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How to become a Wheel of Fortune Contestant

Posted October 17th, 2011 in Wheel of Fortune by dan

Did you know Pat Sajak used to be a weatherman? Or that Vanna White was a model? Actually I guess neither of those is too surprising — never mind.

Regardless, Wheel of Fortune is a great game show for you to try and be a contestant — compared to say, a Jeopardy, there is only one skill being tested – wordplay! Studying and winning are comparably easier but provide a similar earning potential for most contestants.

Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are both produced by Sony Pictures, so it comes as no surprise that the audition process is also similar between the two game shows. Like Jeopardy, Wheel has

  • An online application/form component
  • An in-person contestant audition

So how do you apply to be on Wheel of fortune?

1. First, you need to get on Wheel’s radar. There are two ways to do this. One method is to sign up for their online form, which Sony currently does not have up and running. Presumably if they see enough interest in a particular city based on the signups to this form, they will hold special auditions in that city and you may be invited.

The other way is to look for the Wheelmobile. Again, Sony has graced the world with a broken link, so it appears that Wheel of Fortune is not looking for new contestants right now. The Wheelmobile travels the country auditioning contestants and administering the in-person tests. You can sign up for alerts or watch for news on Wheel on your local affiliate to see when their monster Winnebago is coming to town.

2. At the Wheelmobile audition, applicants are pulled out of the crowd in groups and play a quick version of the actual game. You get a brief interview and you’re on your merry way.

3. Assuming you did well enough, you are invited to come back to the city of your fateful rendezvous with the Wheelmobile and do a real audition. About 70 or so people gather in a hotel ball room and play a real mini version of Wheel of Fortune. You also take a 16-puzzle written test, which is then graded on the spot to assess your verbal acuity. The contestant coordinators dismiss some people in the room, and others are allowed to remain. Be aware, this is based not only on your test score but what those at Wheel call “our general impression” of you as a player and the need to have a “cross section of the population.” Unfortunately this is where personality and demographics come into play, so make sure you are enthusiastic, clear, and look like someone they would want to put on TV. The best you can do is maximize your chance of being selected within your age/gender/racial group, so make sure you are on top of it and are noticed (in a good way).

4. If you’ve made it far enough to make this last cut, you’re officially eligible to be on the show. Congratulations! After the poor rejected souls are ushered out, you play the game more and get more face time with contestant coordinators. After that, all you have to do is wait on your notification that you made it on Wheel of Fortune!


Wheel has some weird rules that are never really explained, so make sure you know all of these. In fact, become familiar enough with how the game works that you can play at home (with the sound muted). Pretend you’re the contestant whose turn it is. This will help you get down the timing and rhythm of playing in real life. Also, make sure you are loud so that the studio audience (and the oldsters watching at home) can hear you well! This seems to be one of the things that sinks too many people’s audition hopes – be not timid!!

Finally, be relentlessly positive (never stop smiling – you should be having fun trying out anyway!), have good posture, and show that you have a sense of humor. If you can pull it off, genuine banter with the contestant coordinators and other contestants will show that you have a magnetic personality and are someone who would be comfortable on TV.

Best of luck in your Wheel of Fortune contestant audition pursuits!

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How to study for the Jeopardy online test – Part I

Posted October 16th, 2011 in Jeopardy by dan

In case you missed my guide for how to become a Jeopardy contestant you can find it linked there. That will give you some background information on how to get started on a contestant application/audition.

In fifteen minutes or less your entire fate is decided. It may sound crazy, but this is the amount of time you have to make or break yourself on the Jeopardy online test. The questions zoom by at an absolutely dizzying pace, so don’t even think about Googling the answers. You won’t have time. (Oh yeah, plus that’s cheating..)

I don’t care if this sounds trite, but the key to passing the online test is preparation. Honestly, I think very few people are naturally gifted enough to have enough knowledge and background to wing the test without any kind of studying. If you do, more power to you.

However, this is a test that can be studied for despite what anyone tells you. The same subject matter (read: categories) show up over and over again.

Here is the format if you’re not familiar:

  • Flash, web-based test
  • 50 questions, 10/15? seconds each
  • Category box on one side (READ THE CATEGORY!), question on the other
  • Test automatically accepts whatever you have in the answer box, so don’t hit enter because it will give you less time to think/catch up

As I mentioned in my previous Jeopardy post, there are three tests every year. The kind people on the official Jeopardy forums (currently down for maintenance – or maybe dead) always take the time to capture the previous tests and their answers. This is hands down the best way to study by using the previous tests to familiarize yourself with the phrasing and subject matter of the tests. History will repeat itself, and you’ll get a reassuring sense of deja vu. Sometimes the content and subject matter is even exactly the same.

Without further ado, here are links to the past tests — take note as you look through them of recurring categories and subject matter.


The tests weren’t tracked too closely in 2006. But here is a partial list of questions from a blog.

WARNING! — the following links are not working right now. I have no idea if Sony intends to bring its message boards up (it appears they have been down for several months), but I will keep them up in the event the board resurfaces.


Test 1
Test 2
Test 3


Test 1
Test 2
Test 3


Test 1
Test 2
Test 3

Jeopardy official practice test

This is Jeopardy’s official test to prepare

My advice to you is to print these out individually, and take them with limited time (answers not showing, obviously). Then check your answers against theirs. Remember, there is not “passing score” per se – but if you’re getting fewer than 35/50 right, you are in the danger zone and are unlikely to beat the thousands of others taking the test.

Once you have a sense of what categories (or news topics) are asked about most frequently, assess what your gaps in knowledge are. If, for example, you notice that you got every music question wrong, go find lists of famous composers/compositions to study. Or almanac information on bestselling pop artists. However you do it, find a source that will provide at least 80% of the information that would have gotten you the answer. For further study resources, see my recommended reading section.

My last recommendation is to be realistic about your chances. If you take one of the past tests and only get five questions right – either study more (and give yourself another year, perhaps), or focus your attempts on another show. Jeopardy requires a lot of knowledge beforehand, so be forewarned. But hey, the test is only 15 minutes of your time, so you may as well take it for fun anyway! It always gets my heart pounding…

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Why you should become a contestant on a game show

Posted October 14th, 2011 in For any show by dan

Does this seem like a dumb question to ask? It’s not.

There is much more to appearing as a contestant on a show than just trying to win a lot of money. It will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life — and the most unique. Oh and it’s a blast!

Yes, there is the potential for amazing winnings. While that should motivate you to try as hard as you possibly can to get on a show and do well, you never know exactly what kind of luck you’ll have. That’s why it’s fortunate that there are many more benefits to the experience than you might initially think.

First of all, it’s a great travel experience. With many of the production studios being based out of Los Angeles or New York, you have the opportunity to check out one of the two biggest cities in the United States. Make a vacation out of it!

You also meet truly amazing people. When I was a contestant on Jeopardy, the other contestants were one of the most intelligent and interesting groups of people I’ve met. If you are fortunate enough to get on a show, you’ll notice that the other people on the show are just as interesting, passionate, and talented as you are, if not moreso! I honestly wish I had more time to spend with everyone there.

Of course you also get a sneak peak of behind the scenes of TV production. This alone was worth all the time and effort going to and preparing for the show. You get answers to questions like “what is the host really like?” and “what happens when someone messes up?” It’s also very fun being on the set where other well-known TV shows are created. You feel like an actor for a day!

And it’s a great accomplishment and memory to reflect on. You get to do something that not many people can claim they have done. It often takes a lot of work to appear on a show — grueling application, hours of try outs, and the potential for rejection at every turn. Just by virtue of making it on, you’ve come out on top of a very selective process. It’s truly a moment to appreciate.

And finally, if you like attention, you will be the king or queen of your social circle for months to come. Encourage your friends and family to have a viewing party and watch the show together. It gives them a great time, and they seem to have almost as much fun watching as you do appearing on the show. One of the best parts is that friends old and new come out of the woodwork to tell you they saw you on TV. It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with some people I hadn’t heard from in years — you’ll be surprised who is watching!

Oh, and by the way, it’s also great conversation starter…

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Becoming a Jeopardy Contestant

Posted October 12th, 2011 in Jeopardy by dan

The folks at Jeopardy have auditions down to a science. In fact, there is a “tryout season” for the adult (regular) version of Jeopardy, and it is fast approaching. If you miss the boat on these tryouts, unfortunately that’s it. You have to wait an entire year to try again.

The audition process

Your first step is to sign up to the Jeopardy mailing list.

Alex Trebek pointing at you

Alex Trebek lovingly pointing at you

Unfortunately unavailable, although that picture is awesome. So just stay tuned to Get on Game Shows and we will notify you when the auditions are officially kicked off.

Due to some very arcane reasons that I’ll explore in a later post, tryouts begin in late January/early February, later and later each year. For 2012, I would assume this means that the first stage will be sometime in mid-February.

2. A few weeks before this January/February date an email goes out for Jeopardy’s online test. Register for this as soon as you can. There are typically three tests, one in the evening on three different days for different time zones — Eastern, Central, and Pacific. Hardcore fans speculate about which is easier, but they are all very challenging. If you have flexibility about which day to take it, avoid the Eastern time zone test because it is likely that the most people take that test.

3. People are then selected at random from everyone who passed the online test. Jeopardy keeps the passing level/minimum score under tight wraps, so there is no particular number to shoot for. Just do as well as you can. If you passed and are selected, you’ll get an email invite several (maybe 3-4) months later for an in-person audition. The audition will be in the city you chose during the signup process.

4. The audition consists of three major parts:

  • Q&A and chatty time
  • Written test
  • Mock game and personality inverview

The written test is actually easier than the one you take online. Nevertheless, be sure not to forget everything between your online and in-person tests. The purpose of the written test is most likely just to verify that you weren’t cheating on the internet test!

5. Then comes more months of excruciating waiting. Jeopardy contestant coordinators tell you immediately during the in-person audition that you’re automatically “in the contestant pool by virtue of being invited to the in-person,” but the truth is that only about maybe 10% of the people who audition get on the show. You’re eligible for a year after your tryout, so you could get The Call literally at any point up until that date. Or it could be only a month after the audition. It solely depends on whether you fit the proper demographic background and possess the characteristics the producers are looking for when they put together their weekly batch of contestants.

A couple tips for how to prepare and increase your chances of getting on the show

You should prepare now to study for the upcoming test. Allow yourself plenty of time to learn the base of knowledge required. A very broad range of areas are tested, however similar categories and question types come up over and over and over again.

Also, make sure you are studying and staying sharp througout the entire audition process. If you think you did well in one of the steps, chances are your hunch will be correct. So even while you are waiting to get the call after your in-person audition, it is crucial to continue studying because you’re only given 3-4 weeks notice before you’re on the way to LA and taping for TV!

You can look forward to a more in-depth look at each step in the Jeopardy audition process. We’ve only skimmed the surface here. Along the way I’ll give you even more valuable tips about how you can gain an edge. Have you taken the online test in the past? How do you think you did?

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Becoming a Deal or No Deal Contestant

Posted October 12th, 2011 in Deal or No Deal by dan

Howie. The banker. The Models. Suitcases full of cash. Ah the simplicity.

It’s no wonder that so many people wanted to be on Deal or No Deal. Unfortunately, you’ll have to look elsewhere get your suitcases full of benjamins, because the show was canceled in 2009. And in 2010! This all part of a confusing history, but there were basically two versions of the show:

  • The NBC version was an hourlong show and lasted 4 years from 2005-2009 before it was canceled and…
  • The syndicated version was a half hour and was airing new shows up until 2010.

So while you may see a zombie version of Howie Mandel running around on GSN, this does NOT mean that you can be on the show any more. However, there are plenty of other fun options for you to try. For example, may I suggest Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right? All of these are long running shows that audition thousands of people every year to be on their shows.