The Jeopardy! staff regularly offers auditions for potential contestants. Tryouts take place in the Los Angeles area, and occasionally in other locations throughout the United States, in Canada, and at U.S. military installations abroad. In order to try out, one must be at least 18 years of age, unless one is auditioning for one of the special programs, such as the Teen Tournament (ages 13-17), Kids Week (age 10-12), or the College Championship (full-time undergraduate students).
The first phase of the group audition process is divided into three parts.
This is followed by a mock Jeopardy! competition. A game board is presented, and potential contestants are placed in groups of three to play the game. The emphasis is not on scoring points, or even having correct answers; the contestant coordinators know that they possess the knowledge to compete on the show, as they have already passed the test, and are looking for on-the-air-compatible qualities. Auditionees are encouraged to display energy and use a loud, confident voice. . After playing a few clues, the contestant coordinators give each potential contestant a few minutes to talk about themselves. The coordinators request that they finish by telling what they would do with any money they won on Jeopardy!
After the end of the tryout, all auditionees who have taken the online test and the in-person test are placed into the "contestant pool" and are eligible to be called to compete for the next eighteen months. The show uses 400 contestants per season, and it is emphasized at the audition that test scores are the most important factor in determining who out of the thousands of applicants will be selected.
The Jeopardy! promotional vehicle, dubbed the Brain Bus also goes around the country for promotional events. In these cases, the promotion is usually divided into two activities: a Pre-Test section and a Fun Play section.
In the Pre-Test, attendees who are 18 years or older are given a 10-question version of the above qualifying test. (At least three different versions of the test are used, so attendees cannot copy answers from neighbors.) If the attendee passes the test (as above, scores are not given, only pass/fail results), they are given a form that allows them to attend and attempt the full 50-question qualifier (as described above) the next day.
The Fun Play area allows attendees, regardless of age, to play a modified "quick game" of Jeopardy! for prizes. Attendees queue up in three lines, and are given a static board of six categories. The host--usually a member or members of the Clue Crew--choose one of the attendees at the head of their line to pick a category and "dollar amount" (ranging from $200 to $1000, as in the current Jeopardy! Round, or first round, of play). A clue is shown, and the line leaders--each using a similar buzzer device to those used on the show--attempt to signal in and answer. After five clues are played, the line leaders hand off the buzzers to the next person in line, and are allowed to choose one of the give-away prizes at the front of the game stage (these usually include Jeopardy!-logoed t-shirts, keychains, hats, drink bottles and the like). If, during play, a player finds a Daily Double (usually in a specifically-identified category), that player plays the clue alone for the chance to win a larger prize (recently, this has been a copy of the reference work The New York Times Guide To Essential Knowledge, and the category is ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT.) In addition, some attendees are invited to create and sing their own lyrics for the Jeopardy! Theme. Those willing to sing the lyrics on stage get a special prize (at recent events, this has been the Jeopardy! DVD Home Game System).
Three more 50-question tests were administered on January 23, 2007, January 24, 2007, and January 25, 2007. As with the previous year, the three tests were offered one hour apart from each other on the successive nights to accommodate test-takers in the various U.S. time zones, though a person from any time zone could take the test on any night. About 70,000 applicants participated in the 2007 online tests.
Potential contestants were told that if their score was not in the range that they were seeking that particular day, their names and information would be put into a contestant pool, and that — if they lived near New York — they might be called to come to the studio at any time in the next several months when their "number" came up (although this was, they made it clear, unlikely, due to the large number of contestants who had tried out). Since potential contestants had no idea what the target score was for that day, they had no idea whether it would be a good thing to deliberately score lower than they were capable of scoring.