Journey to Jeopardy!

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On March 12th and 15th, the College’s own Rebecca Rosenthal ’20 competed in this year’s Jeopardy! College Championship. She finished the semifinal round with $43,600, but narrowly lost by a single dollar, bringing her incredible tournament run to an end.

Every year, Jeopardy issues online tests for both the regular competition and the college one. Rosenthal has taken three of these tests, one for the regular show, and two for the college show, since her first year at Swarthmore. She was selected to be on the show this last fall. In preparation for the competition, she watched three to four episodes a day during winter break and carefully noted the topics that frequently came up on the show.

“Otherwise, I didn’t really study. Stuff just seeps in,” Rosenthal said. “It’s funny because you don’t even know how you know things sometimes. And because I played Quiz Bowl for so long, I have a lot of information committed to memory.” She described the process of studying for Jeopardy as “never ending” because new topics constantly come up.

However, Rosenthal also pointed out that there were specific types of topics that almost always appear.“They love operas, crossword puzzle styled-questions, and word play questions, which I am really bad at,” Rosenthal said. “I usually go for ancient history or art history. Those are my majors and the things I am interested in. I like the arts and literature, but if the question was about pop music or recent movies, I would have been [sic] ‘Oh my God.’”

While watching Jeopardy episodes helped her learn the information specific to the show, her involvement with Quiz Bowl trained her to handle the pressure. Rosenthal has participated in Quiz Bowl since seventh grade and created Swarthmore’s Quiz Bowl team two years ago.

“Quiz Bowl is basically like [Jeopardy] and I’ve grown accustomed to being on the spot,” Rosenthal said. “For me, it is never really about the answers. It is always about the poise. I’ve had a lot of practice because I’ve done Quiz Bowl for seven years. [Jeopardy] is just doing that in front of a TV camera and remembering to smile.”

However, while Rosenthal finds parallels with Quiz Bowl and Jeopardy, she also notices the differences.

“What you don’t know about Jeopardy is that, 70 percent of the time, all three of the people know the answers. It’s about who got the buzz first. Whereas Quiz bowl sets it up so that you know the answer early, you buzz in as quick as you can.”

Rosenthal hopes that other Swarthmore students will be inspired to represent the College in College Jeopardy.

“All of us are learning stuff in classes, and I guarantee you that something you’ve learned in class or something that you get excited about will come up as a question in Quiz Bowl or Jeopardy. You know more than you think you know,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t study specifically for Quiz Bowl. Who has time for that? Just listen and enjoy yourself and you may find it very rewarding.”

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