COLUMBIA, Mo. - Every year, 200,000 people start the process to become a Jeopardy contestant. And with each level, that number dwindles down to 500.
ABC 17's Meredith Hoenes followed Mid-Missourians through the last round of the interview process and found that round could be the most fun and most challenging.
Initially, 200,000 people sign up on the Jeopardy website to take the online test. Roughly 100,000 of those actually make it through that step.
Out of those, the show invites 2,000 to 3,000 for personal interviews and another test to weed out the 400 to 500 contestants viewers watch on the show every afternoon.
Those invitees meet at hotel with Jeopardy staff to become a contestant on the show.
"The contestants today are in the pool for 18 months," said Jeopardy staff member Maggie Speak.
That means they could be called to be on the show at anytime.
Ean Entrikin, Noel Erinjeri and Mike Gill, all of Columbia, and Matthew Durham of Jefferson City were among those invited to a Kansas City hotel last week to vie for a spot on the show.
"It's pretty exciting I think," said Ean Entrikin of Columbia. "These are the best of the best you know. These are the kind of people you want to be competing against."
So what will it take for one or all of the contestants to make it on the actual show?
"We want to watch them play the game," said Speak. "Do they understand how to play the game? Are they getting the mechanics of how to play the game?"
None of the contestants will be able to prepare before the tryouts.
"We don't know the material someone's going to play, so it is kind of the luck of the draw if you get a minister and he gets the Bible category," said Speak.
For most of the 90 minute audtion, the contestants practice except for when they are taking another test. However, that test is private. Contestants cannot discuss it outside of the testing room and we aren't able to show it.
Jeopardy staff are not just looking at contestants' scores, but their personalities and how they play the game.
The contestants go through a mock game against competitors just like they would if they make it on-air.
The game is not complicated, but contestants seem to have difficulty with one part of the game.
"People are intimidated by the buzzer," said Speak. "But I don't believe it becomes a stressful issue until they're on the show."
After the auditions end, those in the contestant pool can receieve a call to appear on the show in just weeks, or up to 18 months.
In the meantime, they are not allowed to take the online test during that time, which means they can't take it again until 2015. Staffers say it can take several tries and several years to make it on the show.