Trivial Pursuit Strategy

Tactics for winning at Trivial Pusuit.

Trivial Pursuit Strategies

The best strategy for winning at Trivial Pursuit would be to cheat and memorize the question and answer cards. Then again, would that really be cheating? Trivial Pursuit is a game unlike any other because it tests your knowledge of events that have all happened outside the realm of the game. Other popular board games like Monopoly test your skills at playing Monopoly, not your knowledge of the real estate market or your ability to actually build hotels and collect rent. If a person could memorize the 4,800 (or for older versions 6,000) questions and answers in a Trivial Pursuit game, they wouldn't be cheating, they'd be the world's nerdiest trivia fanatic.

Believe it or not, there are strategies and tactics for winning at Trivial Pursuit. Here's a look at how I've turned myself into the top-dog in my Trivial Pursuit circle.

1. Studying

In a former life, I was a Jeopardy junkie. In college, it became a habit for my roommates and I to wake up at least early enough in the afternoon to watch Jeopardy together. What started as a friendly competition, trying to guess the correct answer before the other guys, grew into the four of us actually auditioning for Jeopardy. When two of us got on the show, we weren't surprised so much as scared. How in the world did we expect to compete against the brainiacs on the show?

Studying for Jeopardy improved my Trivial Pursuit skills more than any other tactic. Jeopardy includes a wider range of categories than Trivial Pursuit, but almost any question you can be asked in Jeopardy would fit into one of Trivial Pursuit's original six categories. How does someone study for Jeopardy?

I found two books completely essential in my Jeopardy studies, and there's lots in them that will help you master Trivial Pursuit as well. Ken Jennings' book Brainiac and a book by another Jeopardy contestant Bob Harris. Harris' book, Prisoner of Trebekistan, is a funnier read but also contains more applicable advice about making facts stick in your brain. Read both of these books for help with calling up things you've studied.

Another perfect resource for both Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit study are the Complete Idiot's Guides and Dummies books. Jeopardy, as well as the first two Genus editions of Trivial Pursuit, have more than a few questions about British royalty, so I studied the Complete Idiot's Guide to British Royalty. I also found Art for Dummies indispensible in my Jeopardy studies, as the sum total of my art education came from a thirty-minute lesson in the third grade on how to draw noses.

Studying for Trivial Pursuit as though you're studying for Jeopardy will give you a more generalized knowledge. The next trick will help you develop Trivial Pursuit-specific knowledge.

2. Learn Sports Statistics

Sports & Leisure is easily the toughest category in Trivial Pursuit. Even if you're a sports nut, I'd bet that you have no idea who was the first woman to win the Jesse Owens Award in 1982. The answer is track star Mary Decker Slaney, but if you hadn't memorized that fact out of a book, there's a slim chance you'd know it right off the bat, so to speak.

Sports & Leisure is a tough category because there's just so much information to study. Should you learn the World Series baseball champs for every year? (Yes.) Should you learn who won every Olympic Medal going back to the 1950s? (Probably not, unless you're using Genus I.) It can be difficult to jump on Wikipedia and just start studying all of sports statistics.

That's where books like A Stitch in Time: A Baseball Chronology become very important. Remember that Trivial Pursuit is essentially an American game, unless you're playing a foreign edition. Study American sports--that includes hockey, basketball, baseball, and American athletes in the Olympics. Sure, there will occasionally be questions about foreign athletes, but they're usually focused on athletes whose stories are so remarkable, you probably know about them already.

The most common sports questions in early editions of Trivial Pursuit are "What baseball player did ____" or "This Olympic athlete ____" rather than statistical or numbers questions. Sometimes just learning about different sports personalities is enough to increase your skill set in the Sports & Leisure category.

Learning sports statistics will improve your chances at winning Trivial Pursuit, especially if you go right for the Sports & Leisure category headquarters and get it out of the way. You might be surprised how many people get hung up on this category.

3. Read The Trivial Pursuit Quiz Book

Studying books on statistics and geography is great, but once you're ready to prepare yourself for Trivial Pursuit mastery, you'll need to practice with questions similar to the ones in the game. Trivial Pursuit questions are written a certain way--pithy and precise with little clues and tricks tucked into them to lead toward an answer.

The Trivial Pursuit Quiz Book contains 2,500+ questions in the style of actual Trivial Pursuit questions. Use this book all the time--on commutes, on the coffee table in the morning, on breaks at work, anywhere you get a spare few seconds.

Studying Trivial Pursuit-style questions will get your mind in "Trivial Pursuit mode," helping you think of questions and answers the way they're going to be asked in the game itself.

Studying for any trivia competition, whether it's Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy, or quiz night at your local bar, means adding some new pieces of information to the store of knowledge you've already got in your head. If you aren't already something of a trivia buff, there's no way you're going to suddenly turn yourself into your neighborhood's Trivial Pursuit champ. The trick is to study a little bit at a time and try to recall the information you studied later.

If you can enlist a friend or family member in your studying, that's even better. Studying trivia is useless if you can't recall what you studied later on. Just make sure the person you're studying with isn't a future Trivial Pursuit opponent--your studying may help them mop the floor with you later on.