8. Studying Helps … Some
The good folks at J! Archive have archived almost every game and question from the 28 seasons of the current incarnation of the game. The archive is not complete, though. Entire weeks and individual games are missing, including, strangely enough, my two games in season six, aired Oct. 2-3, 1989; Kerry Tymchuk, the next listing in the archive on Oct. 6, 1989, is the guy who knocked me out of the game.
Based on the J! Archive, Jeremy Singer-Vine has done a fascinating analysis of the most common categories on Jeopardy. There are the stand-bys such as Before & After, Literature, Science, Word Origins, American History, State Capitals, World History, Potpourri, and World Geography. It never hurts to brush up on any of these topics. Other old-reliables are Shakespeare, Opera, Famous Names, and Literature.
You can read through the archive to see what types of questions come up and some of the wordplay commonly used in the clues. There was no J! Archive back in my day—no World Wide Web, for that matter. But even if it had existed, I likely would not have used it. I’d watched Jeopardy for years and felt pretty confident of my abilities. Sure, I was bit fuzzy on presidential history between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. Ditto for that period between U.S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt, so I reviewed a bit of executive branch trivia before my games.
Alas, the subject never came up. And that’s the biggest drawback to the study-your-way-in strategy. There are just too many subjects and categories to cover and too many possible questions within them. You can study all the world history, Shakespeare, literature, or Etruscan poetry you want, but the odds are that the category won’t appear in your game or, if it does, the clue will cover something you never got to stuffing into your skull during a last-minute cram session.
Still, the J! Archive is useful for understanding types of questions and types of wordplay the Jeopardy clue-givers frequently use. In that sense, it’s a useful site to browse to get a good feel for Jeopardy game play even if you’re not necessarily learning specific trivia.