7. Either You Know It or You Don’t
Face it: you’re not going to do well on Jeopardy unless you know a lot of things across a broad range of knowledge. There are some categories that call for figuring out the answer on the spot and others where there’s enough information in the clue to figure it out—more on that in a bit—but of the 61 questions in a full Jeopardy game, the majority ask for answers that either you know or you don’t.
Either you know who was the last of the Romanov dynasty or you don’t. (Nicholas II.) Either you know who was the Beatles’ classically trained producer or you don’t. (George Martin.) Either you know who lost at the Battle of Hastings or you don’t. (King Harold II.) Either you know who was The Weeping Prophet or you don’t. (Jeremiah.)
How does one gain this knowledge? It’s hard to say, but having a flypaper brain and being widely read helps. Being a super-sports-trivia guy would help—in one or two categories. Being an opera buff would help—in one or two categories. But having a working knowledge of Shakespeare, the Bible, geography, opera, history, sports, movies, popular music—the potential subjects are almost endless—requires a brain that works a certain way and a lifelong habit of filling that brain, not for the purpose of winning trivia games, but for the love of knowledge itself.
A good place to test yourself is at the Jeopardy web site, where the Be a Contestant link provides a sample test for their online tryouts. Give it a try under pressure—give yourself, say, five seconds to come up with an answer. (You don’t have to write them down or even check a box; it’s simply a test of your game knowledge.) That sample, honestly judged, will give you a good idea of how well prepared you are to play Jeopardy for real.