How to Win at HQ Trivia

Credit: Intermedia Labs

I’ve won dozens of times for over $12k playing HQ Trivia. And I want to let you in on a little secret — you can win too!

It doesn’t matter if you just downloaded the app or if you play twice a day with a crack team of geniuses using google-enabled devices. I’ve included tips for players of all skill levels. I’ve ranked them below, from Q1 to Q12, for beginners through experts.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Q1. Use the extra life trick once per week.

For the uninitiated, extra lives allow you to keep playing after getting a question wrong. While you normally earn extra lives by referring new players, this trick can (and should!) be used for 1 free life every 7 days. Trying this any more frequently than once a week will not result in additional extra lives, only a repetitive stress injury.

Q2. Find some friends.

Playing together with friends or coworkers has a number of advantages. Three brains are better than one, as the old saying goes. If you come across a question that’s a real stumper, you can split amongst a few answer choices, ensuring that one of you moves on to the next round. Most importantly though, a friend can alert you when Scott Rogowsky’s endless yammering has ceased and the game has actually begun. (Only kidding Scott, you’re the man!)

Best buds shooting the breeze.

Q3. Read @hqtrivia tweets before a big game.

Occasionally, the app’s official Twitter account will give out hints on Sunday night or before a big sponsored game. While they may only apply to the first handful of questions, they’re worth paying attention to — a blue jeans emoji was the hint for Q5 of the Ready Player One game, and over 500k people were knocked out (including yours truly) when they failed to choose NJ native and noted everyman Bruce Springsteen.

Q4. Use your extra life responsibly.

Credit: Sony

Back to extra lives for a second. My shoddy understanding of AP Economics taught me:

That which is scarce, is valuable.

For those of us who aren’t iJustine, extra lives are scarce. We only get them once a week and thus, according to the maxim, they are valuable. Don’t waste your extra life after you fat-fingered Q2 on a Tuesday afternoon!

You should save your extra lives for big games, or for a game that’s already had a couple savage questions so the expected payout is high. In the long run, payouts in HQ will follow a power law, meaning one big win will be worth more than a hundred small wins put together. In my case, I made it through the infamous birds nest soup game unscathed, and that win makes up more than the money from all my other wins combined. We’re hunting elephants out here (strictly in the metaphorical sense).

For those who haven’t found these tips to be particularly insightful, help yourself to as much food as you like and have a safe journey. No hard feelings. Otherwise — come with me.

Q5. Have a world map handy.

Which of the 48 contiguous United States extends furthest north? Which of the following countries boasts the capital city at the southernmost latitude? Which US state borders exactly one other state? These questions become a lot easier — dare I say trivial — with a map at the ready. A zoomed-out Google Maps is a must-have on your desktop, given the frequency of geography questions on HQ.

Google Maps? Desktop? We need to talk about a touchy subject.

Q6. Google can be your friend.

Let’s go to the source:

While it’s not prohibited, I understand anyone that has an objection to using Google because it violates the spirit of the game. I see your point of view. I know I definitely have less fun trawling through search results than I do playing with a group of friends trying to conquer the questions using wits alone.

Still, I wanted to leave a few tidbits here as I’m trying to help you win, and a well-timed query can be the difference between winning and losing. Even if HQ migrates to Matrigma questions, hopefully these tips can upgrade your Google-fu, a lifelong skill that will serve you well in other parts of your lives.

  • I’ve found the search term “origin” to be incredibly versatile. “chipped mutton origin” will reliably point you to Western Kentucky. “panda origin” gives you the word’s Nepali roots immediately. “microsoft origin” brings up some key dates and figures surrounding the company’s beginnings.
  • Identify keywords; don’t try to reproduce the whole question. When you’re asked, “Which of the following desserts is an example of a toponym?”, the key piece of the question you need to extract is toponym. With some practice you’ll be able to google “toponym”, digest the definition, and find Boston Cream Pie in under 10 seconds.
  • If you’re playing with friends (see Q2 above), split up the work. Have one person responsible for each answer choice — it’s each person’s job to determine whether their answer is right, through a mixture of googling and intuition, and to provide a confidence level. Are we having fun yet?!

Again, don’t let these impinge on your experience if you’re happy having HQ as a stress-free diversion from the daily grind. 1 million people tuning in at 9 PM with their voice-activated Google assistants sounds like… a Black Mirror episode? Wow, is that an original thought? Am I literally the first person to come up with that?

Jokes aside, I’m trying to provide actionable advice for the hundreds of people who’ve asked me how to get better. I’ll work on compiling trivia study materials that I’ve used in the past in another post.


Credit: Intermedia Labs

Sorry guys, will have to pick this up another time. Good luck out there!