If you’re one of the 12 million people who watch the show each week and think “I could do that!” or just want to get some insight into the show, consider becoming a contestant! It’s not terribly hard and if I can do it, so can you! I have had two in-person auditions and got the call to be on the show after the second one. Since my show aired in March, I’ve had several people asking me how to I got on the show and looking for advice. Here’s an overview of the process of how to get on Jeopardy! and a few of my tips.
Take the online test
The process starts with registering to take an online test. Kids between ages 13 and 17 can sign up for the test for the Teen Tournament and college students can take the test for the College Championship. There is also a Teachers Tournament.
The test is given once or twice a year. This year it was given in April, but there isn’t a set time, so it’s wise to register now and they’ll email you when a test is scheduled.
The online test consists of 50 questions in 50 different categories. It goes really quickly, with a mere 15 seconds to respond to each clue, and feels like a bit of a sprint. Thankfully, misspelled and partially typed responses will be considered as long as it is phonetically correct.
It’s not unusual to hear “No!” or “Argh!” from people taking the test. Answers have a way of springing to mind after 16 seconds, just as the screen advances to the next question.
It’s hard to gauge how you did, and you’ll never know. Do not presume that you have to get them all correct. You don’t, although scores are not revealed at any other point in the process.
In Person Audition
As many as 70,000 people take the online test, and, based on scores, between 2,500 and 3,000 people receive audition invitations in their email in box.
I received an email that I had been selected for an in-person audition a few months after taking the online test. Held at a hotel ballroom in Chicago, the audition drew people from around the Midwest.
Than, hopefuls take another written test. This test also consists of 50 questions and 8 seconds to scribble down each question on your answer sheet using a snazzy Jeopardy! pen they give you. Again, scores are not ever disclosed.
Next, they have the mock game portion of the audition. It is video taped, so keep that in mind when selecting an outfit.
On the show itself, they urge you not to wear white or olive tops and to avoid busy prints. A solid top that’s a flattering color and not too bright is going to be a good choice. Think business casual.
Throughout the audition, they encourage all the Jeopardy! hopefuls to have high energy levels, lots of enthusiasm, and voices that are both loud and clear.
The show’s website says speaking up and the ability to keep the game moving are “two critical elements in your being considered for the show.”
Keep this in mind throughout. When they ask for volunteers or ask questions to the group that you know the answer to, don’t be afraid to shoot your hand up and, if called upon, shout out your answer with confidence and volume.
The mock game uses a video screen that is like a Jeopardy! board, but smaller, with maybe four categories and three questions on each. (That’s what I remember, but it’s been a year and a half, so please don’t hold me to that. For that matter, it’s possible that they would change things, too, over time.)
Alex is not at the audition, although one person did tell me he made a surprise appearance. Instead, senior contestant coordinator Glenn Kagan stood in for the veteran host at the Chicago audition and ran the show.
The clues in the mock game are easy to moderately difficult. I remember there was at least one that no one in my group knew and I was worried that would be an issue, but I still got the call to be on the show, so apparently it is not a deal breaker. You play the game for only a few moments. A good way to practice would be reviewing the Infinite Final Jeopardy! clues on the show’s website here.
Then, it’s on to the personal information portion. Would-be contestant are asked to come with five interesting facts about them that could be items you would discuss with Alex, and they ask each person about one or two of their items, and remember, this happens while they film you.
Our audition group consisted of twenty people spanning a wide variety of ages, interests and careers. They told stories ranging from exotic travels to celebrity encounters to the interesting ways their pets react to the Jeopardy! theme music.
“What would you do with your winnings?” is a question that they ask everyone.
Be prepared to answer how you’d spend your windfall. Try to make your answer a tad more interesting than paying off bills, but don’t be weird, either. The person in my first audition announced plans to build a dungeon and shared some creepy details about it that made everyone a little uncomfortable. I never saw him on the show.
You want to be memorable, but in a good way and for positive reasons.
Once everyone has played the mock game and had a quick chat, the audition ends with the news that you can keep the Jeopardy! pen you used for your written test. The coordinators then send on your way with instructions that are a kind version of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Those auditioning go into the contestant pool and can be called to be on the show at any time in the next 18 months. If you haven’t heard from them after that period of time, you are welcome and even encouraged to start the process over by taking the online test again, as many contestants are not picked the first time around.
For most people, that’s the end of the road. From the tens of thousands take the online test, approximately four hundred appear on the show each year.
If you don’t get the call on your first try, do not give up!
Start the process again by taking the online test and go through it again. Remember that many people audition in person more than once. One woman in my contestant group on the show said she auditioned five times.
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