How the Game "Jeopardy" Works

by Harrison Pennybaker

Jeopardy! is a popular quiz show that has been on the air since 1984 and averages about 9 million viewers daily. The premise of the show centers around its long-time host, Alex Trebek, asking the contestants questions -- albeit in an unusual manner. There are several versions of the game including the regular version for adults, college editions and even Jeopardy! for children.

The Contestants

Contestants for the show compete in a pre-show contest in order to be selected. The show runs online trials and, later in the process, face-to-face interviews. Once selected, three contestants are pitted against one another. The contestants are each placed at a podium and given a buzzer, which they use to "buzz in" when they think they know the correct response.

The Questions

The show's host, Alex Trebek, reads the answer to a question to the contestants, who then buzz in to successfully respond by supplying the question to which the answer belongs. Answers are separated into categories and assigned dollar values, from which the contestant selects; for instance, if the contestant chooses the topic "Flags" for $1000, an answer might be "Red, white, and blue." The contestant who buzzes with the correct question -- in this case, "What are the colors in the American flag?" -- is awarded the $1000 and the right to choose the next answer. If the contestant is mistaken, she loses the value of the amount of the question from her score.

Daily Doubles

Hidden on the question board are "Daily Doubles." If a contestant uncovers one of these, he may wager as much of his current score as he'd like. If he answers the subsequent question correctly, he is awarded twice the amount of her wager; however, if he fails to answer the question correctly, he loses the full amount of his wager. A contestant's score can become negative by answering questions incorrectly; however, contestants with negative scores cannot wager on a "Daily Double."

Final Jeopardy!

During Final Jeopardy!, a topic is given to all contestants, who can each wager as much of her current dollar score as she would like. Contestants are not shown the answer, only the topic; the question is then revealed, and each contestant writes down her answer. If she is correct, she is awarded double the value of her wager' if not, she loses that amount. The contestant with the highest dollar value score at the end wins, and returns on to play again in the next match on the following day.