Smarter than a 5th Grader: How do they make sure the contestants aren't very good?

Answers I didn’t know:

They open up the phone book and point.
Actually, since I was in 5th grade, the map of the world, especially Eastern Europe has changed quite a bit. Plus, primary education today is quite different than when I was an actual 5th grader There is more emphasis on geography, and the environment than back then.

Plus as a person gets older, their ‘intelligence’ becomes more specialized, where a youngster’s smarts are more spread out.

OOPs, I didn’t mjean to say I have know the answer to every question
I didn’t know the lowest atmosphere question (which is lowest? meso, thermo, or stratospher or something like that)
And there was a question about waht geologic era/epoch/something we are in that I didn’t know.

The president question wasn’t completely accurate (you need to be a natural born US citizen) True today, but “(or citizens at the time of the Constitution’s adoption)” are also eligiable.


I was being sarcastic. We get the impression that the average intelligence of other cultures is higher because we mostly import the better things about their culture, their good movies, tv shows, whatever. Whereas in the US, we see everything based around the lowest common denominator. It’s part of what gives people the impression that Americans are dumber than the rest of the world, but the sad thing is that the rest of the world is pretty stupid too. I remember reading about a basic knowledge test given to British kids where only a depressingly small fraction could correctly point to the Pacific Ocean on a map - the sort of thing you always hear about in “Americans are so dumb…” rants.

How the fuck do you do that? Do you have to be all animated alone in your living room reading the answer into a video camera??? Wow, that would be so phony.

I’m not sure that’s true – the information comes from those textbooks in some sense, but I don’t get the impression that every question was a homework or end-of-chapter question in some textbook somewhere, especially the ones for lower grades – they’re just not written in the way you’d present those types of questions to small children. How a question is presented makes a huge difference in how answerable it is, and a piece of information that happens to be in one 5th grade textbook is not necessarily general knowledge.

As an example of what I think is going on, we had reading comprehension assignments in grade school, where we’d be given a passage to read about some random subject, and then we’d have to answer questions about the passage. It might be a biography of Joe Blow, and than it would ask questions like ‘What did Joe Blow invent?’ and ‘Where was Joe Blow born?’ so you’d have to distinguish been Joe Blow being born in Philadelphia but living in Boston, and having sold farm equipment but having invented some kitchen gadget.

In the ‘are you smarter’ pantheon had information on Joe Blow just become something that 5th graders are supposed to know? Even thought the 5th graders themselves know that they’re not now, or ever going to be, tested on knowledge of Joe Blow, and 5th graders at another school that didn’t happen to have the same reading comprehension text have never heard of Joe Blow, the question ‘What did Joe Blow invent?’ is something in a 5th grade textbook.

Yeah, but, what about the easy peasy question about louse/lice? The guy uses a cheat to answer the singular of lice for Og’s sake? That was just ridiculous.

I got the question on the Tropic of Cancer wrong, however (I said all 50 states.) But at least I knew it was the southern one!

Some of the questions are a bit tricky, but not the early ones. The lice question was maybe the third question.

shrug I didn’t realize that was the answer until they said it. I was thinking it was just “lice” like “deer.” Once they said it, I did a facepalm because it’s so obvious, but really, I’m not sure I’ve ever needed to actually know that (even in 5th grade…).

I think the hardness of it also has to do with the breadth of subject matter, from math to cultural studies. Unlike Jeopardy, you have to answer all the questions to win the money. A person who can answer the science question about what is the fastest bird on foot might not know the geography question about what states border Lake Superior. On Jeopardy, he could just let the second one go to someone else or be timed out. Or even miss it and recover later.

Pfft, easy. Tom Wolfe, right?

Yeah, even with the cheats, you still have to ace the test to win it all. I generally breeze through the questions, but some trip me up, like the clouds question and John Jay being the first Chief Justice.
Grammer is a tough one for me, because I might be able to follow the rules, but I don’t know a participle from a predicate.
(If I did get on the show, I’m sure as hell going to study my ass off first.)

I once wrote all the questions for a trivia night at my kids’ elementary school. For one of the categories, I gathered questions from the kids’ textbooks.

Nobody got them all right. Including the asst. principal.

No, no, he wrote Peter Rabbit.

Bill Bryson wrote Gulliver’s Travels.

No one knows who wrote Gulliver’s Travels since it wasn’t written until almost fifty years after Gulliver traveled.

I think you got the question right. Either 50 states are north of the ToC and 1 is south, or 49 are north and 0 are south. The first way is the only way it makes sense to me. I don’t know what I’d have done had I been on the show and missed that. Probably puched Jeff Foxworthy or took it to court.

Case in point: with what country does Russia have the longest border?KazakhstanI believe this was the million dollar question on one of the few episodes I’ve watched.

Are you sure? I thought Bill Bryson was the nom-de-plume Ian Fleming used when he wrote that delightful Nancy Drew series.

Spelling, too. :wink:

Um… Tropic of Cancer is the northern one. All fifty states are unambiguously north of the Tropic of Capricorn (aka the southern one). If it helps, cancer comes before capricorn when listing things alphabetically and it’s on top, which is where such lists tend to start. Also, Tropic of Cancer was published 5 years earlier than Tropic of Capricorn.

Saw an episode where the contestant was a college graduate (Duke, business major) but did not know a) how many days in a regular year and b) how many in a leap year.

And did not know the absolute value of 9. He said “it couldn’t be 9”!