After graduating in December with a degree in information science and minors in linguistics and business, Rhea Sinha ’22 made her second appearance on the game show “Jeopardy!” on Feb. 27.
Sinha reflected on her experiences competing on “Jeopardy!”, where she placed third in the quarter finals on both occasions.
Sinha began her trivia game interest in high school, when she competed on her school’s quiz bowl team. In her senior year of high school, she and her teammates took a qualifying test for the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament.
After taking the test, Sinha was invited to audition for the show in Washington, D.C. The audition consisted of another test, a mock “Jeopardy!” game and a personality interview. After the rigorous audition, Sinha was called to be on the show for a high school teen tournament.
During the 2018 teen tournament quarterfinals, Sinha displayed an exceptional knowledge of trivia, winning most of the questions in the movie adjectives category.
Sinha reflected on the final “Jeopardy!” question for her quarterfinal game, which landed her in third place.
“The economic bloc known as the [group eight] became the [group seven] in 2014 upon the explosion of this country,” the question read.
Sinha answered Germany, when the correct answer was Russia.
“I’m knocking myself, because if I had just been paying more attention to the news when I was 10 [years old], I would have gotten those final Jeopardy’s right,” Sinha said.
Four years later, in fall 2022, Sinha was called back to be on the show again for a special reunion tournament.
“[‘Jeopardy!’] contacted us, and they were saying we want to do a high school reunion tournament, which they’ve never done before,” Sinha said. “Something unique about [‘Jeopardy!’] is that they don’t really bring contestants back unless it’s for a Tournament of Champions or any special tournaments — usually you’re one and done.”
Sinha spent the remaining months of 2022 and the start of 2023 preparing for February’s show. She added that contestants are not told the categories in advance, so they have to study a wide variety of topics to be as prepared as possible.
Sinha said she looked to “Jeopardy!” co-host Ken Jennings, who holds the titles for most consecutive games won and highest winnings on the show, for advice on how to prepare.
“[Jennings recommended a few books. So I was trying to read those,” Shina said. “I used old quiz bowl practice materials from high school [and] there’s some good websites that give you practice questions.”
Sinha said the high school reunion tournament was fast paced, nerve wracking and fun. She pointed out that the most stressful part of the game is the buzzer — how players can only answer the questions if they buzz it before the other contestants at the right time.
“The host reads a question. When it’s over, there’s these lights on the side of the board and they light up. And only after that can you buzz,” Shina said. “So it’s reaction time. But if you buzz too early you get locked out for a little bit. It’s just really rapid. You can barely hear yourself think.”
Out of all the categories — the golden age, companies in history, southerners, pure poetry, social science and before and after — Sinha’s favorite question was from the southerners category.
“They had a question about Jack Harlow and I was really excited to get that right,” Sinha said, having been prompted with a description of Harlow. “I really wanted him to tweet me or something.”
Contestants on “Jeopardy!” have the opportunity to share a fun fact about themselves at the beginning of the show. Sinha shared that she was a part of a Cornell co-ed rock and roll acapella group, The Key Elements.
Jane Lim ’23, Sinha’s friend and fellow member of the Key Elements, said it was surreal to watch Rhea on Jeopardy.
“[In] February, when the episode aired, I organized a Key Elements watch party so we could watch her compete on ‘Jeopardy!’,” Lim said. “That was super fun. Everyone in the group was so excited for Rhea.”
Sinha joins a number of Cornell faculty and alumni who have competed on the famed trivia show.
“[I got] crazy deja vu [being] back on the set,” Sinha said. “I never thought I’d get to go back there. [It] was completely unexpected [and] really fun.”