Whether it’s at a bar or on your phone, trivia is always fun and always easily accessible. You’re in the minority if you’ve never hit up a trivia night or at least played a round of Trivial Pursuit with your friends at home. What separates the winners from the losers? The masters from the amateurs? Here are tips on how to become great at trivia:
Read a lot
According to Tony Hightower, a Jeopardy! Champion and executive director of Quizzing North America, the people he knows who are really good at trivia are also avid readers. They are always reading on a wide variety of topics and picking up random pieces of information, obscure vocab words, and making mental connections that most people don’t.
Watch trivia shows
Want to practice and see what you know? Watch trivia shows. You can even find transcripts of these broadcasts online. Consuming trivia is the best way to prepare, since reading on its own doesn’t share the same format or different categories. There are also lots of trivia websites out there, like Sporcle, where you can play games and test your knowledge.
Learn how to filter out irrelevant information
Trivia questions are often worded to be confusing or distracting in order to make them seem harder than they really are. It’s very common to hear a trivia question that actually starts out with some contextual information or a random fact that really has nothing to do with the question itself. Ignore that part and focus on the last few words or phrase: that’s where the question really is.
Learn to spot clues in the questions
Pay attention to adjectives and other descriptive questions. These are frequently clues that can help you with the answer. For example, here’s a question about music: “What colorful band penned one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in their song “Smoke on the Water?” Did you notice the word the question used to describe the band? The answer is “Deep Purple,” and the adjective “colorful” was no accident.
Keep up on current events
Unless you’re playing a special 1980’s edition of trivia or attending a trivia night with another dated or historical theme, odds are there are going to be questions about current events and current pop culture. Keep up with the news, what movies are coming out, and what musicians are popular. It’s a good idea in general to be well-informed about the world you live in, and it will help your trivia game, too.
Build a versatile team
If you’re doing bar trivia, you’ll need a team, and the best teams know how to diversify their expertise. That means there will be a literature master, a math and science guy, a person who knows state and world city capitals, and so on. With knowledge spread out this way, your team will be able to answer a huge range of questions and rack up the points.
This may seem like a silly tip, but the whole reason to do trivia is that it’s fun. Most of us will never get a chance to play for a million dollars on TV, so it’s certainly not about becoming rich off the random knowledge you’ve collected over the years. Trivia is about socializing and playing with your brain. If you find yourself getting too competitive and angry or depressed when you lose, take a break. Adjust your expectations. Remember why you’re doing this in the first place.