The 10 Most Common Jeopardy! Categories

If you’ve been playing along with Jeopardy! at home every day of the week for the past 30 years – and no one is going to poke fun if you have – then you’ve undoubtedly noticed that some categories pop up far more often than others. And now you can see exactly what the most popular categories have been, thanks to extensive research from Patrick Tullao, who surveyed every Jeopardy! episode from 1984-2012. What is “mind-boggling,” Alex?

Here’s what the top ten categories are when counting both the regular Jeopardy! round and Double Jeopardy!

#1) Before & After

#2) Science

#3) Literature

#4) American History

#5) Potpourri

#6) World History

#7) Word Origins

#8) Colleges & Universities

#9) History

#10) Sports

My guess would have been “Potpourri” taking the top spot, since it’s such a catchall category, but I’m not surprised to see “Before & After” up there, as those are some of the most fun and clever clues that Jeopardy! has going for it. It’s shown up 547 times during the surveyed time period, and what makes this such an astounding feat is that “Before & After” wasn’t even introduced as a category until 1997, which gave most of the other categories over a decade to gain an advantage. (“Colleges & Universities” wasn’t added until 1989.) Sports, on the bottom, showed up 342 times between 1984 and 2012, although it has shown up less in recent years, not appearing at all in 2009, 2011 or 2012.

It’s pretty interesting looking at the graph, which can be found here, and seeing how many times each of these categories was used each year. 1997 was a banner year for repeated category usage, with “History” showing up the most, with 80 instances. Next up are “Science” and “American History,” both of which showed up 79 times. Incidentally, “Before & After” appeared 76 times in 1999, by far the most it was used.

The graph also shows what the most common Final Jeopardy! categories were, and it’s no surprise that it’s basically just a shorter version of the other list, but with “Word Origins” taking the top spot. With 34 instances, it doubles the second most-used Final Jeopardy! category, “American History,” which was used 17 times.

Wondering what answers pop up most often? The graph also lays that out, showing that contestants are meant to say “China” the most often, as the country was used for 216 correct answers. “Australia” is right behind it with 215, and they’re followed by another 8 locations, from “Japan” to “Chicago” to “Mexico.” That’s insightful, and shows that potential contestants should be on top of their geography skills.

I have to assume that if I ever appeared on Jeopardy! in the next few years, my category lineups wouldn’t feature any of these, and would probably only focus on stuff I’m terrible with, like “Historical Russian Literature,” “Operas About Animals,” and “Guess The Atomic Number.” What’s your favorite Jeopardy! category?

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.