Are you smarter than Alex Trebeck? (apparently I'm not)

Last week Alex came on TV and talked about how he’d do if he were a contestent on Jeopardy! He claimed that he knew 2/3 of the material. I thought that made him a dumb-ass because I was sure I knew at least 75% of the material. Well, I was wrong. I kept track of how many I got right over the last three shows. Ouch.

For the purposes of this investigation, I counted all clues the same, regardless of dollar amount. (Final Jeopardy and Daily Doubles also count the same as any other clue). For the purposes of this investigation, wrong guesses are the same as no answer, so there’s no penalty for guessing. I had a high of 77% right (today) and a low of 52% on Friday (Cary Grant movies? :rolleyes: :mad: ), with an average of 64%. (Remember when calculating that not every clue is revaled if they run out of time). I was surprised that the question do not actually get harder in the later rounds (I got 63% right in Jeopardy, 64% right in Double Jeopardy, and 67% right in Final Jeopardy). Three shows may not be a representitive sample, so I’ll continue to keep track.

Maybe Alex is overestimating himself (as I did), maybe he’s lying, and maybe he really is a lot smarter than he looks.

I invite you to test yourself against Alex’s claimed 67% and report your results (if you dare).

Well, I KNOW Alex can seem a bit pompous, but on other shows, I’ve heard him say he’d know about 3/4 of the answers if he had a little time to think about them, but that he’s getting older, and is reflexes aren’t as fast as they used to be, so he probably wouldn’t fo well against the brighter contestants.

And, of course, MOST reasonably intelligent people would probably know most of the answers if they had a little time to think about them. But that’s the whole point of Jeopardy, you DON’T get more than a few seconds!

For what it’s worth (not much), I’ve taken the Jeopardy test 7 times (a few times in L.A., a few times at TExas contestant searches). I’ve always aced the written test. It’s 50 questions. They don’t say what the passing score is (though it’s pretty widely believed that 35 is passing), and they don’t tell you what your score is- just whether you’ve passed.

After that, they break the people who pass the test into groups of 3, and put them through a brief oral round. They use that to judge whether you have a personality, whether you can think on your feet, etc. After that, they tell a few people to stick around, and the rest to leave.

I’ve always made it to thr very end, at which point they take your phone number, and say “We MAY call you back to be on the show some time this season.” But there are no guarantees. Seven times, I passed. Seven times, the season went by without them calling me. So, I stopped trying some years ago (I suppose it COULD have been just dumb luck, but hey, after 7 tries… I got the message!).

The written test is made of of 800-1000 dollar level questions. So, to get a measure of how you’d do, keep track of how you do on the 800-1000 answers. If you get 75%, you’d probably do very well.

Anymore they do tell you that 35 is passing, although they still (as of last May) don’t tell you your own score.


When I tested for the College Tournament (way back when…), Alex entertained questions from the audience. One person asked Alex how he thought he’d do if he ever was a contestant. Alex was surprisingly candid. To paraphrase:

“If I played on a regular show, I’d get spanked eight ways from Sunday. I’m older than most contestants and my reflexes aren’t what they used to be. But if I was on a Senior Citizen’s show, I’d hold my own.”

Moderate claim to fame that back in 1967 I represented my high school at a Jeapordy tryout in Portland, Oregon.

That’s not as important as it sounds, as I just happened to be in the office at our local high school, 65 miles away from the big city, but still in the Portland ADI (Area of Dominant Influence), when the secretary opened a form letter from the Portland affilliate promoting the contest. They were suggesting that all the schools organize Jeapordy-style internal competitions to pick a representative. She happened to read it out loud and I asked her if I could go to represent the school, since they weren’t about to go through all that. “Sure, why not,” she said, and away I went.

Was allowed to take a day off school to drive into Portland with my mom to the rather nice studios of NBC affiliate KGW-TV. Had about 40 kids from regional schools around the biggest damn conference table I ever saw. A rep from the show, who was touring the markets around the country, administered the written test, which was moderately difficult and thus fascinating. (The only question I can recall had to do with the Plimsoll line, which I missed.)

After the written test, he tested us verbally by giving us an answer and looking for a question that would indicate quick thinking and good audience identification. By chance, I was sitting directly opposite from him, and he turned to the kid on his right and said “My teacher”. By the time it came round to me halfway across the room, I was able to think up “Who is a former white slaver.” After doing a similar thing starting to his left, when I also had a snappy answer, he looked directly at me and said “Phone booth.” To which I had no snappy reply and fumbled an answer that I’m sure cost me whatever chance I had.

Still fun to relate, even if this was in the classic or Art Fleming era. Thanks for giving me a chance to relive this bit of my past; it’s awfully hard to work into converstations otherwise.

A hundred times: I WILL run spell check; I WILL run spell check. Sheesh!

Ok… blowing own horn a little…

I took the test last spring in Boston, and passed, and recently I went out to LA for a taping.

My show will air on June 13, 2001.

I ain’t telling how I did.

I’m the guy in the middle.