupee’s How to Get on Jeopardy! . . . and Win! is also full of great lists and quizzes, but it’s sadly out of print.

So Ken and I agree: don’t try to cram in stuff you don’t already know.
According to the Language Log, overaggressive spellchecking in Word has been dubbed The Cupertino Effect.


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